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 connected home devices 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
You can find a smart lock for less than £230, 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.
Nest x Yale Lock
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.
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.
If you worship at the alter of HomeKit, the Kwikset Premis is a good choice. Until 2019 it only came in one design, the Premis Traditional, but this year the company added the Premis Contemporary – which works just the same, but has a sharp, rectangular shape. Installation took us somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes, but there’s no drilling or wiring, and all the instructions are clearly laid out in the app.
Premis can be locked and unlocked in several ways: with a key (included), by inputting a code on the keypad, byusing Siri, or by using the Kwikset or Apple Home app. You can assign user codes to friends and family and give them various levels of access, and the app will show you who unlocked the door and when. The Premis also has an auto-lock option (from 30 seconds up to 4 minutes).
While you can lock and unlock the Premis using just the app with Bluetooth, HomeKit is the primary reason to pick this up. It’s why the lock is for iOS users only, but it adds Siri support and remote locking/unlocking. Remember, you’ll need to set up a HomeKit hub – HomePod, an Apple TV 4K, HD or third-gen, or an always-on iPad – for the latter.