In just a few days, maybe sooner, you’ll be able to unlock your car with your Apple Watch or iPhone, providing you have a compatible car. This is the feature we’ve been calling CarKey until now, though Apple is careful not to do so, referring to Virtual Car Keys, for instance.
The feature was announced recently at WWDC as being a headline feature on iOS 14, but Apple went on to stress that it was going to be available for people using iOS 13 as well.
This is the bit of the puzzle that hasn’t appeared yet but is expected imminently, I’d say within days.
The inclusion of iOS 13 is simply a way of making the feature accessible earlier. After all, it only works on iPhones that will be capable of running iOS 14, too. It’s a good call – there are people who just cannot wait to try it out.
Everything took a step forward yesterday when the BMW Connected app for iPhone confirmed support for the feature, as spotted by 9to5Mac.
The new BMW 5 series is one of the first that will be able to perform this trick, though the company is keen to stress that it will work with a wide range of models, specifically: 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4. The cars have to be brand new, that is, manufactured after July 1, 2020.
BMW said in its app notes about the latest update:
“At the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference BMW and Apple announced that BMW will become the first carmaker to enable its customers to use iPhone as a fully digital car key. The strong relationship of both companies led to a real BMW car key stored securely on iPhone in Apple Wallet.
“The BMW Digital Key for the iPhone will enable you to lock and unlock your car by holding iPhone up to the door handle and start it up by placing iPhone in the smartphone tray. The car owner can also share access to up to 5 friends. The Digital Key will be also available via your Apple Watch. Setup of the Digital Key can be done through the BMW Connected App while the Digital Key is stored in Apple Wallet after setup.”
The absence of the definite article before most mentions of “iPhone” tells you that Apple had a hand in the drafting of the words, I’d say.
It also confirms that the feature works with the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and newer, plus the current Apple Watch, that is, Series 5. Actually, BMW has slightly given the game away that future Apple Watches will also have the feature, even though no such wearable has been announced, because it actually says, “Series 5 or newer”. This is a very tiny slip, and hardly a ground-breaking surprise that the feature will continue, but it’s strange this wasn’t picked up on.
The way it works, as confirmed by Apple and now BMW, is you hold the iPhone or Watch near the door handle. When you place the iPhone in the smartphone tray, you can turn on the engine.
There’s no mention of how you switch the engine on from your Watch, but my guess is that the stressing that you must place the phone in the tray is to stop people driving off with their iPhone in their hand.
See, Apple thinks of everything.
The facility to share the key with up to five friends is a pretty cool extra.
Oh, and if you have an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max, you can activate Express Mode, it seems, which means you can leave your phone in your pocket to unlock the door, though I believe the same smartphone tray rule will apply for starting the engine.
So, when can we expect it?
The fact that BMW has said it’s available in some cars from a date that has now passed indicates it’s coming very soon, as does the fact that the company has put access to it in its current app update.
So, all we’re waiting for now, apart from a trip to an auto dealer, is iOS 13.6.
I’d say it’ll be with us any minute now. If not before the long weekend, expect it straight after.
As soon as it’s there, I’ll report back.
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