Buying a Smart Front Door Lock
Smart locks can integrate with a variety of home ecosystems. Brisant’s Ultion Smart deadbolt, for example, looks like a traditional lock and comes with a standard keyhole backup.
It doesn’t have Wi-Fi built in, however; you’ll need to purchase and install an additional hub that plugs into a power outlet within about 20 feet of the lock. Its fingerprint reader works well and the app is clean and intuitive.
Some smart locks use a numeric keypad to allow entry, while others have a fingerprint scanner. Fingerprint sensors are a good option for those who don’t have the patience to type in numbers on a keypad or who want to grant recurring or one-time guest PINs to dog walkers, nannies, house cleaners and other service providers. These locks can also record and store a log of all who enter your home, including visitors and service providers.
When choosing a smart lock, make sure it has a tamper alarm that sounds when someone tries to force open your door or jimmy the deadbolt. Look for an ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 security rating, which shows the strength of the lock’s design against forced entries.
If you’re interested in a retrofit installation, the Kwikset Kevo Bluetooth deadbolt is an affordable and easy-to-use solution. It requires a separate connect module to enable remote control, however, and it doesn’t work with HomeKit or Google Assistant, which can be frustrating. The Schlage Connect is a better choice for those looking for more future-proof features. Its rekeyable keyway, reversible thumb turn and ANSI Grade 1 security rating make it an excellent choice. It does require a wired connection to your home’s Wi-Fi and comes with a hub that plugs into a wall socket up to 20 feet away from the lock.
A smart lock that connects to your home Wi-Fi network gives you full remote control of the door. Some models let you create a number of temporary “keys” that can be used to unlock the door for certain times, like when you hire a dog walker. Others use a mobile app to set up guest access, letting you revoke or grant a virtual key for guests. Some smart locks also have gyroscopes built directly into them to relay the actual state of the door—if it’s open, for example, you get a dinging notification.
Most smart locks can integrate with smart home ecosystems, working with the most popular voice assistants and other products like lights and security systems. Some smart locks also have their own integrated security features, like a tamper-proof alarm that sounds the loudest when someone tries to open your door with a real key or forcefully with an electric drill.
The Wyze lock is a good example of this—it has some integrated security, but you can also add an optional $30 keypad for coded entry. In our hands-on tests, it performed well, smart front door lock locking and unlocking reliably. smart front door lock However, it relies on two CR123 batteries that can last three to six months and doesn’t have a way of checking the battery level in the app. It does work with Alexa and Google Assistant, and its geofencing feature is a nice touch.
The best smart locks automatically unlock your door for you using Bluetooth, GPS and a technology called geofencing. This feature eliminates the need to remove your phone from your pocket, open the app and then tap a button or use the keypad to unlock the door. This convenience is a big selling point for smart lock buyers, but it can also be a privacy concern.
Businesses use geofencing to create virtual boundaries for marketing purposes. They drop points on a map to form shapes such as squares, circles and polygons that track your location when you enter or leave the boundary. When your smartphone or another device crosses the fence, an action can be triggered such as sending a notification or displaying an advertisement with a coupon.
Geofencing is also popular for events and concerts. The virtual boundaries help organizers track audience members and encourage participation such as tweeting photos or sharing a link to a live stream. Smart home devices can also use the technology to provide reminders or trigger actions, such as a reminder to buy milk when you’re at the grocery store or a change in temperature when you’re on your way home from work.
Of the smart locks we tested, only the August WiFi Smart, the August Pro + Connect and the Ultraloq U-Bolt have geofencing. The August Wi-Fi Smart and the August Pro+ Connect are easy to pair with a wide range of hubs including Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and any hub that uses Z-Wave technology. The Ultraloq U-Bolt is a simple retrofit lock that mounts right over your existing deadbolt, but it’s less easy to connect with other smart home products since it doesn’t support voice control and can’t be used with other Wyze devices.
A smart lock isn’t as strong as a traditional deadbolt, but it does give you a lot of control over who gets in and when. Look for locks that let you assign codes to trusted visitors (like contractors or babysitters), so that they’re not using your regular key, and that will also send an alert to your phone if someone arrives at the door.
Some models are compatible with multiple smart home ecosystems. For example, the Yale Assure lock has Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support, and you can add a separate ($100) Connect kit to turn it into an Apple HomeKit device, which will allow it to work with Apple’s voice assistants, too. Other models, like the Schlage Encode and Level Lock+, integrate with Apple’s HomeKit by default.
Other security features include a low battery indicator, which will warn you before the battery in your lock runs out of juice. And look for a model with linger detection, which will alert you when a person is nearby but hasn’t actually pressed the doorbell yet.
Retrofit models are ideal for renters or homeowners who don’t want to alter the existing hardware on their doors. For instance, the August Smart Lock retrofits over an existing deadbolt, and it’s easy to install in less than 20 minutes. It’s the best smart lock for renters, and it can be used by people without a smartphone or an internet connection.