Bluetooth smart locks that can be opened with your smartphone rather than a key are here - but which smart lock is the best?
Smart locks are set to become the next big thing in home improvement in 2017 – but what do they do and more importantly, which is the best one to buy?
In a nutshell, smart locks aim to make the traditional door key obsolete – and replace it with the smartphone.
The 4 smart locks reviewed here all use Bluetooth to connect the lock to the smartphone – allowing it to be locked and unlocked wirelessly.
One immediate advantage of this is that you don’t need to fumble for the right key while juggling an array of shopping bags. You can also send ‘virtual keys’ that grant access to friends, family, cleaners or delivery people as and when they need it. You can set the key to work at specific times and expire when it’s no longer necessary.
But it doesn’t stop there. With additional hardware, all of these smart locks can connect to compatible smart home networks over WiFi which allows them to be controlled and monitored remotely from anywhere on the internet.
So a working parent could get an update in the office when his or her children have arrived home from school.
Or the lock could be used in tandem with another smart home product such as a video doorbell to allow you to screen visitors and grant access to people from miles away.
Of course, there are potential drawbacks to this brave new world of smart door locks and remote access. All of the smart locks reviewed use Bluetooth technology – which can be erratic and unpredictable.
All the smart locks also rely on traditional batteries for their power – opening up the possibility of being locked out from your own home because you ignored the ‘replace battery’ alerts. Or perhaps more likely, you can’t get into the house because your iPhone is out of juice again.
And then there are the security issues. Anything that is connected to the internet could be vulnerable to hacking or viruses. And you’ll also have to ensure that any smart lock you buy meets the requirements laid down by your home insurance company – which may be difficult when several of these products don’t have official UK distribution yet.
Smart locks are the future, and for many people now is the right time to say: ‘Hey Siri, open sesame!’
But once you’ve opened a smart lock, whether it’s using the Kwikset Kevo’s tap-to-unlock feature or with a quick, key-like twist of your smartphone for the Yal Conexis L1, something magical happens. You forget about the potential problems and think instead about all the amazing possibilities.
Smart locks are the future, and for many people now is the right time to say, ‘Hey Siri, open sesame!’
August Smart Lock Review
This is the daddy of the smart lock sector – but sadly still hasn’t got proper UK distribution. Hence the rather high price charged on Amazon.
To get the most out of the smart lock you’ll also need to factor in the price of the Connect wifi bridge which allows you to control the lock using an iOS or Android app on your smartphone. The Connect will also allow you to voice control the lock with an Alexa-enabled device like the Amazon Echo.
Early August software had some issues which meant that the Bluetooth device could be slow or unresponsive, but updates and the new V2 hardware have ironed out most of these bugs. Arthur C Clarke famously observed that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – and when the August smart lock works as intended it is indeed magical.
August has a number of complementary products including a connected video doorbell to offer a complete home access solution which means that even without official UK launch it’s a system that you should be considering if you are planning on making your door locks smart.
Schlage Sense Smart Lock Review
Unlike the August, the Schlage Sense has 3 ways to be unlocked: by your iPhone, by a keypad or with a traditional door key. This is a reassuring mix of the new and the old – if the batteries run out, or the internet is down, you can still get into your home the old fashioned way.
The Schlage Sense also has Apple Homekit compatibility straight out of the box, so if you have a 3rd of 4th generation Apple TV you can lock and unlock your front door using Siri or remotely using the iPhone app. Notice we said iPhone and Apple TV: that’s because the Schlage Sense only works with Apple devices – other mobile phone platforms don’t get a look in. Like the August, early adopters of the Schlage Sense reported some niggles with its HomeKit support but ongoing updates have seen incremental improvements over the past 6 months.
The Schlage Sense is also a complete smart lock package – it comes with its own deadbolt and doesn’t piggy back on an existing mechanism. If you are already comfortable with the Apple eco-system – and you have an Apple TV – then the Schlage Sense must be on your smart lock shortlist.
Kwikset Kevo (2nd Generation) Smart Lock Review
The coolest thing about the Kwikset Kevo is its tap-to-unlock feature which combines Bluetooth proximity detection of your smartphone with an actual button press on the front of the lock to open the door. It’s smart enough not to let people in when you’re actually inside the house too.
The Kwikset Kevo actually looks like a normal door lock – which in our books is a good thing as keypads can make your home entrance look like an office. The new model slims down the casing on the inside of the door so it’s almost indistinguishable from a standard lock mechanism. The Kevo is available in brass, bronze and stainless steel so it should blend into any type of door.
In day to day use, the Kevo works just as you’d expect and was the most reliable smart lock at detecting our presence and locking and unlocking when and where you’d expect it to. To get the full smart lock experience you’ll need to fork out extra for the Kevo Plus bridge which links the lock to your home wifi and internet router. This provides the usual range of options including remote locking and unlocking of the Kevo from anywhere in the world as well as notifications of the locks usage (are the kids home from school yet?) and current status of the dead bolt.
Dedicated Apple buffs may be put off by the lack of HomeKit support but for most people the Kwikset Kevo is the perfect combination of traditional door lock security with the convenience of smart functionality that is well implemented and reliable in daily usage.
Yale Conexis L1 Smart Door Lock
The Yale Conexis L1 smart door lock has 2 things in its favour right away: first it looks great, in fact from the outside it looks like any normal door lock – albeit more stylish than most. (Until you realise that there is no keyhole, that is).
The second is that the Conexis has proper UK distribution from one of the biggest brands in the business. So if you want to make sure you have proper UK-based support for your smart lock, Yale is the way to go. The Conexis doesn’t have a keypad so the only way to open it is with keycards, keyhobs or – most importantly – your smartphone.
Yale labels its exclusive gesture-based smartphone controls as twist-and-go, and as the name suggests the lock opens when you rotate your smartphone through 90 degrees. Gimmicky? Yes. Cool as hell? Most definitely!
The smartphone connection is via Bluetooth and some people have reported that locking and unlocking the L1 with a phone can be a bit hit and mis. Yale has updated the app several times already and we didn’t encounter any issues.
If you want the fully connected smart lock functionality – remote locking, alerts etc – you’ll need to fork out an extra £50 or so for the Z-wave module which will patch the Conexis L1 into a compatible Z-wave hub such as the Samsung SmartThings or O2 Home devices. To our minds, this kind of functionality should be built into a new smart lock costing well over £200, but that’s the premium you pay for being an early adopter into the market.
August vs Schlage Sense vs Kwikset Kevo vs Yale Conexis L1 Technical Specifications
August Smart Lock Schlage Sense Kwikset Kevo (2nd Gen) Yale Conexis L1 Smart Lock Price £405.14 £271.00 £370.59 £255.26 Batteries 4xAA 4xAA 4xAA 4xAA Apple Homekit Compatible Yes (2nd Gen only) Yes No No Keypad Yes with optional Smart Keypad ($79) Yes No No Key Backup No Yes No Yes Tamper Alarm No Yes No Yes Bluetooth Yes Yes Yes Yes Remote Control via Internet Yes with August Connect WiFi bridge ($79) Yes with Apple TV Yes with Kevo Plus hub ($99 not available in the UK) Yes with Yale Smart Lock Z-Wave Module (£49.99) iOS Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Android Compatible Yes (Android 4.4 and up) No Nexus 5x, 6, 6P, 9
HTC One M9
Samsung Galaxy S5, S6, S7, Note 4, 5
Yes (Android 4.1 and up) Siri Compatible Yes (2nd Gen only) Yes No No Amazon Alexa Compatible Yes with August Connect WiFi bridge ($79) No No No