Keys are yesterday’s tech, your smart home needs a smart lock.
The first locks date back more than a thousand years, and while traditional lock-and-key systems have improved over time, the basic mechanism hasn’t really changed: A piece of metal that is just the right shape pushes pins inside a lock into the proper position, allowing the lock mechanism to turn. As a society, it’s been tough to replace a system that has worked reasonably reliably for literally a millennium.
Are smart locks really better?
You can thank the hospitality industry for finally pushing locks into the digital age. Hotels learned long ago that keys are easily lost, expensive to replace, and simple to bypass, as thieves can pick locks or simply make copies of a key to allow for unfettered future access. On the flipside, hotel guests have readily accepted key cards (and in some cases, smartphone-based solutions) as the primary means of getting into their room. The electronic solution is just so much simpler. Lost hotel key card? Replacing it is no big deal.
But the biggest benefit of electronic entry systems is that they are highly configurable. Digital locks can be changed at a moment’s notice (which is why that old hotel key card in your wallet isn’t good for anything), and the property owner can generate a record of when each door was opened. In a more advanced setting, different keys can be generated for the same lock, so a homeowner can tell when each member of the family came in, or when the housekeeper arrived. Whether you have a teenager that tends to break curfew or merely want to give temporary access to houseguests, service providers, or Airbnbers, smart locks are an incredible upgrade over the old way of doing things. Ready to make the jump to smart lock technology? Here are our top picks of the market at the moment. We’ll be adding more reviews to this story as time goes by.
Updated August 12, 2019 to include our review of the new Lockly Secure Pro. A fingerprint reader was this smart lock’s best feature when it first came to market. Now Lockly has added a Wi-Fi bridge that allows you to include the lock on your Wi-Fi network, so that it can be accessed remotely from anywhere you have broadband access. It’s a great additional feature, but this lock remains one of the most difficult to install.
Best smart lock overall
The Schlage Sense smart lock may not win any awards for attractiveness—or ease of installation, given the two dense instruction manuals that must be followed—but if you really want to secure your home with a smart lock, and have faith that it’s actually working, this is the product to get.
What if you’ve lost your phone? You can open the lock via an illuminated, smudgeproof numeric keypad or with a physical key. A recent update added the ability to unlock the door with a voice command (you’ll need to speak a PIN code you set up to complete the action). Schlage added the same feature to the similar Schlage Connect.
A close runner-up to the Schlage Sense is the very similar Kwikset Premis, which also offers a touchscreen keypad, keyed entry, and HomeKit compatibility. Even without an Apple TV, you can use Siri to tell the Premis to open and close; this all gets set up during the initial installation. The app is simple and streamlined, though that comes at the expense of more advanced features, like geofencing and the ability to set individual access schedules. The Premis feels a touch less sturdy than the beefy Schlage, but if a less obtrusive (and a bit more simplistic) lock is more to your style, it’s a no-brainer.
Best retrofit smart lock
Our clear favorite for retrofitting an existing deadbolt with a smart lock is the brand-new August Smart Lock Pro. Like the original August Smart Lock, the Pro is a classy, post-modern piece of hardware—the Nest of the smart lock space—that doesn’t just look impressive on your door, it actually does an awful lot, too. (Nest has since partnered with Yale to produce the Nest x Yale Lock.)
The streamlined installation process is one of the easiest in this group, and unlike our runner-up, once you’re finished it becomes a real part of your smart home, integrating with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, the Wink Hub and Samsung’s SmartThings. What’s more, the August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge is now included in the price of the lock, and another new feature—DoorSense—informs you when your door is ajar.
Just pop off your old deadbolt and affix the Kevo Convert in its place, and voila! Your smart home’s lock is upgraded. The Kevo Convert isn’t as easy to install as the August Smart Lock, but it does offer some upgrades in the form of a more familiar interior deadbolt design and plenty of app-driven features, such as keys that expire after a preset time.
Unfortunately, the Kevo Convert is a Bluetooth-only affair, so it can’t be hooked into a smart home network—though a $100 add-on called Kevo Plus can at least let you check your lock’s status and open it when you’re not at home. On the whole, if your needs are simpler (and your existing lock is compatible), the Kevo Convert is a reasonable way to get started with smart lock tech.
What to consider when shopping
How do you pick a smart lock? (No pun intended.) This is a young and wildly immature space, and many products on the market are still extremely rough around the edges. Even top products can balk when dealing with old or stiff deadbolts, doors that don’t shut well, or environments where non-standard fixtures are in use. The bottom line is that it’s tough to declare that any product is universally perfect for every home. That said, here are some key considerations to take into account to help you narrow down your shopping list.
How smart is it? An important caveat to consider first: Some “smart locks” don’t work with a smartphone app or any smart home networking hubs at all; they’re really just electronic locks that use a code instead of a key to open up. One step up from that, you’ll find Bluetooth-only locks. These work with a smartphone app, but can’t be monitored remotely or via a smart home system. That’s fine if you’re looking to get rid of the keys in your pocket, but less impressive if you want to make your entrance portals a true part of your home network.
Replace or retrofit? You’re forgiven if you don’t want to replace your antique doorknob on your vintage Victorian with a metallic device that looks like it would be more at home keeping people out of a strip mall bank branch. A sizeable number of smart lock products don’t require you to replace all your existing hardware. Instead, they are installed on the inside of the door only, replacing only the interior part of the deadbolt. You can continue to use a standard key from the outside or open the lock via a smartphone app.
Smart home hub integration If you have an existing hub like the Wink Hub 2, Samsung SmartThings, or an Apple TV, you’ll want to ensure your chosen smart lock is compatible from the start. Many smart locks support Bluetooth, so they work with your phone, but lack the technology needed to connect with your home network. Some Bluetooth locks, like the Yale Assure system and the August Smart Lock, offer a radio module as an add-on to connect to your home network. If you’re using a smart home hub like the Samsung SmartThings or Wink Hub, look for a lock that supports Z-Wave or ZigBee, instead.
Alternate entry means Forgot your phone at the office? How will you get in the house? Physical key? Numeric keypad? Wait for your spouse to arrive? Myriad different approaches are available.
Power backup What do you do if the batteries inside the lock die—and you’re stuck outside? Some locks allow for emergency power to be applied should this happen. Yale’s Real Living locks feature external posts to which you can connect a 9-volt battery, giving you enough juice to get the door open. Other models retain the traditional key cylinder for backup.
Geofencing Bad about manually locking the door when you leave? A geofencing system automatically locks the door when it detects your phone has left the vicinity, and can be set to automatically open up when it finds you’ve come home.
Guest access features Most smart locks let you set up temporary keys for houseguests, which you can delete when they’ve returned home. Smarter systems even let you set time restrictions around when each access code can be used.
Our smart lock reviews
This capable smart lock offers commercial-grade construction and impressive reliability.
- Rock solid build quality
- Perfect operation, never failed once
- HomeKit compatibility offers remote access without extra hardware (from Schlage, at least)
- All users’ PINs must be the same length (up to a maximum of 8 digits)
- No Android support
There’s plenty to like about this smart deadbolt, but its inability to integrate with a smart home hub—no matter the brand—makes it hard to recommend to smart home dwellers.
- An onboard solar panel keeps its battery charged
- A second rechargeable battery (and charger) is included in case there’s not enough sunlight
- Amazon Alexa support
- Connects directly to your Wi-Fi network, so you don’t need a bridge or smart home hub
- It’s one thing to not need a smart home hub and something else to not be able to connect to one at all
- Bolt is not tapered to accommodate mis-aligned doors
- Support for Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit is still in development
An all-around solid smart lock built for iOS enthusiasts.
- Impressive code management features, including one-time-use codes
- Solid build quality without being overly industrial
- Keypad buttons can be hard to press, especially for younger users
- More expensive than the Schlage Sense
- Not Android compatible
The Yves Behar-designed August still looks great, and it packs in more features than ever.
- DoorSense feature is a killer addition that lets August know whether the door is ajar
- Ample notifications
- Integrates well with tons of smart home gear
- Hardware remains on the large side
- Still quite expensive
- Myriad bugs in beta release of app
The smartest of the retrofit smart lock systems—and the best-looking, too.
- Good looking retrofit smart lock installs quickly and works exceptionally well
- Intuitive app makes permanent and temporary keys easy to configure
- Geofencing capability is unique in this market
- One of the most expensive smart-lock solutions on the market
- Extra equipment needed to integrate with your other smart home hardware
The world’s first smart lock/camera combo works as intended, but it’s not the most attractive product to put on your front door.
- Integrating a camera into a door lock is a no-brainer, awesome idea
- Rock-solid lock operation
- Easy-to-use, if basic, app
- Very expensive compared to other retrofit smart locks
- Unappealing industrial design
- Speaker emits audible fuzz and hum when the camera is live
Postmodern in design, this is one of the best-looking locks on the market (at least on the outside). But you’ll have to wait for a connected version.
- Slim and sexy exterior escutcheon looks impressive at any distance
- Sturdy build, never jammed in testing
- Installation is more difficult thanks to sloppy bolt machining
- On the noisy side
- The first lock I’ve ever reviewed that didn’t come with the batteries it requires
Adding Wi-Fi to the Lockly system is a nice trick, but it doesn’t make this smart lock any easier to install.
- Fingerprint reader is (still) unbeatable
- The addition of the Wi-Fi Hub lets you manage and control lock from anywhere
- Bluetooth connection still works and is a convenient option for power outages
- Wi-Fi features depend on a discrete AC-powered hub
- Just as difficult to install as the original
- The companion app has not improved
Nest’s first smart lock is a somewhat buggy Yale product with Nest features, not the other way around.
- Integrates well with the Nest ecosystem
- All the expected features are front and center
- Sturdy hardware
- Not terribly attractive, particularly inside the house
- Considerable trouble during setup
- Expensive, especially if you also need to buy a Nest Connect
This budget retrofit kit is a less exciting, but reasonable, way to turn any deadbolt into a smart lock.
- Much cheaper than the standalone Kevo and the August conversion kit
- Sturdy build quality
- Much more intrusive appearance than August
- Somewhat more prone to jams
- App is slow to update
A capable, if expensive, way to upgrade your front door.
- Touch-to-open system is a crowd-pleaser and conversation piece
- Kids can be outfit with a fob ($25), so they can open the door without a smartphone
- Needs Kevo Plus hardware to do much of anything beyond simple Bluetooth connections
- Installation could be simpler
- A pricey option in this category
Friday’s retrofit lock is pint-sized and nice on the eyes, but it’s missing key smart lock features.
- Design-wise, it’s the least-intrusive smart lock on the market
- HomeKit integration makes access quicker for iPhone users
- No way to limit access by user
- Installation instructions aren’t the best
This smart lock looks better than most, but setup is a headache.
- Sleek design offers a decidedly modern look
- Versatile feature set
- Considerable trouble during installation
- Mounting requires an extra drill hole in your door
- App can be finicky; requires significant time to master
For Z-Wave households, the Yale T1L drops right in without a fuss. (The T1L can also be ordered with a ZigBee radio.)
- Fits in seamlessly into a Z-Wave smart home environment
- Extra PIN codes are free
- No standalone app, which greatly limits versatility and ability to assign access codes
- Programming must be done via the lock hardware itself
- No key cylinder
The Assure SL is a better-looking and more capable upgrade to the original Assure lock, but it still has some growing to do.
- Sexy exterior escutcheon is a major improvement
- PINs can be up to eight digits long, and no longer cost $2 a pop
- Much better app than the prior version
- Interior hardware is still ugly
- No history, no PIN restrictions: Where are the “smarts”?
This budget retrofit lock ditches the high-end design. It’s not the polished product that it’s more expensive cousin is.
- Very affordable, one of the cheapest smart lock systems on the market
- Has most of the same features of the Pro lock
- Setup bugs are severe, with too many to merit a recommendation
- Louder and clunkier than the pro mechanism
- Rather unappealing design
Igloohome’s latest revision looks better than ever, but our installation experience was so painful we just can’t recommend it.
- Best in breed industrial design, with incredibly slim hardware
- Thoughtful extras, including a keyhole backup and integrated door sensor
- Numerous options for setting up access rights
- Very difficult to get the hardware installed properly (and requires a second hole to be drilled)
- Dismal support experience
- Documentation is inaccurate in some areas
Expensive and overly complicated compared to other Bluetooth deadbolts.
- PINs can be up to 8 digits long
- A 9-volt battery terminal in front gives you emergency power to unlock the door if the batteries die
- App is hopelessly convoluted
- Lock hardware is retro-homely at best
- $1.99 per extra electronic key might be more expensive than making physical keys at the hardware store
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