BMW could be first to have Apple’s futuristic ‘CarKey’ iPhone feature

Apple is developing a new ‘CarKey’ feature that will let drivers — of the ultimate driving machine, at first — replace physical key fobs with their iPhone. That’s right, BMW could be first to have Apple’s futuristic ‘CarKey’ iPhone feature. 9to5Mac reported on ‘CarKey’ exclusively in February after poring through a beta version of iOS 13.4.

BMW could be first to have Apple's futuristic 'CarKey' iPhone feature

New evidence in iOS 14 code obtained by 9to5Mac reveals that Apple is working with BMW to likely be the first carmaker to support the futuristic iPhone feature.

Zac Hall for 9to5Mac:

Apple working closely with BMW for Digital Key is no surprise. BMW was also the first car maker to adopt Wireless CarPlay, Apple’s advanced version of its useful infotainment feature based on the iPhone.

9to5Mac expects CarKey to work for locking, unlocking, and starting cars using the iPhone in place of a physical car key or key fob. Virtual car keys will be managed in Apple’s Wallet app and work with an option for authenticating without a passcode or Face ID for a faster experience. These virtual car keys will also be shareable over Messages.

Similar to CarPlay, Apple could also support two versions of CarKey: one that requires near contact, and one that allows you to leave your iPhone in your pocket.

BMW drivers, for example, could unlock and start their car with Wireless CarPlay automatically initiated all without taking their iPhone out of the bag or pocket.

MacDailyNews Take: It makes sense that BMW would be first to offer the Apple CarKey feature since, back in 2004, BMW was also the first vehicle maker to have seamless integration between Apple’s iPod and a vehicle audio system with the BMW iPod Adapter.

As with CarPlay, we’re going to want to make sure we have Apple CarKey-enabled vehicles, so, yes, this is another smart way to strengthen Apple’s Hotel California ecosystem. You’re going to want an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and, eventually, Apple Glasses even more in the future!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

14 Comments

  1. Utterly useless. As long as the fob is on me the car works and I never need to take the fob out.
    You may say “what if you forget your fob”, well… what if I forget my phone?

  2. Love this but I’m more interested in AppleWatch becoming my key fob.

    I would love to get rid of my big chunky key fob and just have some sort of slim physical car key as my backup. Seems an ideal replacement instead of carrying both a key fob and my phone, with this I can just carry my phone which I always take anyway when I go out (that or my AppleWatch).

    Like with TransitPay, this CarKey feature should even work when your phone runs out of battery (there’s enough residual juice left to make it work).
    You should also be able to set it so it unlocks the car without you having to get your phone out (based on proximity).

  3. well…ok, kewl. I have a similar feature set up for my Mother’s Mercedes.
    Remote start, unlocking, satellite tracking, emergency notifications like airbag deployment for its cell-based calls but it’s all through an app.

    BUT…if your iPhone’s battery is charged even just enough to unlock and then requires charging, fine that can be done fairly quickly (if they have a high current USB output) but what it the CAR’S battery is dead?

    Every FOB I’ve ever owned had a built in key, including our BMW. Of course this is to allow you access to a locked vehicle, ability to open hood, trunk and glovebox so you can jump a dead battery or whatever the need be.

    I’m sure they have figured SOMETHING out for this, just wondering.

    1. So, your phone’s barely dead and your car battery’s dead? Now that’s good planning. If you can get in, then your phone dies, you only need to revive it enough to allow the car to drive. At least that’d be how it works in a Tesla. You don’t need to charge it up, you only need to have the phone alive enough to allow driving.

      I carry a cheap lithium car starter in the glovebox, the size of a phone battery pack. It also has a USB jack to charge your phone. That would take care of your rare hypothetical. You could charge your phone AND jumpstart your car.

      1. No, your phone can be completely charged but your car won’t respond if it’s dead.
        Not sure how you would even get the hood (or trunk) open to jump it.

        I also carry a car starter in my truck. They need to be topped off pretty often I have found.

  4. Tesla already uses your phone as your key. You can start, stop, lock, unlock, open truck, open frunk, turn on heating or air conditioning, roll down windows, roll up windows, and even start or stop the car remotely if necessary. So BMW’s news isn’t exactly news.

  5. My Tesla Model 3 uses my iPhone as the key. In the last 15 months, it’s worked immediately 100% of the time. And some 3rd-party apps let me use my AppleWatch to unlock my car and drive, etc. That’s slower.

    For me, it’s great, since I don’t carry keys, since my house has a Schlage keypad lock on two entries, just in case the battery dies on one. No house key, no car fob. Great. One less thing to forget. I never leave home without my phone or AppleWatch.

    If you forget your phone at home, and don’t have the Apple Watch app, you can ask someone to call your spouse for them to unlock your car and let you drive via their phone. You could even ask a stranger and install the app and unlock the car and drive home.

    If the BMW/Apple key works as well, it’ll be popular. I just hope they don’t charge money for it. I think Tesla charges $150 if you want an actual key fob.

  6. I see this being very useful for fleet cars… such as car rentals, car sharing services (e.g. ZipCar) where you can timebox and control access, as well as confirm who was actually using it.

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