Smart locks have been growing in popularity, frequency of use, and sophistication. There is a range of smart lock options in terms of style and functionality, but for our purposes here, smart locks are considered those that connect to a smartphone and are controlled primarily through an app.
Smart locks are still a relatively new technology, and as such, the products and their app counterparts are being improved all the time. Generally, smart locks have these basic features:
- Bluetooth connectivity for local access
- An app for your smartphone to lock/unlock the door
- Ability to give electronic “keys” to friends and family (i.e., authorizing other phones to open the door)
- Security against lock picking and bumping
- Battery power (so you can still access your home during a power outage)
Changes and upgrades are being made to the way they connect to your phone (Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi), how the locks are installed, ways to increase battery life, and to the apps’ functionality, and most products have additional gadgets to enhance the convenience and appeal of a smart lock. In addition to these basic features, there are some smart locks that stand out for one reason or another. Below are our reviews of the best smart locks on the market today.
*Prices taken from April 2016
August Smart Lock
Price: $199 (less on Amazon)
Simple Design and Installation
The biggest advantage of the August Smart lock is its simplicity. Instead of completely replacing the deadbolt, it replaces only the thumbturn on the inside of the door, meaning your standard keys will still work. The installation process is very simple and straightforward; however, the August lock is only compatible with standard single-cylinder deadbolts and will not work with any other type of lock. It should also be noted that the lock is much larger than a typical deadbolt (3.3 x 3.3 x 2.2 inches) and will definitely require extra space on the back of the door.
August’s mobile app’s primary purpose is to allow users to lock or unlock their door through the phone’s Bluetooth connection by tapping the button on the app’s main screen. It also sends an unlimited number of free guest invitations that allow the owner to give users anytime access (for people who live there), recurring access (for the babysitter or dog walker), or temporary access (for the weekend houseguests). There are also some nifty features, such as Auto-Unlock, which will signal the door to unlock as you approach it with a connected phone. There’s also an EverLock feature which automatically locks the doors behind you whether you’re coming or going. While the slight Bluetooth lag time might be frustrating at times, these features give added convenience to the product.
August uses Bluetooth connectivity to communicate with your smartphone, but the August Connect wireless connector ($79.99 on Amazon) makes it possible to lock or unlock the door even when you’re away from the house. The August Connect simply plugs into the wall and has to be within about 15 feet of the deadbolt to work properly. The August lock works with several home automation products, including Apple HomeKit, the XFINITY Home app, and Nest.
Taking Security Seriously
The August Smart Lock has been around just long enough for many of the glitches and oversights to have been corrected, and August has been quick to address problems right away. For example, when some problems were found with the lock’s digital security, August responded within 24 hours with a temporary fix and have since corrected that flaw and increased security measures. In spite of the slightly higher price than some of its competitors, August is a high-value lock that we’d highly recommend.
- Easy installation
- Compatible with both iOS and Android smartphones
- Mobile app provides a virtual guestbook and an activity log
- Exterior deadbolt stays the same so standard keys still work
- No charge for e-keys
- Auto-Unlock and EverLock features
- Responsive company when problems arise
- Not compatible with all deadbolt lock types
- Bluetooth connection lag
- Phones must be Bluetooth Smart Ready
- Larger size
Price: $199 (less on Amazon)
Open With a Touch
The Kevo’s spotlight feature is that it is touch activated. Instead of opening the app on your phone to lock or unlock the door, you simply touch the deadbolt with the connected phone or key fob in range, and the door unlocks. Because it uses Bluetooth connectivity, there can be some lag time as the smartphone is located, and only phones with Bluetooth 4.0 are compatible. Bluetooth also means you cannot unlock the door remotely–your phone has to be in range. Part of the initial setup is a calibration process that ensures the Kevo won’t be unintentionally (or intentionally!) unlocked by a stranger if a phone or key fob is near the door inside of the house.
What It Comes With
The Kevo completely replaces the deadbolt on the door with a ANSI/BHMA Grade 2 deadbolt, but is designed to look just like a normal deadbolt from the outside, and still works with standard keys. One key fob and two standard keys are included in the purchase of the deadbolt and the interior unit that houses the batteries.
Once a phone is synced with the lock, the owner will receive two eKeys. Additional eKeys have to be purchased at $1.99 each, and they can be either scheduled or set to “anytime” access. Once purchased, these keys don’t expire and can be reassigned at any time. Guest eKeys are free and unlimited in number, but expire after 24 hours. The mobile app provides a complete activity log of all guests, as well as a list of who has an eKey or any pending invitations for access.
The standard Kevo Smart Lock uses Bluetooth connectivity to recognize smartphones and key fobs. Kevo Plus is a $69.99 upgrade that adds a Bluetooth gateway device to connect to the Internet, giving users the ability to remotely access the door. The Kevo can also integrate with a Nest home automation account. The Kevo is overall one of the most attention-getting smart locks on the market and is well worth considering for your home.
- Touch to lock/unlock
- LED light lets you know the status of your door
- Easy to install, including auto-calibration
- Mobile app makes it easy to assign eKeys and includes a complete activity log
- 1-year electronic warranty; lifetime mechanical warranty
- Secure against lock picking and bumping
- ANSI/BHMA Grade 2 rating
- Wi-Fi upgrade required to be accessible from anywhere
- Not compatible with all smartphones
- Bluetooth lag time
- Additional eKeys cost $1.99
Price: $229 (less on Amazon)
The Schlage Sense deadbolt integrates the design of other digital Schlage locks, with Bluetooth connectivity. The Schlage Sense completely replaces the deadbolt in your door with a keypad and keyed lock on the front and a box housing the batteries on the back. The touchscreen keypad is illuminated and holds up to 30 individual access codes. And for the traditionalists, a standard key will work as well.
The Schlage Sense deadbolt has a Grade 1 ANSI rating, which sets it a touch above most of its competitors in terms of physical security. It also has a built-in alarm sensor that is sensitive to a physical attack on the door (like someone trying to kick it in).
At this point, the Schlage Sense is compatible with iOS phones and Apple HomeKit—in other words, you can ask Siri to lock or unlock the door for you. Apple TV is also compatible and acts as a wireless connector, allowing you to access the door when you’re away from home. An Android phone app has been announced for later this year, but until that becomes available, the Schlage Sense is only available for iOS users. If you aren’t an iOS and Apple HomeKit user, there are similar but less-expensive locks (including several from Schlage) that would give you more usability; if you are an Apple HomeKit user, the high-quality design and strength of the lock are worth considering for your home.
- Compatible with Apple HomeKit and Apple TV
- Easy installation
- Keypad option on illuminated touchscreen can hold up to 30 access codes
- Built-in alarm sensors
- App has adjustable settings and can assign electronic access to guests
- ANSI/BHMA Grade 1
- Higher price
- Currently compatible only with iOS devices
- No remote access without Apple TV
- Bluetooth lag time
Sleek Deadbolt Retrofit
The Danalock Smartlock comes from a Danish family-owned company and is very similar to the August Smart Lock in design. The cylindrical lock attaches to the interior side of the door, leaving the exterior deadbolt the same. Unlike the August lock, however, it is compatible with several types of deadbolts. It can be locked and unlocked by twisting the outer ring, by touching the center circle, or through the smartphone app. And since the original deadbolt is still in place, standard keys can also be used if needed. The Danalock uses Bluetooth to connect to smartphones, and some upgraded models also have Z-Wave compatibility, which allows users to access the lock from an online Z-Wave gateway.
The app provides users with options for granting guest access on a permanent, temporary, or recurring basis. It also offers several unique settings, such as auto unlock which signals the door to unlock when the phone is in range (approximately 30 feet or less), and Knock to Unlock which lets users “knock” on their phone to unlock the door. However, several reports say that these features don’t always work reliably. Although the app does provide an activity log to let users see when the door was accessed, it doesn’t seem to track times when the lock is activated manually.
Although the design is good and comes with lots of potentially innovative features, this lock does not seem to work consistently. Although the installation should be simple and quick, many users reported that the lock plate did not quite fit on their door and sometimes wouldn’t install correctly at all. Other problems that came up were Bluetooth lag time and app reliability. In spite of those drawbacks, the lock still made our list because of the unique unlocking features, deadbolt compatibility, and lower price point, and because when the bugs get (hopefully) worked out, it will be a strong competitor in the smart lock market.
- Available worldwide
- Compatible with deadbolts, oval cylinders, Euro profile cylinders, etc.
- Operates with Bluetooth Smart and Z-Wave functionality
- Lower price than many competing locks
- Functional mobile app
- High-level security encryption
- Unreliable responses and app features
- Bluetooth lag time
- Installation more difficult than advertised
Smart Locks to Keep an Eye On
As the technology grows, more smart lock options and brands are becoming available. Below are two smart locks that are scheduled to be released in 2016 but as of now are still in the pre-order phase. Until these products are released, it’s hard to tell if they’ll live up to the hype, but even so, we think these are worth looking into and keeping an eye on over the next year.
The HAVEN home lock is unique in that instead of focusing on the deadbolt, it runs along the base of a door on the inside of the house. When locked, the plate (which is made of military-grade materials) extends upward to create a wedge that prevents the door from being forced open. According to the HAVEN creators, their product not only withstands typical forms of forced entry (like kicking in a door), but it can even take on a battering ram without giving way. The installation of the lock does have to be pretty exact to work as well as advertised, but it is a relatively simple process that can be done by the user.
HAVEN connects to both iOS and Android smartphones via Bluetooth and uses an app to extend access to other phones and keep an activity log. HAVEN also uses key fobs in case a phone is lost or dead. HAVEN is battery-powered so you don’t have to worry about losing power or Internet access, and if both the battery and the backup batteries die, the lock will disengage. There’s also a way to manually disable the plate from inside should an emergency arise and you need to exit the house quickly.
Current Missing Features
There are plans for releasing a Wi-Fi hub that will allow users to access the lock from anywhere. Additionally, plans to make HAVEN compatible with Nest and Apple HomeKit have been announced, though those features have not been added yet. User reviews should start coming out in the next few months, so keep an eye out for upgrades and improvements over the next year.
- Extra securityu2014the lock uses a plate to wedge against the door and keep it from being forced open
- Battery-powered with backup batteries
- Manual release in case of emergencies
- App allows user to give access to other phones and see an activity log
- Connects via Bluetooth to both iOS and Android devices
- Product and official user reviews are not available
- Wi-Fi hub and home system compatibility not yet available
- Only able to be installed on hard floors (wood, vinyl, linoleum, tile, stone, etc.)
- Doors must be .8 inches or more from the floor
Preorder for $99
Upgraded and Improved
The Bolt is the second generation smart lock by Lockitron. Their original crowdfunded design proved to have a few flaws, so Lockitron team learned from their mistakes, upgraded, and improved the design and functionality to create the Bolt. One of the changes is that the Bolt completely replaces the cylindrical deadbolt in a door, rather than working with the existing deadbolt. Although this complicates the installation, it’s still easy to do, and Lockitron offers a key-matching feature that allows users to keep their original keys with the new deadbolt.
Extended Battery Life
Another positive change from the original design is a longer battery life. This was partially achieved by removing the Wi-Fi capabilities from Bolt and creating a separate device, the Lockitron Bridge, which acts as an Internet hub for the Bluetooth-enabled lock. Even with the change, however, the battery life is expected to be only about six months, while many competitors advertise a one-year battery life.
The Lockitron app’s main function is to simply lock or unlock the door, but that basic function can be accessed from the mobile website as well for any non-compatible phones. The app also gives access to guests, and even those without smartphones can receive access codes via SMS texting, though that feature costs $5 per month. The app also allows users to adjust their Lockitron Sense settings, which automatically unlocks the door when your phone comes into range. The activity log not only tracks when the door is locked or unlocked, but it also makes a note when someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell. It’s a great feature, and at such a low price, the Lockitron Bolt is one to watch for as user reviews come in.
- Low price point
- App has guest access and automatic unlocking features
- Complete activity log, including manual access of the door
- Works with non-smartphones
- Compatible with iOS and Android devices
- Key matching features allows users to keep existing keys
- Only compatible with a standard cylindrical deadbolt
- Batteries expected to last only six months
- Product is long and requires more space on the door
Can’t Go Wrong
If you are looking for an innovative way to keep your home secure, there are lots of smart lock options that offer both convenience and security over traditional deadbolts. The variety of high-tech features and mobile apps means that you can find the lock that best fits your home and family, and you can have even more control over who enters your home. Plus, most smart locks feature unique designs that help prevent basic breaking-and-entering techniques (lock picking and bumping), making your home more secure. Smart locks can be pricey, but we think it’s money well spent. With so many options, you really can’t go wrong.