Published on January 14th, 2021 | by Subhash Nair


BMW First To Use iPhone’s U1 Chip On Upcoming iX Model

Say what you like about BMW Group’s current state of ugly cars and poor global marketing, but it can’t be denied that they’ve got a good handle on integrating tech into their vehicles. They were one of the first to allow a smartphone app to be used as a digital key back in 2018.

As reported in the middle of last year, Apple iOS 14 would bring with a CarKey feature on some of the newer iPhones. This used NFC, so you still had to tap your phone on the door handle to get the car to start.

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Now BMW confirms that this technology will be debuting on their upcoming BMW iX using the iPhone’s Ultra-Wideband U1 chip instead of NFC.

This new method would allow similar functionality, but without even having to touch your smartphone to the car. You could have it in your pocket or handbag and the U1 chip would be able to accurately communicate with the vehicle to unlock it. BMW call this feature BMW Digital Key Plus.

However, the U1 chip is not available on older iPhones. That means, to take full advantage of the upcoming BMW iX’s feature set, you’ll need an iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, 12 Mini, 12, 12 Pro, or 12 Pro Max. The Apple Watch Series 6 also has the U1 chip, but it was not named by BMW in the press release. Only the “U1 chip of iPhone” was named, though when the NFC version rolled out the year before, the older Apple Watch Series 5 could be used.

Here’s the press release with more.


As one of the pioneers in the use of a smartphone as a digital vehicle key since 2018, BMW is pressing ahead with the development and popularisation of its BMW Digital Key feature, which is available to iPhone users today. In line with this goal, the premium car manufacturer will introduce the BMW Digital Key Plus, a convenient and secure way to unlock and start your car without taking your iPhone out of your bag or pocket. This latest incarnation of the service is based on Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology, the technology found on the U1 chip of iPhone. The BMW Digital Key Plus feature will be first launched with the all-electric BMW iX for iPhone. 

Ultra-Wideband technology for enhanced convenience and security. 
The new, additional features enabled by the BMW Digital Key Plus are based on Ultra-Wideband technology. This is a short-range, high-bandwidth digital radio technology that is characterized by an exceptionally precise localization with the greatest possible security. UWB’s precision also ensures that relay attacks, where the radio signal is jammed or intercepted, are not possible. Apple and BMW have been working closely with the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) to establish the Digital Key specification 3.0 for UWB, providing a global standard for the automotive industry.

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