Apple's digital car keys arrive on iOS

Lock and unlock your compatible car from your iPhone or Apple Watch.

Sjoerd van der Wal via Getty Images

Apple rolled out its digital car key feature as part of today’s watchOS 6.2.8 update, as well as iOS 13.6, which dropped earlier in July. So, if you’ve bought a BMW since the start of the month, you may be able to gain entry just tapping your device against the vehicle’s exterior door handle.

Initially announced at last month’s WWDC event, the feature allows users to remotely lock, unlock and start compatible vehicles. BMW is among the first automotive manufacturers to partner with Apple on this feature and currently any Series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M or Z4, if manufactured after July 1st 2020, will be able to use it. That is, assuming your Apple Watch is running watchOS 5 or later.

These car keys work through Apple Wallet and allow users to create and share temporary keys with up to five friends and family via iMessage. The vehicle owner can even set individual user profiles granting varying levels of access, just in case you’re concerned about the kids taking your brand new Beemer out hooning.

To use it, simply tap the iPhone against the vehicle’s door handle to gain entry, place the device on the central Qi charger and hit the ignition button to turn the vehicle on. The system will work even if your phone is dead thanks to a small power reserve that lasts for up to five hours after the device’s battery has been exhausted. If you lose your phone or have it stolen, those digital keys can easily be disabled through iCloud.

There’s no word yet on which other car makers are planning to implement the feature in their vehicles.