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The new smartphone way to open your car

 Published 30th June 2020
Driver Guides 

What's the one thing we couldn't do without these days? For most people it will be their smartphone.

At its heart the smartphone is a communication device, whether that's through speech, messaging or social media. But it now does so much more that you could be forgiven thinking about it as a mobile phone at all.

After all, most new smartphones are sold on the capability of their camera facility (and let's face it, some of those camera functions are simply awesome.)

But think about what else your smartphone does for you: it's an alarm bell, fitness monitor, banking tool, remote heating control unit...and so much more.

So why not as your car key? Err, good question - why not?

Just think of the convenience. One less set of keys to carry in your pocket or handbag for starters.

So that's exactly what Apple has done with BMW. It has turned your iPhone into your car key - how brilliant is that?

Called the BMW Digital Key , you simply tap the app to unlock your car and then place your iPhone in the smartphone tray, push the start button and off you go.

The Digital Key can be configured through the BMW Smartphone App and allows you to share your key access with up to five people.

For example, should you want to share your BMW with, say your children, then the access options can be configured - such as top speed restriction, the amount of engine power available, and (probably most annoyingly of all for your offspring), the volume of the in-car entertainment unit. Access can also be revoked, too.

If you're thinking this is still a good idea, but have a few ‘buts', such as…

...but what happens if my phone runs out of charge?


...but what happens when I'm in an underground car park?

BMW digital key

BMW and Apple have worked on both these issues. First, the issue of battery depletion. This would be tragic if you couldn't access your BMW because your phone was flat. The answer to this is a special power reserve within the iPhone. It allows the car keys to still function for up to five hours after the iPhone turns off due to a low battery.

The second is that the key does not rely on wifi or connection to your service provider. It uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to communicate with your car. So even if you keep your car in the deepest bunker, you will be OK.

One final thing, the car key can be lodged securely in the wallet area of your iPhone.

If you fancy the idea of a BMW Digital Key for your next BMW lease car , then it will be available for all cars manufactured after 01 July 2020.

So far it's available on the BMW 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 series along with the BMW X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4 - but they must be automatics. Compatible iPhone models will be iPhone XR, iPhone XS or newer and Apple Watch Series 5 or newer.

It is also, according to BMW's website, available on selected Samsung Android phones, too.

Of course, if you don't fancy a BMW as your next lease car, then we suspect it won't be long before other manufacturers make a digital key available too. After all, it's too good an idea just to be kept to one brand!

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