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BMW Digital Key: Already in you hands


As the automotive universe evolves rapidly, whether through the increasing arrival of electric technology or autonomous driving, we always want to know more. It was with surprise that Apple and BMW revealed their digital key at the latest WWDC (WordWide Developers Conference), held online for the first time, from 22 to 26 June 2020, live from Apple Park in Cupertino, California. To learn more about this key and other innovations, Gentologie spoke with Mr. Mike DeMelo, senior specialist at ConnectedDrive, and M—-Ws. Barbara Pitblado, manager of corporate communications for BMW Canada.

A long-standing partnership

Apple-Wallet-BMW Digital Key

Credit: Apple

It’s a long partnership that BMW and Apple had, Mr. DeMelo told me as an entry point. It started with the iPod out feature back in 2010 and they subsequently introduce CarPlay into the BMW vehicles, which stands now as a subscription-free since December 2019 and the Digital Key appear as the latest addition to their connected services.

As members of the Car Connectivity Consortium, Apple and BMW work closely on this project also with Ford, as a new standard and by developing this new standard, they need to make it available for other smartphones and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) in the future. 

How the BMW Digital key is working


Credit: BMW

You might wonder how this Digital Key will work, well if you own a BMW, you must create a Connected Drive Account, linking you to the BMW iPhone App, that you will need to download. 


Credit: BMW

After this, you will map your vehicle to your account in the App. Then get in your compatible BMW and open the App. In the latter, you will see a button that will lead you to the Digital Key portion. For the pairing, you must have your physical keys. At that point, you need to put your smartphone in the charging tray and it will validate and go through the process. And what it does, it’s adding it to your Apple Wallet. 


Credit: BMW

To unlock the driver’s door with the Digital Key, you must hold the top of your iPhone (or your Apple Watch) near the handle (around 1.5 inches) until you notice the word “Done” and a checkmark on the display.” Your iPhone will only unlock the driver’s side door.

The first time with BMW Digital Key


Credit: BMW

You might be asking how to use your BMW Digital Key for the first time? Just place your iPhone in the smartphone tray of your vehicle and press the start/stop button. Thanks to the preset Express Mode, your iPhone doesn’t need to be unlocked before opening the door or starting the car. You can deactivate this function manually, in which case identification via FaceID, TouchID or password is required to unlock and start your BMW.

What about car sharing with BMW Digital Key?


Credit: BMW

You’re many driving your vehicle? You’re eligible to share the key up to 5 persons. Unfortunately, you will not be able to know who will be driving the car, this feature should arrive in the near future, however, you will be able to set options such as maximum speed and number of horsepower for different drivers. Plus, if you’ve lost your iPhone or want to delete drivers, there are few options. 

If you still have access to the vehicle, you can reset the digital key in the vehicle, which deletes the key. Just go to “Settings,” “Doors and Windows,” “Digital Key.” 

There are three ways you can remove other users. Each user can delete themselves. The owner can delete users through their iPhone. In this case, the deleted user’s key will be deactivated when another person’s used its key. Users can also be deleted directly from the vehicle’s menu.

A rich year in innovations for BMW

Other than the Digital Key, BMW launched new features earlier this year during the Auto Show season. The first one, the reversing assistant, is incredible. It’s more than a parking assistant, it’s really to maneuver into confined spaces. 

What it does, more exactly? The reversing assistant store the steering movements from the last 50 meters forward, when going below 36 km/h, and in a space wider than 30 cm. So what is happening, if you encounter another vehicle and you need to back, it will do, thanks the help of the steps on the control panel, reverse the movement you just made up to 9 kilometers per hour. You only need to operate the gas and the brake. “The way I use it for myself, on a daily basis, it’s on my shared laneway at home. I drive up to the laneway, then I go to the left, it’s complicated going back and forth on this tighter space, so it’s great that I have this function to reach those steps coming back,” noted Mr. DeMelo.   

The second innovation, also unveiled earlier this year, is the gesture control. It’s a new way to interact with the iDrive system. The way it works, as Mr. DeMelo mentioned: “It’s a camera in the roof filing that is pointing down and looks for your hand to do certain motions, a variation of a pinch, a pull, a turn, etc.” You can even personalise those settings with the one you prefer, you can find all available gestures in the interactive owner’s manual of your BMW.  

Android Auto now on BMW


Credit: BMW

Another new feature, for the Android phone’s owner. The introduction of Android Auto starting in mid-2020, the latest digital and user-centric service addition to BMW will allow the owners to connect their Android smartphones wirelessly with their vehicle. Doing so, they will enjoy access to useful information like suggested destinations, upcoming appointments, Google Maps (also in the heads-up display), it’s a full integration in the iDrive display. 


Going Electric


Credit: BMW

For the electric vehicles, BMW will bring new models in the coming months, as the last i8 just left the plant of Leipzig in June, and the i3 is probably on its final miles paving the road to the i4 concept and the iX3 (Apparently its arrival to Canada is compromised). 

As for MINI, the BMW Group launched at the end of last year the MINI Cooper SE, an all-electric MINI, which we wrote about on Gentologie in December 2019.  Also, a large number of Plug-In Hybrid vehicles are already on the side of BMW. That number will increase to 25 by 2025, Ms. Pitblado tells me. With the impact of COVID-19, sales of electric vehicles increased by 3.4% for the first half of 2020 at BMW Group.


Credit: BMW


Credit: BMW

I also ask Mrs. Pitblado how the vehicle transportation from Germany and Spartanburg has been impacted by COVID-19, and yes, as the production and port/rail/trucking shutdowns due to COVID-19, it did cause delays for the Canadian BMW retailers and customers. 

But now that things are ramping backup, their local backlog is cleared and the situation is consistently improving, which represents a great sign for the new 5 Series coming this August with the Digital Key.  

For more information, visit the BMW Canada website. Originally published in the  Gentologie Magazine Issue  5.


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