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.

Auto Manufacturers & CarPlay

BMW Nerve Crumbles, Drops $80/Year Charge for CarPlay

In the biggest CarPlay news in months, BMW has dropped its $80-per-year charge to its customers to use (free) CarPlay.

This has been a thing that’s stuck in our craw here at CarPlay World, and seeing this news is refreshing, if not outright schadenfreude. We’ve hammered BMW for this over the years.

See our example exercise of how much you could pay for a BMW and not get CarPlay.

BMW was the only auto manufacturer of size to charge its customers, and perhaps the only one full stop, and because of this it stuck out. It was a marketing fiasco that acted as a lighting rod of criticism across the automotive world.

We in the automotive press heaped scorn on BMW for years, and it’s good to see them do the right thing, even if it was a full-on loss of nerve under pressure.

Auto Manufacturers & CarPlay

BMW Will Make You Pay for CarPlay

Many of BMW’s newly designed 2019 models feature plenty of enticing upgrades wrapped into nice package deals for fans of the vehicle manufacturer. However, mixed in with the changes in BMW’s new models is one detail that might not just impact BMW models, but the car industry in general. BMW used to offer Apple CarPlay in its new vehicles for the price of $300, meaning users could pay one time and have CarPlay in their cars for the vehicle’s life. However, BMW changed that option with their 2019 models and is now charging a subscription fee for CarPlay access.

BMW’s Apple CarPlay Subscription

Instead of offering the CarPlay for life upgrade option, BMW decided to change the process for their 2019 models. BMW customers will get their first year of Apple CarPlay for free. However, after, users will be required to pay $80 a year to subscribe for access to CarPlay after their first year. BMW promises that it is easy to renew your subscription and you don’t have to take your car into the dealership to re-subscribe. Instead, you can simply update your subscription service by using your car’s infotainment system.

BMW is the first car manufacturer to charge its customers a subscription fee to use Apple CarPlay and it’s obvious how beneficial those fees could be for BMW. For example, charging $80 per year to use the subscription each year means BMW will make more money after four years that it could have made offering CarPlay as an option. So, it seems BMW may be setting an unwanted trend for Apple CarPlay users in the vehicle industry.

What About Used Cars?

If you are buying a used car or already have a BMW with CarPlay as an option, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • BMW’s subscription service means that if you buy a used or certified pre-owned car that is a BMW, you’ll have to setup your CarPlay subscription service in a similar manner, like you bought a new car.
  • The good news is that if you already have a BMW vehicle with Apple CarPlay added as an option for $300 when you bought it, it will continue to function without a subscription.
  • Many vehicle owners now wonder if Mini, who is owned by BMW, will also be making a similar change and requiring people to subscribe to Apply CarPlay.

Will This Change the CarPlay Market?

Many are wondering if BMW will set the trend for all car manufacturers eventually offering CarPlay as a subscription service. After all, once one company starts a profit-making trend, it’s typical for other companies in the same industry to jump on board. In fact, ideas for subscription services have already come to fruition with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Apple Music for CarPlay. FCA’s vehicles that come with CarPlay now offer a six-month free trial of Apple Music, with current subscribers getting a three-month free trial.

It’s safe to say that other subscription services mixed with features of Apple CarPlay are likely to follow the growing subscription service trends initially started by BMW.

Auto Manufacturers & CarPlay CarPlay News

CarPlay Subscription Coming to BMW?!

Oh no. This is not good news, if it’s really happening.  And it looks like it is happening. This has got to be against Apple’s manufacturer agreement. Didn’t the Apple lawyers do their job?