Auto Manufacturers & CarPlay CarPlay News

CarKey Digital Key Comes to Apple CarPlay

CarKey Digital Key from Apple CarPlay can replace your regular BMW key
BMW car key.
Credit: Adder3824 / CC BY-SA (
  • CarKey is brand new tech from Apple
  • It’s a sister technology to CarPlay
  • It will work with iPhones and BMWs on its debut
  • It works now if you have select iPhones and new BMW models
  • It is a free feature with iOS 13.6 and iOS 14
  • You send a digital key via iMessage
  • The digital key allows you to lock/unlock the car door
  • The digital key, when placed in the smartphone charging tray, allows starting the car using the push button

As a follow-on to our earlier WWDC 2020 CarPlay news: If you plan to get a new BMW and you have an iPhone, you can take advantage of the new Apple CarKey digital key capability that is part of iOS 13 and iOS 14. Apple introduced this new feature at its WWDC 2020 event in late June.

When activated, your iPhone acts as a proximity key, allowing the bearer to lock and unlock the car, and start and drive it. You can also share this capability with other iPhones. Depending on how you share access and control of your car through an iMessage, you can put time limits on when it is active, and restrict access to some features. That’s thought to be so parents can restrict some of what their teens can do when loaning a car to new drivers.

To gain access to the BMW you’ve been loaned, just tap an iPhone with an active digital key against the car’s door. Once inside, place the phone on the smartphone wireless charging bed, step on the brake, ensure the vehicle is in neutral, and press the ignition button.

BMW is the first to offer this capability. Eventually – many think when iOS comes out this fall – a BMW owner will be able to set up a car key on a compatible iPhone and share it with as many as five friends. The key is said to function even when an iPhone with an active key has a dead battery and shuts off. Depending on the iPhone, the key will work for several hours. But if you turn off your iPhone, the key won’t work until you turn it back on. CarKey will first be available with BMW’s updated 2021 BMW 5 Series. Other compatible models, if manufactured after July 1, 2020, include the bulleted list above.

BMW Digital Key will require the upcoming iOS 13.6 and WatchOS 6.2.8. To check whether you vehicle is compatible, use the BMW Connected App on your iPhone. Log in with your BMW ID and add your vehicle to the account. A section titled “Digital Key” will appear on the homepage if your device is compatible.

These BMW models will be CarKey Digital Key compatible:

  • The 1
  • The 2
  • The 3
  • The 4
  • The 5
  • The 6
  • The 8
  • The X5
  • The X6
  • The X7
  • The M5
  • The M8
  • The X5 M
  • The X6 M

The following devices are compatible with BMW Digital Key:

  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2nd generation)
  • Apple Watch Series 5

Apple says more cars that work with the system will come to market next year.

CarPlay News Future of CarPlay

2020 CarPlay Changes

2020 CarPlay Changes were announced at the Apple WWDC 20202
An aerial view of Apple Park in 2019.
Credit: Arne Müseler / / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE (

2020 CarPlay changes out of the Apple WWDC 2020:

Apple held its annual WWDC June 22, 2020, meeting virtually via a streaming broadcast from Apples Cupertino, California Apple Park mothership.

See the video intro, featuring the opening keynote from Apple CEO Tim Cook, along with OS announcements for each Apple device, here.

The update to Apple CarPlay has generally described as “minor,” but some interesting new capabilities have been added to the app.

iOS 14 Changes

While not a CarPlay-specific update, the iOS 14 update for iPhone includes new electric vehicle routing. This enables drivers of electric vehicles to plan their trip routes according to where charging stations are available along the way.

Significant improvements to Siri have also been made, which can be helpful when you’re driving and need to find information using your voice while keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.

The biggest of the 2020 CarPlay changes is probably the new ability to unlock and start your car using your iPhone. We provide more details on this capability in another post.

CarPlay now has a new set of wallpapers to choose from, and it supports three new types of apps – parking, electric vehicle charging, and quick food ordering.

Compatible Devices

If you have an older iPhone, you will not be able to access these new features, as iOS 14 is compatible with newer devices, and that leaves out everything from iPhone 6 going back. The 7th generation iPod touch will run the system, as will 1st and 2nd gen iPhone SE, 6s and 6s Plus, 7 and 7 Plus, 8 and 8 Plus, X, XR, Xs and Xs Max, 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max.

Once things are back to a more normal state, you might want to visit the Apple Park visitor center. The address is 10600 N. Tantau Ave. in Cupertino, CA. Hours are typically 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

If you’d like a peek inside the circular Apple Park world HQ building itself, which has a circumference of nearly a mile, here’s a YouTube tour of the facility and its road to life from proposal through construction and completion.