BMW launches NFC digital keys for X5 and 8 Series cars

BMW's Digital Key
DIGITAL KEY: Drivers can use a Samsung NFC phone to unlock and start the newest BMWs

Drivers taking delivery of a new fourth generation BMW X5 SUV or 8 Series Coupe this month are the first to be able to use the luxury car maker’s BMW Digital Key option to lock and unlock their car and start their engine with an NFC phone. Drivers will also have the option to share their digital key over-the-air with up to five other people.

To use the system, drivers will need to specify the “comfort access” option on their new car, and have a compatible NFC smartphone, the BMW Connected app and a Connected Drive account.

“Security is the top concern when it comes to activating and authorising your digital key,” says BMW, explaining in a video about the system that it must first be provisioned to the phone by visiting a dealership to verify the driver’s identity and ownership of the vehicle.

Additionally, a pairing process where the phone is placed in the car’s charging tray and the engine is started with a key is required to activate the ‘start engine’ feature of the mobile key. Once this is done, the smartphone can be used to access and start the car.

BMW also provides owners with a contactless card which can be activated in the same way, so that drivers can give it to parking valets or service technicians who need to access or move the car, instead of having to hand over their phone.

Meanwhile, Digital Key For5 is an option that, for £69 (US$88) annually, “makes it easy to share your digital key with family and friends”.

“You can send a digital key for your car to as many as five other people using the BMW Connected app,” explains the luxury car maker. “It can be installed on a compatible Samsung smartphone in just a few steps, allowing these people to unlock and lock your BMW and to start the engine.”

At present the system works with selected Samsung Galaxy Android devices including the Galaxy A5, A7, S7 and S7 Edge, S8 and S8 Plus, S9 and S9 Plus, Note 8 and Note 9, though BMW enthusiasts have been quick to point out that once in the car drivers will find that the entertainment system does not support Android Auto and only integrates with Apple’s CarPlay. iPhone owners cannot currently use the BMW Digital Key system.