A Guide on Purchasing a Smart Lock

Cupertino, October 6, 2023

How to Choose

This is part of a regular series of articles designed to guide you through the process of purchasing a particular device or type of product. Read them all here.

Smart Locks: Security and Convenience for Your Home

Smart locks are a great way to bring security and convenience to your home. They can be configured to automatically lock and unlock depending on your location (or more accurately, the location of your smartphone), control remotely, and even grant guests temporary access. Additionally, they are a great example of voice-activated technology that makes you feel like you are living in the future. Smart door locks are especially useful for disabled users who can unlock the door and welcome a guest into their home without getting up.

The best smart locks also work with the best smart speakers and integrate with various smart home platforms. They can work together with security cameras and video doorbells to create a system that alerts you to a visitor and communicates with that visitor, including letting them into your home, all from your smartphone. In other words, they are among the best smart devices to invest in if you want to make your space 'smarter'.

And contrary to what you might think, most smart door locks are easy to install. They are designed to fit in the space left by your existing lock, and some can even still be used with your existing deadbolt - useful if the landlord has to visit or you forget to change the lock's batteries.

Speaking of which, smart locks are typically powered by AA batteries, which power a mechanism that turns the lock. These will need to be replaced every now and then so you will need to keep an eye on their remaining lifespan. Your door won't suddenly fly open as soon as the batteries die, because their power is only used to move the mechanism and not to keep the door locked. In other words, these locks can be just as secure as the locks already installed on your door.

What to Pay Attention to

Your first consideration should be the deadbolt style of your current lock. This, together with the design of the lock, latch, handle, and the door itself, determines which type of smart lock suits you best. In some cases, you may have a door, deadbolt, and latch that are not compatible with a smart lock currently available.

Compatibility also varies by country, with smart locks generally tailored to the locks, latches, and handles of US doors. These can also work in the UK and Europe, but keep in mind that not all smart locks available today are compatible with all types of regular locks.

Once you have identified your door's deadbolt style, it's time to look at the features and design of the smart lock. Some smart locks are much larger than others and can be quite bulky, especially on the inside of the door. Others are available in different colors and finishes to match the décor of your home.

Some models, like the Google Nest x Yale Smart Lock, have a numeric keypad on the outside, which you can use to unlock the door by entering a code. Others replace the deadbolt but retain the external components of your old lock, allowing you to still use the keyhole.

We also recommend checking which smart home systems the lock is compatible with. Smart locks can be used independently, but there are benefits to having a lock that communicates with other smart home devices.

What Specifications Do You Need?

In general, smart locks are quite simple devices. The main specifications to look for are the style, size, strength, and compatibility of the deadbolt. They all function broadly in the same way, by offering control of your door lock via a smartphone app, voice command, or automation.

In addition to the physical compatibility of the lock, you will also want to look at its design and connectivity options. Does it look nice at your door? Does it work with all the smart home devices you already own? Can it be configured to work the way you want? Wireless connectivity is also a factor to consider.

Some smart locks connect to your phone via Bluetooth, while others rely on a Wi-Fi bridge for wireless communication.

Should You Wait for Deals?

Smart door locks have a slower release cycle than smartphones, so their price fluctuations are harder to predict. However, they do get discounted during major sales events like Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, and Boxing Day. If any of these are on the horizon, it's worth waiting to see if the prices of smart locks drop.

Outside of major sales events, do your research and check the age of the smart lock you are interested in. If it’s several years old, there's a chance a new one will arrive soon. That said, this is the kind of device where innovation doesn't come along often, and any smart lock you buy today will feel like a serious upgrade.

Our Top Picks

The Best Smart Lock Overall: The Nest x Yale Smart Lock

The Nest x Yale Smart Lock is our favorite smart lock. It has a stylish design, a responsive keypad, and an easy-to-use app. The lock can be unlocked by entering a code on the keypad or through the app. It also works with other Nest smart home devices, allowing you to build a smart home system controlled by the Google Assistant and the Google Home app.

The Best Budget Smart Lock: August Smart Lock Pro

The August Smart Lock Pro is a reliable and affordable smart lock. It replaces the deadbolt but retains the external components of your old lock. This means that the keyhole remains and can still be used, in addition to the ability to open the smart lock via an app or even as you approach the door. It also works with popular smart home systems like Apple HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

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