Culture / Cars

BMW’s New Pioneering Full iPhone Key Makes Sharing Your Car Easy While Giving You Full Big Brother Control

Don't Turn Up That Radio!

BY // 06.25.20

Your iPhone will soon really be your life — if you own a brand new BMW. For the storied German automaker is set to become the first car brand that will use the iPhone as a full digital key.

Forget the idea of ever even getting a key fob. Those are set to go the way of. . . well, actual car keys, which have already steadily disappeared from the scene. Under this new BMW and Apple team up, your iPhone will be able to unlock and start your car with a tapping motion (you’ll need to be within 1.5 inches of the driver’s side door). While that is not exactly revolutionary in 2021, this new BMW iPhone key setup will allow car owners to share their digital key with up to five other people through Apple’s iMessage texting app.

When sharing the key, car owner can decide if they want to grant the recipient full access to the vehicle or set up restricted driving situations. Restricted driving allows the BMW owner to decide how long someone is granted access to drive their car, set a top speed they’re allowed to go and even control their radio volume.

Letting someone borrow your car — including a teenage son or daughter — will never be quite the same. You can be as much of a Big Brother overlord as you want to be. Maybe trust your kid to pick their own radio channels, though.

The new full iPhone digital key will debut with the 2021 BMW 5 series, but Apple is working to roll it out for more car brands as well — hopefully by next year. BMW jumping in first fits with the automaker’s push for the latest tech. BMW was the first carmaker to fully integrate Apple’s CarPlay into its vehicles, with iPhones able to connect to its system wirelessly — no USB cords required.

This new full iPhone key will operate in a similar manner. Place your iPhone in BMW 5 series’ charging tray and your good to drive. Apple is working on making sure you do not even have to do that — with plans to make an iPhone work as a key if it’s anywhere in the car. Just like. . . well, those increasingly old fashioned key fobs. Right now, if your iPhone dies while you’re driving, the car will still run up to five hours on a special reserve power feature, giving one plenty of leeway to recharge.

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Want even more digital key cred? You can also set up an Apple Watch to be your car key. Waive your wrist at your car and you can open and start it.

It’s a new world. One where you only need a smartphone or smartwatch. Look mom, no key fob!

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