Android users can now unlock their BMWs from their phones

BMW Digital Key Plus

Certain BMW cars can now be opened, locked and started from Android phones via Digital Key Plus.

Available on compatible Samsung and Google phones, you don’t even need to go to the tiresome hassle of getting your phone out of your pocket to start, lock and unlock the car since the vehicle reacts automatically when you walk towards or away from it.

A smartphone with Digital Key Plus can replace a your car keys entirely should you so wish to, and uses ultra-wideband technology (UWB). BMW says this close range/high bandwidth radio technology has the ‘maximum possible security’, and insists it ensures that the risk of ‘relay attacks’ which jam or intercept the radio signal is virtually eliminated.

Digital Key Plus was previously only available on iPhones and Apple Watches. The ‘comfort access functions’ are now available on the Samsung Galaxy S23+, S23 Ultra, S22+, S22 Ultra, S21+, S21 Ultra, Z Fold4, Z Fold3, Note20 Ultra, and the Google Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro. It will work with cars made after 2022 for now, but a future remote software upgrade will make it available on some older cars as well.

It’s all good stuff for gadget fans – and those prone to loosing their keys – but in a time when we are bombarded with warnings of ever increasing cyber attacks, there is always the slight worry when these sorts of things emerge that you’ve opened up another vector of attack for nefarious hackers. BMW’s position is that using ultra-wideband radio eliminates this risk, but who knows.

The modern car, at least after a certain price point, is stuffed full of technology – some of it useful sounding and some of it less so. BMW is quite active in churning ideas out along these lines, and earlier this year at CES showed off the BMW I Vision Dee. More of an R&D concept than anything else, the surface of the car is divided into 240 E Ink segments which allows ‘an almost infinite variety of patterns to be generated and varied within seconds.’

It also has a ‘Mixed Reality Slider’ which the firm explained at the time includes: ‘driving-related information, the contents of the communications system, to augmented-reality projection, right up to entry into virtual worlds. In parallel, dimmable windows can also be used to gradually fade out reality.’

CES has always provided a cornucopia of weird and wonderful cars, but the trend for those at the cutting edge of motoring seems to be moving away from being all about autonomous driving, and into things like the ‘software defined car’. It all gets a bit vague sometimes as to what value this stuff is supposed to offer, but with the reality of true driverless cars perhaps proving a little more tricky to realise than first envisaged, car companies are going to need to come up with other reasons someone would want to snap up an expensive teched-up motor.


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