The best smart locks

Buyers guide: We test the latest smart locks and help with door related decisions

The best smart locks

Smart locks are really taking off – and the appeal of living life without keys is starting to resonate with homeowners. But unlike other aspects of the connected home there's more to consider with smart locks than you might initially think.

Let's start with back up, which is the most common thing we get asked about in our reviews. Most smart locks will work with a key in case your phone runs out of battery and some, like Yale, use a fob system. With existing companies, like Kwikset and Schlage, if you stick with them that means one key for everything.

Now that's out of the way, the biggest factor to consider is whether the device is compatible with your lock? The companies behind these products know this so spend some time making sure whether it will fit on your lock and if it's a deadbolt conversion setup.

Smart locks: Getting fitted up

Before you get going, it's also worth checking if your door actually shuts perfectly, a problem on older houses with wonky doors – this might cause problems down the line. Also bear in mind that smart locks come in different shapes and sizes – in some cases like the Nuki this means that not all locks will fit between the lock and the handle and in the case of others, you might want to think about how a gadgety-looking lock or a keypad will fit into your home's look.

You might think it's a big installation job but the majority of the smart locks we've tried have been self-install with a screwdriver and a spare 15 minutes. But while every lock is different, some installations go smoother than others. A slightly wonky install can leave in-built lock motors struggling for traction, and we've had professional fitters scratching their heads, doing battle with some locks.

Finally, if you're renting a house or flat, it's best to check with the landlord. We've found already that some landlords are more likely to allow smart doorbell installs than smart locks.

Here are the smart locks we've had on test in our homes – we'll be adding more options in the coming months.


August Smart Lock Pro + Connect

The best smart locks

From $229, august.com | Amazon

You can find a smart lock for less than $229, but if you want one with all the bells and whistles – including compatibility with all three major voice assistant platforms and plenty of perks – then you might find the August Smart Lock Pro to be well worth the investment.

The Smart Lock Pro is August's third-generation version, and while it looks much the same as the last model, it brings a few new features and enhancements that make it more appealing than its predecessor. For example, it's quieter and offers double the lifespan using four included AA batteries.

Luckily, it's just as easy to install. I'm not the handiest homeowner around, so I dreaded the inevitable frustration that I assumed would follow once I opened the box. But it really is dead simple: with a Philips head screwdriver and step-by-step instructions from the August app (iOS and Android), you can be up and running within 10-15 minutes. The Smart Lock Pro replaces the inside end of your deadbolt, while the outside half remains intact. It's startlingly painless, and it still works like a normal, tech-less lock: You can use your existing key from the outside, and manually lock or unlock the door from the inside by turning the large dial.

Essential guide: Complete guide to August

You'll also need to install a DoorSense sensor, which attaches to your doorframe in one of two ways. I went for the easier surface mount installation option, leaving the small, white plastic housing visible opposite the door handle – but if you don't mind doing a bit of drilling, you can do a flush mount inside of the doorframe. Once the Smart Lock Pro is fully installed, paired with your smartphone app, and connected to Wi-Fi via the included August Connect bridge (which plugs into a nearby wall outlet), you'll have full control of the lock from wherever you are.

The best smart locks

Thanks to the DoorSense sensor, you'll also be able to tell whether your door is fully closed or not, in addition to the usual ability to lock and unlock it from near or far. Not only does that provide some peace of mind, in case you're worried that you left it open, but it also boosts the auto-lock ability – it'll only lock if the door is fully closed. And you'll stay fully in the loop on that and any other door happenings via phone notifications.

The door can both auto-lock and unlock based on your proximity to your house, saving you the hassle of fumbling for keys when coming home with full hands, plus you can send out mobile app keys to use for friends, pet-sitters, Airbnb guests, and anyone else who needs temporary access. That's a pretty straightforward process: you'll add someone via the August app, and then they'll be able to register and claim the key from their own phone app. Once accepted, they can use their phone to unlock the door while nearby, and you can revoke access at any time as needed.

August is the only company that supports Apple's HomeKit, Amazon's Alexa, and Google Assistant in one device, offering the ability to lock and unlock the door via spoken commands. Plus, it plays nice with Z-Wave Plus-compatible security systems, letting you add the August Smart Lock Pro into an existing setup. The integrations keep coming, too, with August partnering with Alarm.com to open up the platform to other security solutions, such as DSC, Interlogix and Nortek. with the Alarm.com platform opens August's lock up to a wide ecosystem of smart home security solutions including DSC, Interlogix, and Nortek.

the ambient verdict
August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
August's latest lock wears its 'Pro' designation well. It's smarter than the average smart lock, even if you have to pay a bit more for all of those handy extras. It might be a bit too much for some people, both in terms of money and features, but there are other smart locks with fewer frills out there. August's does it all.
PROS
  • Feature heavy - mobile app keys
  • Works with everything
  • Easy to self-install
CONS
  • Quite expensive
  • Big on features
  • Bulky


Nest x Yale Lock

The best smart locks

$249, nest.com

While Nest has mostly gone it alone for its products, it's enlisted the help of Yale for its smart lock. The result of this collaboration, the Next x Yale Lock, makes it clear that this is Yale's hardware with Nest's software; the big deadbolt that sits on the inside of the door isn't the prettiest, though the keypad, on the other side, is a little more inviting.

That already might suggest there's a fair bit of installation needed here, but we found this relatively straightforward. And if you can't manage it yourself, Nest has a squad of 'Pros' ready to dispatch to customers.

If you're already using some of Nest's devices, you'll find the lock slips in pretty nicely. If you already own a Nest Secure alarm system, for example, you won't need the Nest Connect (which keeps everything tied together) to connect to your network and Nest app. If you don't have one, you'll need to shell out $30 - sadly that's non-negotiable.

The full verdict: Nest x Yale Lock review

As for how the lock actually works, we found it a breeze to use, its biggest strength being sheer reliability. The lock can of course be controlled through the Nest app - the hub for all Nest devices - but there's also that aforementioned keypad which you can use as a pin-unlocked backup should you need it - or so guests can let themselves in. You can also set the door to lock automatically after a specified period of time.

Where the Nest x Yale Lock falls down, in our opinion, is in integrations. Yes it works nicely in synergy with some of Nest's other devices, particularly the Hello doorbell which gives you a look at who's stood on your doorstep. But those integrations aren't as tight as they should be. What's more, you can't integrate the lock with any other smart home hubs, and there aren't any voice control capabilities, although these may arrive further down the line.

the ambient verdict
Nest x Yale Lock
It isn't the smartest smart lock on the block, but it's one of the most reliable we've tried. It lacks nice-to-have features like GPS unlocking and has no integration with the three major smart assistants. While it works well with Nest's other products, it also feels like it could do with even tighter integration with both the Secure and Hello. All that said, reliability and integration with Nest Secure make the Nest x Yale Lock a worthy entryway to your smart home.
PROS
  • Reliable
  • Nest Secure integration
  • Looks good
CONS
  • No Assistant integration
  • Feels like it could be smarter
  • Expensive


Kwikset KevoThe best smart locks

$190, kwikset.com | Amazon

While many of the smart lock manufacturers are new players in the game, Kwikset has been building locks for decades and as such knows what it takes to make a great lock. The Kwikset Kevo is a firm favourite for its simplicity and ease of use, as well as its great design.

The first thing you’ll do with the lock is install it, and while that process can be a little complex, thankfully the accompanying app guides you through it all. Once it’s installed, you’ll calibrate it, and you should be good to go. Then, all you have to do is tap on the lock with your finger to lock or unlock the door.

Now, as the Kevo is a smart home device, you’ll want the lock to play well with the rest of your home, but unfortunately it’s a little limited in that regard. The lock connects solely through Bluetooth, which means that you won’t be able to control it remotely by default. Those that really want remote access can upgrade to Kevo Plus for $100, after which they’ll be shipped a Bluetooth-enabled gateway that gives your lock Wi-Fi access. With that, you’ll also get Amazon Alexa support though Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit aren’t supported by the lock yet. You can lock and unlock your door through the app, which is supported on iOS and Android.

The best smart locks

The overall experience of using Kevo was pretty good, once it was set up. While we do recommend upgrading to Kevo Plus to really take advantage of the system, in general it worked the way it should. Sometimes, it wouldn’t recognize a compatible phone that was close by, and not unlock after being tapped but that never happened twice in a row in our testing. Of course, if it does fail to work there’s always a back up – the Kevo does come with a few physical keys to use.

The lock does take a few seconds to unlock, but the reason for that is a good one – it needs to first determine your phone’s location. After all, just being connected to your phone isn’t enough to authenticate the lock. It also needs to determine that your phone is outside the door, otherwise anyone could tap on the lock when you’re home to unlock the door.

the ambient verdict
Kwikset Kevo
The Kwikset Kevo is an excellent option for those looking to make their lock a little smarter and more convenient, and who don’t need a ton of different compatibility options and smart home integration.
PROS
  • Simple, easy to use
  • Great design
  • Interesting integrations
CONS
  • A few connection fails
  • Extra fees for remote access
  • Tad slow to unlock


Yale Conexis L1

The best smart locks

£229, yale.com | Amazon

One of the biggest names in the lock game, Yale has been quick to jump on smart locks. The Yale Conexis L1 will fit most doors with a five-point locking system – widely available in the UK and Europe. For US types, you'll be looking at the Yale Assure Lock, which actually offers way better smart home integrations thanks to Z-Wave – and there's a Nest collaboration inbound.

Back to the Conexis L1. Unlike other smart locks, Wi-Fi is dispensed with here, and the Conexis instead uses Bluetooth for unlocking via your smartphone, as well as RFID for tags which can be used for back-up entry. It's battery operated, and the four AAs will last approximately a year.

There's no doubt that the Conexis L1 is a little bigger than your average lock, although not as bulky as August – it's really really long. The inside section has a child-proof twist lock, which disengages the lock. To lock, you just pull the handle up – just like a traditional five-point system, although there's no key to turn.

To unlock, just approach the door with your smartphone and open the app. You then have to select the virtual key, and then twist your phone from portrait to landscape. We're not going to lie, it's kind of fiddly. Demonstrating it to friends actually left us temporarily stranded in the garden at a party. It's just got a bit of a knack.

Likewise, the set-up wasn't easy either. We actually plumped for a professional fitter to do the work for us – and we're glad we did. Even the installer, who claimed to install at least two a week, came unstuck when the lock was fitted marginally off perfect alignment, which meant the motor couldn't turn. He soon sorted it – but had we been self fitting, we'd have been stumped.

To lock, you also need to make sure the handle is pulled up, hard. While the motor turns its grinding turn, often the lock won't engage, and you'll get a flat musical tune and a red LED to prompt you into having another try.

However, while our experience with the Yale has been plagued by niggly issues, it has reinforced the benefits of a smart lock. No more searching for keys, and when we had builders in, it was easy to share a key via the app – and rescind it afterwards. You can share up to five keys at any given time, but any more and you have to pay for extras as an in-app purchase which feels unnecessary. The lock also comes with a fob and card, but extras need to be bought separately, which is a little more understandable.

the ambient verdict
Yale Conexis L1
Sleek, with a mixture of virtual and physical keys, the Yale Conexis L1 is one of the leading smart locks. We love the easy, child-proof unlocking and natural pull-up-to-lock mechanism, but unlocking via the app has proved a little fiddly at times. Those unsure about self-fitting might want to consider a professional service, as even the installer was flummoxed.
PROS
  • Share keys
  • Easy lock/unlock
  • RFID fobs
CONS
  • Knack to the app
  • Lock motor fiddly
  • Five key limit


Schlage Sense

The best smart locks

$230, schlage.com | Amazon

Schlage is another veteran in the lock business, and while it continues to build excellent traditional locks, the company has also started building smarter locks that you can integrate with your smart home. Like the Schlage Sense.

The Schlage Sense offers a deadbolt replacement with a keypad on the outside, and Bluetooth connectivity. So by default, you can really only control the lock from your phone when you’re within Bluetooth range. Like other Bluetooth-only locks, you can also get a Wi-Fi adapter, which will give your lock Wi-Fi access but this comes at a price of around $70 extra.

Still, that doesn’t make this lock useless. The Schlage Sense is compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and also has its own accompanying app that you can use to control the lock and add access numbers with a few taps on your phone. The app, in general, was easy to use and relatively well-designed.

The best smart locks

Then there’s the design of the lock, and it’s a good-looking one. While some will prefer a smaller lock, those that can accept the size of it will appreciate its beautiful brushed metal construction and sleek black highlights. The lock is available in two different finishes: Satin Nickel, and Aged Bronze. We reviewed the Satin Nickel one, but by the look of press pics, the Aged Bronze one looks equally nice.

When it comes to performance, the Schlage lock worked very well. You will have to wait for the app to sync with the lock when you first open it, and that can take a few seconds – but once synced we never ran into any issues with the app not properly controlling the lock or the lock failing to do as told. We were also able to add multiple access codes quickly and easily, meaning you’ll be able to add and remove users at a moment’s notice – though, again, you’ll have to be in range to do that if you don’t get a Wi-Fi adapter.

the ambient verdict
Schlage Sense
The Schlage Sense is a great choice for those that want to make their lock a little more convenient to open, but don’t need the remote access or automation that a Wi-Fi connected lock offers. It’s well-designed and generally easy to use.
PROS
  • Reliable performance
  • Traditional aesthetic
  • Range of colours
CONS
  • Costs extra for Wi-Fi access
  • Shallow integrations
  • Bit bulky


Friday Smart Lock

The best smart locks

$250, fridaylabs.net | Amazon

Friday is a new player in the smart lock game, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t build a great product. The Friday smart lock is similar in concept to the August lock (above). It fits over your existing deadbolt to lock and unlock your door at the tap of a button, or if certain criteria have been met in your smart home setup.

The Friday lock can integrate with some smart home systems, like Apple’s HomeKit, but that integration is a little limited. There’s an iOS and Android app, but there’s no support for IFTTT or other smart home setups, like Samsung SmartThings. You also can’t connect to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, which may be an issue for some users.

Still, setting up the lock was pretty simple, and it worked pretty well after setup. We did experience a few hiccups in connecting the lock to a phone once it was installed, but it eventually worked and we were good to go.

The best smart locks

Perhaps the best thing about the Friday lock is its design. It’s sleek and stylish, and comes in a range of different colors to best match your existing setup. It’s billed as the smallest smart lock too, and we certainly wouldn’t be surprised to find that claim true. Like some other smart locks, Friday’s offering is battery-powered – and like those other locks, the downside to that is that it won’t work while you’re charging the battery.

The Friday app is also clear and beginner friendly. Its clean home screen allows you to lock and unlock doors at a glance, as well as invite other users to be able to control the lock. Unfortunately, the lock’s HomeKit functionality is a little limited – you’ll only be able to lock or unlock doors with it, and for everything else you’ll have to head to the app.

The lock’s performance wasn’t as flawless as some of the other locks we’ve tested. It sometimes jammed up and didn’t work, and sometimes just didn’t respond to requests from the app. It’s likely the app and lock will continue to be updated over time, and in general the performance issues were relatively rare. Still, some work to be done.

the ambient verdict
Friday Smart Lock
Friday's smart lock looks sleek and minimal on your door, has an easy to use app and some limited Apple HomeKit support - if only it worked 100% of the time.
PROS
  • Looks small and sleek
  • Simple to set up
  • Good app
CONS
  • Niggly performance
  • Limited integrations
  • Very limited lock type


Nuki Smart Lock

The best smart locks

€229 (€299 with Bridge), nuki.io | Amazon

The Nuki Smart Lock is the minimalist and easy to install device you’d imagine the lock of the future to be. The idea behind the Smart Lock, which Nuki claims is the first in Europe with a permanent internet connection, is to let you lock and unlock your door from anywhere, as well as auto unlock as you approach. But what makes it so easy to install?

The Nuki Smart Lock uses your existing lock and key as it simply sits on top – a surprisingly low-fi solution. This is both good and bad. It’s great for those with a normal flat key and simple lock. This means you just position the Smart Lock over the key and stick it to the door using a peel-off layer provided. Then you calibrate the lock with an app which adjusts the motor in the Nuki so it knows the pressure to apply to turn the key within. Simple.

The problem is that being this simple means it only works on locks that fit the Nuki. It also means any key with a larger head or non-flat shape won’t work in the Smart Lock as they simply won’t fit. Plus, if the key hole is too near the door handle, again it won’t fit.

But, presuming you’ve checked your door setup does work, then you’ll be installed and ready to go in a matter of minutes without even using any tools. This might sound easy to remove but while locked the turned key holds the Nuki in place, meaning it won’t come out without removing the entire door lock.

Since Nuki uses Bluetooth it can detect your phone and auto unlock for keyless entry. In reality that means you walk up and simply open the door. This worked well but did mean we had to always leave Bluetooth on. Also you kind of presume it locks afterwards, which is worrying so we used the app to lock the door most of the time. This is where a smartwatch is helpful for a quick tap to lock or unlock, or glance to see it auto locked – Nuki is compatible with Apple Watch and Android Wear.

If you want to take advantage of the long range options you’ll need to buy the Nuki Bridge too. This plugs into a socket and connects to your lock and the Wi-Fi network. This was simple to install and lets you see who is entering your home via the app. It also lets you unlock the door from anywhere and set keys for certain times, like access between 9am and 5pm for a tradesman, for example.

The Nuki Smart Lock is also compatible with IFTTT and also Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant so you can control it with your voice, although if you want to unlock you will need to say a pin code. The company has also announced the second-gen Nuki Smart Lock 2.0 will land before the end of the year, featuring a faster internal processor, compatibility with more doors and HomeKit support, so keep that in mind if you're seriously looking at Nuki.

the ambient verdict
Nuki Smart Lock
As simple to install and feature rich as smart locks go, this is a future-proofed beauty from Nuki looks the part too.
PROS
  • Wi-Fi remote access with bridge
  • Voice and smartwatch controls
  • Simple to fit
CONS
  • Very specific lock type
  • Voice needs a pin code
  • Uncertainty around locking



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