BMW recently introduced a very fancy keyfob for the i8 which embodies a touchscreen that can control the entire car. Some love this, which isn’t surprising as the key is impressive, practical and down right cool. However, some don’t like it. Some think it’s just a silly gimmick. But there are a select few who think that a smartphone would be a better alternative.

The idea of using a smartphone as the key for a BMW already exists. There are apps that can already pose as a key fob and can lock, unlock and start cars. Many people utilize these apps as alternatives to keys. Instead of lugging around a clunky key fob, the app on the phone in their pocket can do the same without taking up any pocket space. A nice idea…as an add on.


If I’m buying a car, I don’t want the salesperson to tell me to download an app to start my car, I want a key. Would they do, essentially, the same thing? Yes, they would. But do I want my cell phone to be my only means of control for my car? Absolutely not. Mobile app “key fobs” are novelties and nothing else. They’re add-on, extra conveniences.


Also, the key uses radio waves to control the vehicle, not a cell signal, WiFi or Bluetooth. So potentially there could be less of a security. Cell phones are not very secure to outside intruders, so if someone were to hack into and remote control your phone, which happens more often than you’d imagine, they would be able to control and/or take your car. For the i3, in the U.S., the BMW i Remote App does not allow to unlock the car, due to safety regulations, but in other parts of the world these security laws are a bit more relaxed.

Radio wave key fobs can also be hacked with the right tools but the general consensus is that there are less failure points.

To start a car there must be a designated key for the vehicle. Now, if the key has a screen on it and can control all of the functions of the car, then now you can have your cake and eat it too. And the key fob comes with the car, so there’s no added cost to have a fancy touchscreen key. So while these new age keys may be a bit unnecessary, it’s better to have all of those functions on the actual key than need a smartphone to do the same.