The days of old-school metal ignition keys might be numbered, but BMW is moving beyond remote keyfobs as well. Owners who have certain Android-powered smartphones can now use the company's Digital Key Plus app, turning the phone into a fully integrated vehicle key on compatible BMW vehicles.
By fully integrated, BMW means everything the normal key would do such as locking/unlocking the doors, starting the engine, and more. Beyond that, BMW explains that Digital Key Plus offers additional functionality by using ultra-wideband tech (UWB) that gives a very localized radio signal with better security at close range. The system was fine-tuned with Google and other partners and according to BMW, the risk of intercepting or jamming the signal is "virtually eliminated."
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The automaker's Digital Key system has been available for a few years, allowing owners to access and start their cars but Digital Key Plus takes it a step further by making the functionality automatic. Instead of placing the phone on the vehicle's wireless charging tray to start the car, Digital Key Plus devices can stay in your pocket. Similarly, automated functions set up by the vehicle owner such as exterior lighting when approaching the car work identically to the standard key remote.
While Digital Key Plus is new to Android users, it actually launched for the iPhone and Apple Watch back in 2021. Not all Android phones have compatibility with the app, however. Right now, BMW lists Digital Key Plus as being available for Samsung Galaxy S23+ and Ultra models, Google Pixel 7 Pro, and certain older Samsung/Google models running Android 13.1 or later.
Similarly, it's only available on BMW vehicles offering Digital Key Plus functionality and as of now, that applies to very recent Bimmers built after November 2022. Plans are in the works for an OTA update that will expand the functionality to older models, though BMW doesn't offer details of when that will take place or how far back it will go.