Review of the Yale Smart Safe: HomeKit Integration with Some Glitches

Cupertino, August 3, 2023

The new Yale Smart Safe is highly compatible with HomeKit and is packed with numerous fantastic features, although there are currently software bugs that need to be addressed. Yale announced the release of this new Smart Safe after CES 2023, although it had already been previewed a few years ago. In recent weeks, we were finally given the opportunity to test the safe, which is made of black powder-coated stainless steel, giving it a sturdy feel. The front of the safe features a door with a keypad that swings open from left to right. A brushed metal piece on the front of the handle adds a nice contrast to the overall dark aesthetic. To the right of the keypad, there is a small slider that conceals a keyhole for backup access.

When it comes to setup, the Yale Smart Safe can either be left freestanding or mounted on the wall or floor. Yale provides bolts that can be inserted through the back or bottom of the safe to prevent anyone from easily grabbing it and walking away. This step can be quite labor-intensive, and it is recommended to use a sturdy surface such as an in-wall stud to ensure maximum security for your belongings. The safe comes with four AA batteries and a backup master key. To begin the installation process, we used the key to open the safe and inserted the batteries into the back of the door. Once the batteries were installed, we had five minutes before the timeout occurred, requiring us to remove the batteries and start over. We followed the steps in the Yale Access app, which guided us through the onboarding process, including adding HomeKit and access codes. For those with the Wi-Fi module, linking your Yale Connect is also beneficial. However, we encountered some initial difficulties while setting up the Yale Smart Safe. We experienced an issue where the installation failed to complete and the Yale Access app crashed. After some time, we had to "force close" the app, which resulted in the lock being stuck in a peculiar Bluetooth state that prevented us from accessing or resetting it. We had to contact Yale to resolve the issue, and they removed the lock from our Yale account. After going through this process, the lock was successfully set up on the next attempt, and we haven't encountered any problems since. Yale assured us that this is not the typical user experience and that they are actively working on improvements to address these minor issues.

One of the standout features for us, as heavy Apple users, was the HomeKit support. After adding the safe to the Yale app, we enabled the HomeKit functionality and added it to the Home app as well. We scanned the HomeKit pairing code found on the door and in the included manual. We then followed the standard HomeKit setup process, including naming the device, assigning it to a room, and setting up automation routines if desired. The most frequently used feature for Apple Home users is the ability to unlock and lock the safe using the Home app, which is available on all Apple platforms. Siri can also be used to control the safe. Although there isn't much need for automations with a safe, it is possible to set up a routine that unlocks the safe when you arrive home. However, since the door swings open after it's unlocked, you cannot create an automation to lock the safe unless you keep the door closed. Apple Home also provides alerts for when the vault is locked or unlocked, ensuring that you are always aware of its status.

To fully utilize the Yale Smart Safe, it is necessary to download the Yale Access app, which offers additional features and functionalities. This app assists with onboarding and allows you to install firmware updates, manage passcodes, and view access history. Unlike other HomeKit accessories, the Yale Smart Safe requires the use of this third-party app to access its full capabilities. However, the app itself is somewhat buggy and unclear. For example, tapping on a lock in the top right corner takes you back to the "keychain" view showing all of your homes, while tapping the gear icon in the bottom right corner directs you to the settings for the entire home instead of the specific lock you are currently on. The interface could be better organized, and opening each view takes a few seconds to load, resulting in a less fluid and native feel. Thankfully, the Yale Access app is not essential beyond the initial setup for Apple Home users.

In terms of usage, the Yale Smart Safe may be small, but it offers enough volume to store typical small items such as medicines, documents, and identification cards. It is a suitable size for a starter safe, although it lacks some of the high-end features found in larger safes. However, it is not water or fire resistant. The safe includes a removable single shelf that can be taken out when not needed. However, it cannot be modified, so it remains in the middle position if you choose to keep it. Yale has also provided two felt-like covers for the shelves, adding a nice touch to the interior. Despite the availability of HomeKit support, we primarily relied on our passcode to access the safe, as it is usually quicker and more convenient than using our phone and the Home app to unlock it. The large metal bars that secure the safe provide added assurance.

There were instances when we needed something from the safe while preparing to go out, and we found it convenient to use Siri to unlock it for us. We would give the command and walk towards the safe as the door effortlessly swung open. HomeKit commands typically took around 3 seconds to process. Another benefit of native HomeKit support is that you can access the standard version of the safe remotely without the need for the Yale Access module. As long as you have a Home Hub within range, remote access to the safe is possible. While testing the safe, we didn't have to grant remote access to another user at home, but we did test the functionality remotely, and it worked seamlessly.

We never encountered a situation where the batteries ran out, but the app does notify you when the battery is low. If you happen to neglect the batteries, you won't be permanently locked out of your safe. There are two contact points beneath the keyboard, and providing them with a 9V battery will power the safe's electronics, allowing you to unlock it via HomeKit or your passcode. Yale also offers a similar feature on its smart door lock line.

Overall, the Yale Smart Safe is a solid choice if you're in the market for a safe. It boasts excellent build quality, useful features, and rare HomeKit support. While the app and HomeKit access may not always be the fastest way to access the safe, they provide an additional method of entry that can be helpful in certain situations. Furthermore, the HomeKit integration adds an extra layer of security by providing notifications when the safe is opened. If you're concerned about others guessing your passcode, you can still know if they open the safe, even when you're not at home. Yale does need to make improvements to the onboarding process and the iOS app, but these issues are not significant enough to discourage us from recommending the product. However, we are hesitant to recommend it for early purchase.

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