Smart mobility meets smartphone as Apple users are finally able to access and start their BMW using a mobile phone. Picture: SUPPLIED
Smart mobility meets smartphone as Apple users are finally able to access and start their BMW using a mobile phone. Picture: SUPPLIED

BMW will integrate Apple software to enable its customers to use an iPhone as a fully digital car key, the carmaker announced at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference.

This inventive system is already in use for Android-powered phones in European and other markets and now the BMW digital key will for the first time be stored securely in Apple Wallet for iPhones. This will work by simply tapping your Apple smartphone to unlock the car, then placing the iPhone in the smartphone tray and pushing the start button to fire up the engine.

The car owner can also share access to the car with up to five people including a configurable car access option for young drivers that restricts top speed, power, maximum radio volume and more. Management of access can be done from inside the car as well as through Apple Wallet.

Additional features of the new digital key include storage in the secure element of your iPhone, a power reserve where car keys will still function for up to five hours if the iPhone turns off due to low battery, and Apple Watch compatibility.

The BMW Group and Apple have been working on the strategy for the digital key for a while now and they are pressing on with the next generation which is said will use ultrawideband technology.

The BMW digital key for iPhone will be available in 45 countries for BMW models 1 to 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4 if manufactured after July 1 2020. Compatible iPhone models will be the iPhone XR, iPhone XS or newer, and Apple Watch Series 5 or newer.

BMW SA product spokesperson Sibusiso Mkhwanazi said BMW products built after July and imported into this market will be equipped with the digital key.

The company also announced an enhanced navigation system with Apple Maps on CarPlay that will debut in the new BMW i4 launching in 2021.

Owners of this fully electric, luxury four-door coupe will be able to use their iPhone to plan journeys and the software will take into account the need to identify charging stations, and find optimal routes to extend the electric range.