iPhone and Android users can now share digital car keys — here’s how

iPhone digital car key being used on BMW
(Image credit: BMW)

iPhone owners will now be able to share digital car keys with Android users for the first time. 

Google rolled out new Android features, one of which is digital car key sharing for Android phones, starting with Pixel phones and iPhones. 

This means that if you use Car Key through your Apple Wallet app on your iPhone to unlock your car, you will be able to share the feature with a family member who owns a Pixel phone. Even better, Google says it is working on rolling out support for all Android 12+ devices soon. 

android digital car key

(Image credit: Google)

On iPhones, with iOS 16.1 or later, the Wallet app generates keys that work with Android now. But it’s not clear if this cross-platform capability will be available for Apple Watch and Pixel Watch users just yet.

This is a big step towards digital key standardization. At WWDC 2022, Apple announced it would be working with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) on this initiative. The group is still working on a specification that can be used by anyone as well but for now, Apple and Google have access to this technology. 

How does digital car key sharing work? 

The Car Key feature on an iPhone works in a similar way to Apple Pay or any other contactless payment feature. Once you get close to a car that is Car Key compatible, you can unlock it using your iPhone or Apple Watch. 

Previously, you could only share this feature with other iPhone users through iMessage. Now, you can use the Share button inside the Wallet app and share the digital car key through WhatsApp, text message and email to a Pixel phone. To secure the sharing, you can also opt to use a one-time code.

You can also revoke the sharing any time by going into the Wallet app, selecting your car key and tapping on the people icon to manage the current list of shared keys for that vehicle.

Google rolled out digital car keys last year with the Pixel 6 series, and it can be accessed through the digital wallet app on an Android phone and shared from there in a similar way.

There are only a few cars that are compatible with this technology right now. These include 2021 and 2022 models of BMW and the 2022 models of the Kia Niro, Genesis G90 and the Genesis GV60. Digital keys on a phone rely on NFC technology, or near-field communication that syncs with the NFC reader in these car models.

We're starting to use our phones now for pretty much everything. For example, iPhone users can now store driver’s license or a State ID in the Wallet app. And in select hotels, users can also use a digital key to access their room.

Sanjana Prakash
News Editor

Sanjana loves all things tech. From the latest phones, to quirky gadgets and the best deals, she's in sync with it all. Based in Atlanta, she is the news editor at Tom's Guide. Previously, she produced India's top technology show for NDTV and has been a tech news reporter on TV. Outside work, you can find her on a tennis court or sipping her favorite latte in instagrammable coffee shops in the city. Her work has appeared on NDTV Gadgets 360 and CNBC.