The smart lock is 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 think.
Let's start with back up – the most common question we get asked 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 before you choose which connected lock to go for is – is it 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
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.
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.
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 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.
- Feature heavy - mobile app keys
- Works with everything
- Easy to self-install
- Quite expensive
- Big on features
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 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.
- Simple, easy to use
- Great design
- Interesting integrations
- A few connection fails
- Extra fees for remote access
- Tad slow to unlock
Yale Conexis L1
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.
- Share keys
- Easy lock/unlock
- RFID fobs
- Knack to the app
- Lock motor fiddly
- Five key limit
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, 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.
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.
- Reliable performance
- Traditional aesthetic
- Range of colours
- Costs extra for Wi-Fi access
- Limited integrations
- Bit bulky
Friday Smart Lock
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 (below). 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.
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.
- Looks small and sleek
- Simple to set up
- Good app
- Niggly performance
- Limited integrations
- Very limited lock type
Nuki Smart Lock
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.
- Wi-Fi remote access with bridge
- Voice and smartwatch controls
- Simple to fit
- Very specific lock type
- Voice needs a pin code
- Uncertainty around locking
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