Apple takes on keyless entry with iOS, coming first in BMW 5 Series

At WWDC, the technology company showed us how to add some virtual car keys to your Apple Wallet.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
2 min read

Physical keys are so 2019.


If you're an owner of a recent Tesla, like the Model 3, chances are you've been enjoying the virtual key lifestyle for some time. Now, Apple wants to bring it mainstream, by baking virtual car keys (but not CarKeys) into iOS 14 -- and even iOS 13 -- with BMW as its first partner.

Virtual car keys are just what they sound like: digital keys that allow you to open and unlock your car just by using the NFC chip in recent iPhones. No more fumbling for keys at the bottom of your purse or cargo shorts; just grab your phone and away you go. But, more impressively, virtual keys in your Apple Wallet will enable you to quickly and easily create virtual keys and send them via iMessage, meaning you can give permissions to your kids, parents or friends without having to get a new key cut -- or replaced. 


BMW will be the first partner, but Apple is working to bring the tech to other makes.


The technology is built on the iPhone's UWB U1 chip, which Apple says will eventually allow all manufacturers to securely and reliably detect the phone's proximity and position, even if it's buried in your purse. But, for now, it'll just be in the new 2021 BMW 5 Series, with other manufacturers coming next year. Given it's part of the Car Connectivity Consortium, it shouldn't take long to spread.

2021 BMW 5 Series: Now with more hybrid

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Again, this is similar functionality to what Tesla currently offers with the Model 3, and what BMW currently offers with Android-based devices. So, not exactly a first, but something we're very glad to see catching on.

Watch this: Apple turns your iPhone into a digital car key