BMW Digital Key - what is it and how to use it?

Bianka Rommel
Aug 25, 2020

BMW digital key

BMW has long been recognised for introducing many technological advancements to its vehicles, and always looking forward to improving customer experience. Their Digital Key is another high-tech project that only proves the company’s leadership position in modern car technology.   

But what is this Digital Key exactly? How does it work? And which cars are compatible with the new feature?  In our blog post you’ll find out everything you need to know about BMW’s latest invention. Dig in and get a taste of the future with the Digital Key. 

What is BMW Digital Key?

Next to the broad-ranging annual changes BMW grants its loyal fans is an extra treat that answers their practical needs — BMW Digital Key. It is nothing less than a car key app for iPhones and smartphones that allows you to conveniently unlock and lock your BMW or even start the engine without using a physical key. Stored securely in your ConnectedDrive app or Wallet app, the Digital Key also gives you the option of sharing your key access with up to 5 other people! Now, that’s something you definitely can’t do so easily with a standard key fob ;) 

Learn all about BMW key fobs and their features from this blog post.

How does the BMW Digital Key work?

It’s all pretty straight forward once you pair it with your vehicle ;)  

Door lock

If you want to unlock the driver’s door using your digitized key, you have to hold the top of your phone near the door handle (let’s say 1.5 inches) until a check mark appears on your display and you see a notification “Done”. Then, your phone will unlock only the driver’s side door. 

The preset Express Mode will let you open the door or start the car without the need to unlock your phone first. However, if you’d prefer to have greater control over your vehicle opening or starting, you can disable this feature manually. In this case, you’ll have to set an identification method — FaceID, TouchID or passcode.

Engine start

Starting your car also couldn't be any easier with the BMW Digital Key. To do it, simply lie your phone down on the charging tray. Your vehicle will automatically turn on its engine with only one push of the start/stop button. 

Digital Key For5

Sharing is caring, they say? ;) With BMW Digital Key you can securely share your key with up to 5 other people — of course you decide when to grant them permission and (importantly) when to revoke it. If you want to let somebody else use your car key, just send them an invitation from the app and add them to your users list.

Teenager control

You can also choose the type of access and restrict certain features. When you share your Digital Key with your children, for example, you can set speed limitations or ensure that the Dynamic Stability Control and Intelligent Safety can’t be deactivated. Or, if your child likes their music a little too loud, you can limit stereo volume. All of the restrictions, though, may vary depending on your car. 

No connection

According to Apple the Digital Key doesn’t need any network connection to lock or unlock your vehicle. So even if your car is in an underground parking garage, you should have no problems with controlling your vehicle. Or if it happens that your phone’s battery has run out and switched into power saving mode, the Digital Key should still work “for up to 5 hours”. 

Which BMW has the Digital Key

Any BMW with a factory-original Comfort Access (S322A), automatic transmission and iDrive 7.0 or higher is compatible with Digital Key for Android devices. When it comes to the iPhone Digital key, almost every upcoming vehicle in the BMW range will be compatible with this technology — including the following list of cars built after July 2020:

  • 1 Series
  • 2 Series
  • 3 Series
  • 4 Series
  • 5 Series
  • 6 Series
  • 8 Series
  • X5
  • X6
  • X7
  • M5 
  • M8
  • X5 M
  • X6 M
  • Z4

Want to make sure your car is compatible? Log into the BMW Connected App with your BMW ID and add your vehicle to your account — if you see a section “Digital Key” with a ticked box, it means your car is compatible. If you’d like to confirm it another way, contact your BMW dealer.

What is BMW Connected App?

The BMW ConnectedDrive app is an application integrating your Apple or Android smartphone with your BMW. You can use it for multiple functions, like programming destinations before you get into your car, setting the climate control, flashing your headlights, sounding the horn and locking or unlocking doors. But most importantly, the Connected App turns your phone into a Digital Key. iPhone owners can also store their Digital Key in Apple Wallet.

BMW Digital Key compatible phones — BMW Connected App

Before introducing Operating System 7 to iDrive in July 2020, only a selected number of Android phones were compatible with BMW Digital Key. However, along with the new software came the option of adding the Digital Key to iOS mobile devices as well. 

BMW Digital Key iPhone

Currently the list of compatible Apple phones includes:

  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS 
  • iPhone XS Max 
  • iPhone 11 
  • iPhone 11 Pro 
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max 
  • iPhone SE (2nd generation) 
  • Apple Watch Series 5 
  • and newer models

NOTE: To add the BMW Digital Key, your mobile device will have to be supported by the upcoming iOS 13.6 or WatchOS 6.2.8.

BMW Digital Key Android

BMW Digital Key for Androids is compatible only with Connected App V6 installed on Samsung phones with Android 8.0+. The list includes, among others:

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Galaxy A5
  • Galaxy A7
  • Galaxy S7
  • Galaxy S7 Edge
  • Galaxy S8 
  • Galaxy S8 Plus
  • Galaxy S9
  • Galaxy S9 Plus
  • and newer models

What do I need for the BMW Digital Key?

What you need to set up the BMW Digital Key largely depends on the device you’re using. If you want to add it to your Android device you’ll need: 

  • iDrive 7.0 or higher
  • Automatic transmission
  • BMW Comfort Access (S322A)
  • A compatible smartphone with NFC capability 
  • The BMW Connected App

Check out this video for more information:

In terms of the requirements for Apple devices, what you need to have is:

  • BMW Comfort Access (S322A)
  • Active ConnectedDrive Services on your BMW 
  • A compatible iPhone
  • An established link between your car and BMW ID (via the latest version of the BMW Connected app). 

Not familiar with the Comfort Access feature? Check out how it can bring convenience to your everyday driving.

NOTE: To add a Digital Key, your vehicle has to be equipped with the Comfort Access function from the factory. Our Comfort Access retrofit won’t make it possible to activate this key in your car.

Is BMW Digital Key free?

Yes, it is free for the first year of usage. After the first year, if you want to keep the feature of Digital Key For5, you’ll be charged $88 annually.

How to activate BMW Digital Key

When BMW introduced its Digital Key to the market in 2018, it was only available for Android phones, and the activation process started off being much more time-consuming than the current one for iOS systems.

BMW Digital Key activation on smartphone

Although it may sound easy at first, you actually have to go through a bunch of steps to activate your Digital Key on an Android device:

  1. First, make sure the Comfort Access option is already included in your car.
  2. Secondly, you need to download the ConnectedDrive app and create an account.
  3. Once you do it, you’ll be required to activate the BMW Digital Key at a nearby dealer —  you’ll need to prove you’re the owner of the car you want to pair the Digital Key with and provide an official ID.
  4. After confirmation, you’ll have to create a four-digit code for your Digital Key — you’ll be able to use it to share the key with other drivers.
  5. When all of that's done, the Digital Key will be installed on your ConnectedDrive app, and all that’s left is to pair it with your vehicle.
  6. To do that, simply put your smartphone on your BMW’s wireless charging tray and have your physical key with you.
  7. Lastly, select ‘Activate Digital Key’ from the iDrive screen and your Digital Key will soon be recognized by the on-board systems and ready to use.

Want to see how it works? Have a look at this video:

BMW Digital Key activation on iPhone

The Digital Key activation procedure BMW has introduced for iPhones this year is less involved than for Android smartphones. It takes only your car and your phone to be compatible for you to be able to set up the Digital Key. So, what are the steps this time? 

  1. Create your BMW ID and add your vehicle to the BMW Connected app.
  2. Enter your vehicle having both of your regular car keys with you to prove that you’re the owner, and go to the Digital Key menu in the app.
  3. Tap the ‘Start Pairing’ button and follow the instructions given on the BMW Connected menu.
  4. Put your iPhone in the charging tray and that’s it. From now on, your Digital Key will be stored in the Apple Wallet app.

Got to activate your newly replaced remote key fob? Learn all about key fob coding and activation from our blog post.

BMW Digital Key card

If a Digital Key isn’t enough, you can get extra convenience with its card version — the Digital Key Card. The Digital Key Card has exactly the same features as its phone counterpart, and can be used independently from the key on your phone. In order to get the Digital Key Card, once again you’ll have to go through a bunch of steps:

  1. First, get in touch with a BMW Center to inquire about the Digital Key Card and send them your VIN.
  2. When your order is ready you can pick up your card from your BMW Center.
  3. Just like the key fob, the Digital Key Card is unique to your car, so you’ll have to activate it either yourself or with the dealer.
  4. To activate it, you have to put the Key Card in the smartphone tray and follow the instructions on the vehicle’s display. 

How safe is the BMW Digital Key?

If you're worried that the BMW Digital Key solution may not be the safest, we’d like to dispel all of your doubts. The Digital Key is saved in the Secure Element of your phone and supported by the near-field communication technology. This means you get a high level of data protection, which enables sending a signal between your phone and your BMW only when both of them are in close proximity.



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