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

Mazda Now Offers CarPlay Retrofits, But When Will It Come to the US?

UPDATE: Mazda announced late in November that they now offers CarPlay upgrades in the US across their lineup. Check out our update on the CarPlay retrofit for details.

Mazda’s now offering Apple CarPlay retrofits in both Canada and Australia for vehicles all the way back to MY 2014. But they’ve yet to release any similar plans for the US. When will this awesome retrofit come to US soil?

Mazda Canada Now Retrofits CarPlay in 6 Models

Back in September 2018, Mazda Canada announced that Apple CarPlay would come standard in all 2019 models (save the MX-5). Mazda also announced that, if you recently bought a 2018 Mazda6 or a 2019 CX-3 before the new production change, you can have CarPlay installed in your vehicle for $250 CAD – a steal for an OEM piece of equipment.

Mazda’s awesome CarPlay offerings don’t stop there though. They also announced that they’d offer Carplay for all existing vehicles equipped with the Mazda CONNECT infotainment systems for a cost of $443 CAD. While 2x as much as for the vehicles above, that’s still not a bad price for a dealer-installed piece of equipment.

Mazda first introduced their CONNECT system across their entire range in 2014, so if your Mazda is MY 2014 or newer, you’ve got Mazda CONNECT. This includes the Mazda3, Mazda2, Mazda6, MX-5, CX-5, CX-9, and CX-3 (itself introduced in 2016).

Will Mazda Offer This Retrofit in the US?

Unfortunately, in the US things are a bit different. Mazda has already announced they’ll include CarPlay in the 2019 CX-9, but they haven’t yet spilled the beans whether or not they’ll offer the CarPlay retrofit for all the models above.

With Mazda offering the upgrade in both Canada and Australia,we can only assume (or hope) it’ll eventually make it to the US. One good sign: Mazda itself admits that Mazda CONNECT is basically the same the world over.

We really can’t see any reason they wouldn’t offer this CarPlay retrofit in the US – unless they have a deep loathing for their customer base.

Mazda isn’t completely quiet on the home front though. As of November 2018, they have confirmed that they’re offering a CarPlay retrofit the 2018 Mazda6 – and for free!

2018 Mazda6 Owners Can Already Get a Free Retrofit

If you’ve already got a 2018 Mazda6 – you’re actually in luck! Starting in September, Mazda dealers across the US began offering CarPlay/Android Auto retrofits at no cost. The free retrofit is only available for certain trim levels, so if you opted for the Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, or Signature, you’re good to go.

Mazda first announced this awesome deal back in a Julypress release. For the retrofit, you must bring your Mazda6 into adealer and the procedure includes both hardware and software upgrades and takesabout two hours to complete.

So if you’ve got a 2018 Mazda6 (of one of the trim levels above) but don’t have Apple CarPlay – go to your dealer today and get it for free!

Image Source: Courtesy Mazda Media Library

CarPlay Apps CarPlay Navigation

Apple Maps vs. Waze

Like the Waze news we reported over the summer, Waze is on CarPlay! As part of the iOS 12 update, Apple opened mapping to 3rd party apps. Google Maps was on the next day. Waze followed a few days later. So before you switch, you might want our breakdown on Apple Maps vs. Waze.

After Google Maps appeared on CarPlay as part of iOS 12, Waze has now become available as a navigation alternative on Apple’s CarPlay. Follow along for how to replace Apple Maps with Waze on CarPlay.

Waze is a popular choice for navigation with its smart routing features based around crowdsourcing data from its users. Known for its real-time traffic reports, users get alerts on upcoming police officers, construction, accidents, and more.

It also features the ability to toggle a light or dark mode and change the appearance of your “car” in the app.

So how does Waze compare to the native Apple Maps? We show you in this Apple Maps vs. Waze on CarPlay feature list:

Apple Maps Waze
touch-drag car display yes yes (laggy)
double tap to zoom yes no
voice destination entry yes yes
automatic dark mode at night yes no yes*
on screen keyboard entry no yes
situational reporting no yes
hazard alerts yes yes
police alerts no yes
heavy traffic alerts ? yes
output voice on or off on, alerts only, off
output voice choices
yes, globally on the iPhone
end guidance term “End” “Stop”
alternate routes only if heavy traffic
yes, tap the double arrow icon at top
alternate route live suggestions yes yes
3D visuals yes no
best time to leave no yes

* UPDATE Initially, we had this marked “no”, because activating the headlights did nothing to change the mode. Interestingly, Waze’s dark mode is keyed (no pun intended) to the time of day. Apple Map’s dark mode is keyed to the position of the headlight switch. Ostensibly, Waze’s dark mode would be region specific, because sunset moment occurs at different times across the globe.