What Is Apple Car Key, How Does It Work, and Is It Safe?

In 2020, Apple introduced a smart feature called Apple Car Key at its Worldwide Developers Conference. The feature allows users with compatible cars to unlock and turn on their vehicles using iPhone or Apple Watch.

The Apple Car Key wasn’t as popular as other Apple products at launch as it only supported a limited number of BMW models. However, more manufacturers are coming onboard to support the feature.

So, let’s learn more about Apple Car Key, how it works, and whether it’s safe to use.

What Is the Apple Car Key?

Apple Car Key is a digital car key in your latest iPhone’s wallet app that allows you to open, close, and start your car using your iPhone and Apple Watch.

It has additional features like sharing your car key through iMessage and creating a customized sharable car key with restricted access where you can put limits like speed, volume, and more.

If you’re accessing your car remotely through your iPhone or Apple Watch, you can get notifications about locking and unlocking your car.

That’s all cool, but how do we do it?

How To Unlock Your Car With Your iPhone


You can use your Apple Car Key from your iPhone and your Apple Watch. But your device and your car have to be compatible with this feature.

If your car and device are compatible with Apple Car Key, this is Apple Support’s guide on adding your car key to your Apple Wallet.

  • Your car dealership or manufacturer will provide the details of the account your car is associated with. Keep them handy.
  • If your car manufacturer gave instructions via an App, email, or text message, follow them. Otherwise, check your car’s display and then follow the instructions.
  • When the instructions direct you to the wallet app, select continue on your Apple wallet.
  • Put your iPhone onto the key reader, and it will start pairing with your car.
  • Once your car and your iPhone finish pairing, tap “Done”.


When your car and iPhone are paired, your Apple Watch will automatically pair with your car.

If that doesn’t happen, you can manually pair your Apple Watch by going to your wallet in your Apple Watch and tapping the “Add” button next to the Car Key option.

Depending on your car model, you can lock, unlock, start, keep track of, and use different features of your car from your iPhone or Apple Watch.

Some car manufacturers allow you to just lock and unlock your car with your phone, while others give you the option to start it, and a few can even let you operate all your car’s systems remotely.

What Is an NFC Car Key?

NFC stands for Near-field Communication. With the NFC version of the Apple Car Key, you can lock or unlock your car by tapping your iPhone or Apple Watch at the key reader or your vehicle’s door handle.

To start your car, you will have to place your iPhone on the Key Reader or hold your Apple Watch near it before pressing the start button. That’s all well and good, but what if you don’t want to take your phone out of your pocket or purse?

A Bit About Express Mode


Your Apple Wallet also features an Express Mode, which allows you to use your cards and keys without pulling your phone out or unlocking the device. It works the same for Apple Car Key. Your car automatically unlocks when it senses your phone nearby. And you can start your car as soon as you get in.

The car only starts when the phone is inside it, so there’s pretty much no chance of fraud. Moreover, you’ll receive notifications when your car locks, unlocks, and starts.

If you don’t have Express Mode, you can verify your identity by entering your passcode, and the car should work the same.

How Do You Share Your Apple Car Key?

Sharing your Apple Car Key with someone who needs to borrow your car is easy. Go to your Apple Wallet and tap Car Key. When you tap on the more button with three dots, you can do three things:

  • Invite, which allows you to share your key
  • Tap on someone’s name and checkout instructions to revoke the shared key
  • Remove the key from your wallet to delete it

When you tap on Invite, you will get instructions that will help you restrict access to things you don’t want your friend or borrower to use.

Depending on your car manufacturer, you might even get access to other controls like volume, speed, or other systems, and you can set restrictions on those while sharing the key.

Is Apple Car Key Safe?


If you can trust Apple with your money and use Apple Pay, you can trust them with your car keys because it is practically the same app they’re using.

They have made the options of Touch ID, Face ID, and Passcode protection available on the Apple Car Key as well. It is a matter of which car companies support those features that will determine your choice and security.

If your phone battery dies while you’re still out, Apple Car Key can work for up to five hours even after your battery is drained—so you can still drive your car even if your iPhone is out and empty.

If you lose your phone, you can deactivate your car key from iCloud and mark your device as lost, so all other features related to your business, money, and data can be deactivated. However, you’ll have to use your car’s original key to drive it.

Apple Car Key Compatible Cars and Devices

As discussed earlier, Apple Car Key didn’t gain as much popularity at its launch as the other Apple products. Here are some reasons why the feature couldn’t go mainstream.


A Red BMW M4

The only company that supported this feature at launch was BMW, and that too rolled out a few highly expensive models that supported Apple Car Key.

While Apple and BMW initiated the embrace of the Apple Car Key in 2020, it took some time for other members of the Car Connectivity Consortium to adopt this technology and introduce models that support this feature.

As of now, Apple lists 18 cars that support the Apple Car Key, 15 of which are from BMW, two from Genesis, and one from Kia.

Apple Devices

The following Apple devices support the Apple Car Key function:

  • iPhone XS or later
  • iPhone SE (2nd Generation)
  • Apple Watch Series 5 or later
  • Apple Watch SE

For express mode, passive entry, and remote features, you must have:

  • iPhone 11 or later
  • Apple Watch Series 6 or later

All iPhones must have the latest versions of iOS, and all watches must have the latest versions of WatchOS. You also need an Apple ID signed in to iCloud.

Have Fun With Minimalism!

Between slimming down its devices and decreasing the number of objects Apple users have to carry daily, Apple has developed many successful products.

Store your IDs in your Apple Wallet, use Apple Pay for purchases, have a Home Key for your smart home, and now have an Apple Car Key for your vehicle.

No more need for keychains or wallets—you might not even need a pocket with an Apple Watch. All these innovations in the transportation industry are harbingers of the highly-anticipated Apple Car.

Photo of an Apple Store on a busy street

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