Remember when the idea of unlocking your car without a physical key seemed like something out of a sci-fi movie?
Well, BMW went ahead and turned that fantasy into reality!
BMW Digital Key was introduced in November 2018 with the BMW X5 and BMW 8 Series, but only those equipped with the optional “Live Cockpit Professional.” And since then, it received many updates!
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you should know about BMW Digital Key. From whether or not your BMW has this feature to how to use it and more!
And don’t worry if you’re not a tech guru; this guide is written just for you. Simple and, above all, fun to read.
What is BMW Digital Key?
Okay, let’s start with the basics.
Imagine that your car key was not a physical chunk of metal and plastic but rather a secure digital code stored in something you always carry with you – say, your smartphone.
Yep, that’s the BMW Digital Key!
BMW Digital Key integrates the conventional BMW key with your smartphone, turning it into a virtual key.
The main difference between a BMW Digital Key and a regular BMW key is that the BMW Digital Key is integrated with your smartphone, while a regular BMW key uses a tangible plastic fob to lock and unlock your vehicle.
Here are the benefits of using BMW Digital Key:
- No more lost keys: We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Losing our car keys and going on a mini treasure hunt to find them. With the BMW Digital Key, your phone is your key. And the best part? You’re way less likely to lose your smartphone.
- Easy access & sharing: Need to let a friend or family member use your car? Instead of handing over a physical key, you can simply share access through their smartphone.
- Seamless device integration: Not only can you use your smartphone, but with the Digital Key Plus, you can even use smartwatches, making it easier to unlock and start your BMW, even if your phone’s battery has died.
What is BMW Digital Key Plus?
BMW released Digital Key Plus in July 2021 with the BMW iX. The “Plus” signifies an upgraded version of the Digital Key with even more features.
The main difference between BMW Digital Key and BMW Digital Key Plus is that BMW Digital Key uses NFC, requiring you to hold your smartphone near the door handle, while BMW Digital Key Plus uses UWB technology, letting you unlock the car without taking your phone out of your pocket.
Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology is much like Bluetooth but faster and more secure.
Here are all the features that the “Plus” version adds over the regular BMW Digital Key:
- Precision access: With UWB, your BMW can sense your phone’s exact location. So, it knows if you’re close by, even specifying whether you’re behind or in front of the car. No more accidental unlocks because you’re nearby in your home or office.
- Hands-free access: With Digital Key Plus, you can have truly hands-free access. Your BMW will automatically unlock as you approach and lock once you walk away.
- Enhanced security: UWB technology is harder to intercept, making it incredibly secure. It’s an added layer of protection ensuring that only you (or those you’ve granted access to) can enter your car.
What is the BMW Digital Key Card?
Now, while having your car key on your phone is cool, BMW understands that sometimes, you might want something more tangible. Or maybe you’re the kind of person who loves having a backup for everything.
The BMW Digital Key Card is a card that can unlock and start your BMW. It is the size of a credit card, so it fits into wallets, purses, or pockets. It uses NFC technology, so no charging is required. Just tap, and you’re good to go.
The BMW Digital Key Card comes for free with your vehicle as part of the Digital Key feature. Replacement Digital Key Cards are available from the BMW dealer at $49.
Here are some more reasons why BMW made the Digital Key Card:
- Backup plan: If your phone battery dies, or if you forget it at home, the Digital Key Card is your backup.
- For the traditionalist: If you’re not ready to give up the feel of a physical key, the card is an excellent intermediary step.
- Sharing made simple: Lending your car to a friend or valet parking? Hand them the Digital Key Card without parting with your primary phone key.
Which BMW models use Digital Key?
From sedans to SUVs, the Digital Key is steadily becoming a standard feature in modern BMW vehicles.
Here are all the BMW models that use BMW Digital Key, available for Apple devices only:
- BMW 2 Series G42 (2020 to 2023)
- BMW 3 Series G20/G21 (2019 to 2023)
- BMW 4 Series G22/G23/G26 (2021 to 2023)
- BMW 5 Series G30/G31 (2021 to 2023)
- BMW 7 Series G70 (2020 onward)
- BMW 8 Series G14/G15/G16 (2018 to 2023)
- BMW X1 U11 (2023 onward)
- BMW X5 G05 (2018 to 2023)
- BMW X6 G06 (2020 to 2023)
- BMW X7 G07 (2019 to 2023)
- BMW iX I20 (2022 onward)
- BMW i4 G26 (2022 to 2023)
- BMW Z4 G29 (2019 to 2023)
Here are the BMW models that use BMW Digital Key Plus, available for Apple and Android devices:
- BMW 2 Series G42 (2024 onward)
- BMW 3 Series G20/G21 (2024 onward)
- BMW 4 Series G22/G23/G26 (2024 onward)
- BMW 5 Series G60/G61 (2024 onward)
- BMW 7 Series G70 (2023 onward)
- BMW 8 Series G14/G15/G16 (2024 onward)
- BMW X1 U11 (2023 onward)
- BMW X3 G01/G45 (2024 onward)
- BMW X4 G02 (2024 onward)
- BMW X5 G05 (2024 onward)
- BMW X6 G06 (2024 onward)
- BMW X7 G07 (2023 onward)
- BMW XM G09 (2023 onward)
- BMW iX I20 (2022 onward)
- BMW i4 G26 (2024 onward)
- BMW i5 G60 (2024 onward)
- BMW i7 G70 (2023 onward)
- BMW Z4 G29 (2024 onward)
Note: All BMW models produced from 2024 onward with the iDrive 8 operating system will be compatible with Digital Key Plus.
Can you retrofit the BMW Digital Key?
What if your BMW model doesn’t come with a Digital Key feature? Can you get it retrofitted?
Unfortunately, retrofitting the BMW Digital Key feature is very hard since it would require both hardware and software changes, including advanced sensors, specific smartphone integration, and security encryptions.
So, while it’s technically possible, it’s generally not worthwhile. Of course, you can always check with your local BMW dealership to try!
How do you set up BMW Digital Key?
We’ve covered the “what” and “why,” and now comes the fun part: the “how.”
But before we start setting up your BMW Digital Key, you must ensure you have a compatible smartphone.
BMW Digital Key works with:
- iPhones from the iPhone XR and newer running iOS 13.6 or later.
- Google Pixel 6 / 6 Pro or newer.
- Samsung S21 or newer devices running Android 12 or later.
BMW Digital Key Plus works with:
- iPhones from the iPhone 11 or newer running iOS 15 or later.
- Google Pixel 6 Pro / 7 Pro or newer.
- Samsung S21 or newer devices running Android 13.1 or later.
With that out of the way, here is how to activate BMW Digital Key:
Step 1: Enter your BMW with both your regular key fobs
The first step is to get into your BMW using your regular key fobs.
For the Digital Key activation to work, it’s important to bring two BMW key fobs.
Once you’re seated inside, press the stop/start button without your foot on the brake to turn the electronic system on.
Step 2: Install and open the ‘My BMW’ app
Now, take out your compatible smartphone.
If you haven’t already, head over to your device’s app store (Apple App Store for iPhones or Google Play Store for Android devices).
Search for the ‘My BMW’ app and hit the install button.
Once installed, open the app.
(If it’s your first time, you must create an account or log in if you’ve already set one up.)
Step 3: Select “Digital Key”
Once you’re in the main menu of the app, you should see a tile labeled “Digital Key.”
Give that a tap:
Step 4: Start setting up your Digital Key
You will see a Digital Key welcome page.
Now, click on the button “Start Setting Up Your Digital Key.”
Step 5: Begin the pairing process
On the following pages, click on the “Continue” and “Start Pairing” buttons to pair your smartphone to your BMW:
Step 6: Activate BMW Digital Key on Apple Wallet
Next, click on Continue and place your phone in the smartphone tray for the activation to start:
Note: This smartphone tray is also used to activate the key card for your BMW Digital Key. Simply place the key card onto the smart tray and follow the instructions on the iDrive screen.
Once the activation is complete, you will see a notification on the My BMW app as well as on your BMW iDrive screen:
Congratulations, your BMW Digital Key is now activated and ready to be used!
Step 7: Add BMW Digital Key to your Apple Watch (Optional)
Once you have your Digital Key in your Apple Wallet, you’ll have the option to also add it to your Apple Watch.
BMW Digital Key works with the Apple Watch Series 5 or newer running WatchOS 6.2.8 or later. Meanwhile, Digital Key Plus works with Apple Watch Series 6 or newer running WatchOS 8 or later.
You can add BMW Digital Key to your Apple Watch via the My BMW app:
Step 8: Share your BMW Digital Key with others (Optional)
Lastly, if you plan to share your BMW with someone, you can optionally share the Digital Key through the My BMW app.
Here is how to share your BMW Digital Key with others:
- Open your Apple Wallet and tap on the ‘Options’ icon in the top-right.
- Select “Invite.”
- Click on the “Invite” button to continue.
- Choose whether you want to set any restrictions, like a limited top speed or a maximum radio volume.
- Continue by clicking the “Invite” button.
- Send out your Digital Key invitation!
Initially, this function was only available for iPhones, but you can also share digital keys from iPhone to Android phones now:
How do you use BMW Digital Key?
You’ve set everything up, and now it’s showtime!
Here is how you can use BMW Digital Key after it is activated.
Note: If you’ve set up BMW Digital Key Plus, your vehicle can lock/unlock and start the engine without you pulling your phone out of your pocket, so there is no need to follow the steps below.
Step 1: Hold your phone near the door handle to unlock the car
Approaching your BMW, hold your smartphone near the door handle.
The car will detect your Digital Key and automatically unlock it.
This function utilizes Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, so you must have your phone quite close to the handle:
Step 2: Place your phone on the smartphone tray to start the engine
Inside your BMW, place your phone in the wireless charging smartphone tray.
The car will recognize your Digital Key and allow you to start the engine. Simply press the start/stop button, and you’re off!
What countries is BMW Digital Key available in?
The beauty of BMW Digital Key is that it’s available in multiple countries, from Australia to the US.
Here is an extensive list of countries where BMW Digital Key is currently available:
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
How do you delete BMW Digital Key?
There might come a time when you need to delete BMW Digital Key.
Maybe you’re switching phones, selling your BMW, or you just want to remove access for a person you’ve shared the key with.
Whatever the reason, BMW has made the deletion process simple and straightforward.
Option 1: Deleting BMW Digital Key from your smartphone
Here is how to delete BMW Digital Key from an iPhone:
- Open the Apple Wallet app on your device.
- In the app, navigate to where you see the “Main Key” for your BMW.
- Once you’ve found it, select the “Main Key” and then choose the “Remove This Car Key” option.
Here is how to delete BMW Digital Key from an Android (Google/Samsung):
- Depending on your device, open the Google Pay or Samsung Pass app.
- Navigate to where the “Main Key” for your BMW is located.
- Find and select the “Main Key,” then tap on the “Delete Key” option.
Option 2: Deleting BMW Digital Key from your BMW
The iDrive system in your BMW offers another way to manage or delete the Digital Key:
- Power on your BMW’s infotainment system and navigate to the Digital Key Menu.
- You’ll see a list of all paired Digital Keys. Select the key you wish to remove.
- Once the desired key is highlighted, simply choose the “Delete” option.
Once the key is deleted through iDrive, any device or person you’ve shared the key with will instantly no longer have access.
So, what have we learned?
Well, in a world where our phones can do just about anything – from ordering pizza to video-calling friends across the globe – it makes total sense that they can now help us unlock and start our cars, right?
BMW Digital Key makes our lives easier and a bit fancier.
So, the next time you hop into a BMW and unlock it with your phone, take a moment to appreciate the technology.
If this guide has helped you, we would love to hear it in the comments below!
Other BMW features
Interested in learning more about other BMW features? If so, take a look at these articles:
- BMW Ambient Air: Best Scents, How To Install It, And More!
- BMW Active Steering: What Is It & Does Your Car Have It?
- Which BMW Models Have Ambient Lighting? (+ 8 Related FAQs)
- BMW Electronic Damper Control (EDC): All You Should Know
- Which BMWs Have Wireless Charging? (+ How To Retrofit It)
- Which BMW Models Have Launch Control? (+ How To Use It!)