Of all the different types of smart home products — lights, thermostats and cameras, to name a few — smart door locks are among the most popular. Going beyond the simple key, these locks can be operated using your smartphone, and can be connected to a larger smart home system to make your life easier. For example, your lights could automatically turn on when you unlock your front door, and your thermostat will be set to Home mode.
We reviewed a half-dozen smart locks from several well-known brands, as well as one from a company new to the space. Our top pick is the Kwikset SmartCode 916 Touchscreen Electronic Deadbolt ($249), which was easy to install, has a number of safeguards (including an alarm), and can be connected to a wide range of smart home systems. The Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt ($179) came in a close second, followed by the August Smart Lock ($199), one of the few that works with both the Nest Learning Thermostat and Apple's HomeKit.
Yale announced that its Real Living Assure Locks will also be compatible with HomeKit by the end of March 2017, but will require the purchase of the Yale HomeKit Network Module, which gets inserted into the lock. Sold together, the lock and the module will cost $250; sold separately, the lock will cost $200 and the HomeKit module will cost $75.
How We Tested
To gauge the effectiveness of all the locks, we timed how long it took to install each on a door, and then evaluated them on their features, including security (alarms, tamper-resistance), the number of codes you can program into each, and smart home compatibility.
What to Look for When Buying a Smart Lock
First off, you have to decide what kind of lock you want to purchase. At their most basic level, smart locks are generally divided into two categories: those with keypads, and those without. (Some, such as the August, have an optional keypad).
A keypad gives you the option of assigning codes to different people, so you don't have to hand them a physical key, or have to remember to bring a key with you when you leave your house. However, keypads take up much more space on your door, and there's the chance, however remote, that a thief can guess your code to get into your home.
Another good feature to look for is a built-in alarm that will sound when someone tries to forcibly open the lock; the better locks will have this feature, plus the ability to adjust the sensitivity of the alarm.
Pretty much every smart lock can also be opened using your smartphone, but many don't have a dedicated smartphone app, so to use this feature, you'll have to purchase a smart home hub, and use its app to control your lock.
When you link a smart lock to a smart home network, you'll be able to access its more advanced features, such as controlling it remotely. If you have, or want to use a smart lock as part of a whole-home network, it's important to know if the lock will work with other devices. Unfortunately, it can be maddeningly difficult to find that information through the lock companies themselves.
Currently, only the August and the Kwikset Kevo integrate with both the Nest Learning Thermostat and Apple's HomeKit. While you can potentially link other locks to the Nest Learning Thermostat, you'll have to do it through another smart home hub, such as the Samsung SmartThings. However, expect to see more locks compatible with both systems in the near future.
Like their traditional counterparts, most smart locks come in a variety of finishes and styles, so you can pick the one that best matches your home's décor.