How to use your iPhone as digital car keys if you have a compatible vehicle

Newer BMW models let you use your iPhone as a digital car key.Markus Bernhard/Getty Images
  • You can use your iPhone as a digital car key with specific car models thanks to a new feature in iOS.
  • You need iOS 13.6 and a compatible iPhone to use a digital key. Right now, only select BMWs will work with this feature, though more cars will be compatible in the coming months.
  • To use a digital key, install the mobile app provided by your car manufacturer and follow the directions to pair your phone with the car.
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Apple has recently introduced digital car keys to the iPhone – equipped with a compatible iPhone and car, you can wirelessly unlock, lock, and even start your car without a physical key.

To use the digital key feature, you need to make sure your iPhone is compatible and running iOS 13.6 or higher. In addition, this only works on cars that specifically support this feature.

Check out the products mentioned in this article:

iPhone 11 (From $699.99 at Apple)

How to make sure your iPhone is compatible with Apple's digital car key

Not all iPhones can use a digital key. You need to be using one of these phones: iPhone SE (2020 version), iPhone 11, 11 Pro, or 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS, XR, or XS Max. In addition, it needs to be using iOS 13.6 or higher. Here's how to check:
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1. Start the Settings app and then tap "General."

2. On the "General" page, tap "Software Update."

3. Check the version of iOS. If necessary, update to the latest version.
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Make sure your iPhone is running iOS 13.6 or later.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

What cars are compatible with Apple's digital keys?

Right now, very few cars will work with this feature, which has only just rolled out. Currently, BMW is the only manufacturer that has announced compatibility with a little over a dozen compatible models. The following models, built during or after the summer of 2020, should be able to work with your iPhone: the BMW Series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, M5, M8, X5M, X6 M, and Z4.

Of course, as time goes on, more new models will be compatible. Check with your car dealership to see if a car you have your eye on will work with Apple's digital key.

How to get started with digital car keys on iPhone

The digital key requires an app provided by your car's manufacturer, so install that on your iPhone. BMW, for example, uses the BMW Connected app. Start the app and follow the directions to set up your digital key. After the key is created, it is stored in Apple's Wallet app.
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When directed, place your iPhone on or near a key reader in your car. Wait for the phone and car to pair. When it's completed, you're ready to start using your iPhone to control your car.

To pair your iPhone with your car, put the phone on a key reader when directed by the app.Apple

How to control your car with your iPhone's digital key

Using your iPhone to operate your car is simple:

  • Hold the iPhone near the car's door handle. The NFC reader embedded in the handle will sync with your phone and unlock the door – you should see the Wallet app open and display your car's digital key. If the doors are already unlocked, holding the phone near the handle will lock the doors.
  • Place your iPhone on the key reader location in the car. This is equivalent to placing a key in the ignition; you can now start the car in the usual way, such as depressing the brake and pressing the ignition button.
When you hold your phone near the door handle, the Wallet will display your car's digital key and lock or unlock the car.Apple

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