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After buying the 8 most promising smart locks on the market and testing them side-by-side for more than 120 hours, we've found the best models for people who constantly need to remotely let dog walkers or cleaners into their home, or that manage a number of different vacation rentals. Our tests cover everything from remote management and keyless entry to overall security and installation difficulty, so we can help you find the perfect lock, no matter your needs. We can also help you decide whether you even need a smart lock, or if you might be better off with a "dumb" keypad lock.
Bluetooth key, keypad, and physical key entry options
Built-in WiFi (no hub required)
Broad smart home compatibility
REASONS TO AVOID
Large interior profile
The perfect smart lock provides simplicity and versatility, and in our opinion, the Schlage Encode offers both in spades. The built-in WiFi functionality creates simplicity by not requiring an additional smart WiFi hub that you must purchase and navigate separately. You can also avoid any hassle of your guests having to download apps and create accounts — the keypad allows you to share access by creating easy numerical key codes for guests. This product gives you plenty of versatility with the ability to unlock your door multiple ways: a Bluetooth key on your phone, remotely over WiFi, with a key code, or even with a physical key. Whatever option you choose, it can be set to a particular time frame, so the house cleaner's or dog walker's code can only work between 9 am and 2 pm on a specific day. It is also compatible with many smart home platforms, allowing for control via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and can even be used with the Key by Amazon service that allows packages to be delivered inside your front door.
A downside to the simplicity of built-in WiFi is the additional power requirements. This lock sticks out further than others due to the four AA batteries it requires. This impediment is mostly on the interior of the door and might be made less noticeable by the black plastic battery cover, depending on your interior design style. Also, the lock won't open automatically as you approach the door because there is no geofencing; you have to use your phone to unlock the lock. All in all, these are small setbacks in comparison to the many features and steady performance that make the Schlage Encode the best smart lock for most people.
If you are already building a smart home with multiple Nest devices, Nest x Yale with Connect is a solid consideration. For existing users, the Nest x Yale can be controlled through your current Nest app, simplifying setup and integrating with your current user experience. Installation is simple, and we like the slightly beefier ANSI grade 2 security rating that it boasts.
The thing we dislike the most about the Nest x Yale is that when we were sharing access via the Nest app (as in sharing access with someone else that has a Nest account and app, thus turning their phone into a Bluetooth key), we found that it can glitch quite often. We got around this by making keycodes to share with visitors to use manually instead of gaining access through the Nest app. The drawback, however, is that the codes can't be set to allow specifically-timed access, so you have to keep them updated frequently if you don't want people to have access at all hours. That being said, if you're already a Nest user, we think the familiarity and convenience of using the same app will be more appealing than an entirely different system for your lock.
Lacks connected features without separate smart hub
If you want a no-frills, budget-friendly smart lock to share access to your home via your phone, we think the August Smart is a great choice. The lock is installed directly on top of the deadbolt you already have, simplifying the installation and requiring no new keys. Once installed, it uses simple Bluetooth key functionality to lock/unlock upon pressing a button within the phone app. You can also set it to automatically unlock when you and your phone approach the door and lock when you leave. Most importantly, you can share access with anyone who has a smartphone, and you can limit when those people can open the door. For example, you can give your dog walker access only for an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon.
That simple Bluetooth connectivity limits the August Smart's usefulness to when your phone is within 30 feet of the lock — you can't remotely lock/unlock it nor check its status. These features are added with the purchase of a separate smart hub, but in our experience, they are a bit less reliable than those of some other models. Additionally, the cost of the smart hub negates the August Smart's budget status. Overall, this model shines as a low-cost and streamlined option for people that want to easily share access to their home.
The ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro offers just about every smart feature you could imagine. You can gain and share access via time-constrained Bluetooth keys, fingerprint scans, key codes, geofencing (automatically unlock as you approach), and an old-fashioned key. It can also link to Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control and boasts If This Then That (IFTTT) support that allows it to link up with other components of many smart homes. It offers a unique "magic shake" feature that allows you to unlock just by shaking your phone in front of it (currently, you must open the app to do this, which sort of defeats the purpose, but reports are that it will eventually work in the background). We also love the unique micro USB hub that lets you power the lock from an external source in the event of a battery outage.
All this functionality does come at a very high cost. It also requires an external WiFi smart hub. We tested the lock + smart hub package, which keeps things relatively simple, but the hub does add one extra layer of complexity. Additionally, we had some initial setup issues in getting the lock and smart hub talking to each other, but were able to rectify them with some troubleshooting. If you want access to advanced smart features like fingerprint scanning, we think the extra cost and hub are well worth it.
Steven Tata and Max Mutter have developed their expertise in smart home devices over the past 4 years. In that span, they've used just about every smart speaker on the market, have lived with more than a dozen different WiFi security cameras in their homes, used an army of robot vacuums to clean their floors, driven around with more dashboard cameras than you can shake a stick at, and now, have used multiple different smart locks on their own front doors. Throughout that process, they've become familiar with the various smart hubs used by many of these devices and have a good sense of when these gadgets are adding value to their daily routines and when they're just serving up unnecessary complications.
In finding the best smart locks out there, we meticulously researched more than 40 models. Once we whittled that list down to the top contenders, we purchased those models (we never accept any freebies or discounts from manufacturers). We then installed them all on the same door so that we could evaluate their installation, keyless entry, remote access sharing, and overall user-friendliness. Once we had completed these controlled tests, we then brought them to our respective homes, living with each for multiple days to discover all their hidden conveniences and annoyances.
To discover which locks were best and why, we assessed the performance of the smart locks we tested in four different areas: smart features, keyless entry, security, and installation.
Smart locks have a fairly narrow price range — most retailing in the neighborhood of a couple hundred dollars. Those that cost less generally don't come with an included smart hub. That means you'll need to spend more on a hub to access their smart features. Therefore, the top performer is also the best value, making the Schlage Encode our first recommendation for the vast majority of people. For those seeking more basic features and simple utility, the August Smart provides a great and slightly less expensive option.
What About Key by Amazon?
Key by Amazon is a service that combines a keypad smart lock and a security camera into a system that allows Amazon Prime deliveries to be placed inside your door rather than left on your front stoop. If you've had multiple Amazon packages mysteriously disappear, this system may be a worthwhile investment. You can check with Amazon to see which locks are currently supported by the system.
Smart locks carry a hefty price premium when compared to their traditional counterparts, so they need to offer reliable and useful smart features to be a worthwhile purchase. We used every smart feature these locks offer, side-by-side, to assess both the relative usability and reliability of all of them. This includes features like Bluetooth entry, keypad entry, compatibility with smart home platforms (e.g., Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home), and activity logs. Much of our testing focused on granting third parties access to the lock remotely, as this is one of the most useful and common applications of smart lock technology. Generally, we found models that require using an app to share access somewhat clunky and unreliable, while those that utilize a keypad and temporary codes for access to be much more user-friendly.
The ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro offers more smart features than almost any other model, allowing you or someone you'd like to share access with to open the lock via Bluetooth keys, fingerprint scanning, keypad codes, and geofencing. All of this access can be granted permanently or on hourly schedules, and you get a log of everything that happens with the lock. The Schlage Encode offers almost the same list of features, with fingerprint scanning and geofencing being the two exceptions. We found the smart features of both these models to be reliable and user-friendly.
Two other models that scored decently high in our smart features testing were the Schlage Sense with WiFi Adapter and the August Pro + Connect. The Schlage Sense offers activity logs, both Bluetooth and keypad entry, and almost universal smart home compatibility (with Zigbee being the notable exception). What endeared this lock to us was its ability to easily create temporary, time-constrained codes that could be texted to anyone without them having to download or install anything. We did have one instance where one of those codes didn't work, but in general, they were convenient and effective. The activity log also accurately cataloged the use of those codes. Granting other people Bluetooth access was somewhat problematic, but we also didn't feel this was a necessary feature we'd use often, anyway.
The August Pro + Connect also provided a fairly good smart home experience. It claims to play nice with most smart home platforms (Zigbee again being an exception), but we did run into some issues when using it with Amazon Alexa. We had success in sharing Bluetooth access with other people via the app (essentially turning phones into Bluetooth keys). Overall we think this is slightly less convenient than using a keypad and sharing a code since it requires the recipient to create an August account and download the app. However, once that is done, the August Pro provides a detailed activity log and lets you grant time-constrained access to individuals.
The August Smart can function without a hub using its Bluetooth connection. While this rules out remote features, you can still control the lock from your phone when in close proximity and share time-constrained access with anyone that downloads the August app and creates an account. If you purchase a smart hub, you can also control and check in on the lock remotely, but we found these remote features to be slightly more finicky than those of other models.
The Nest x Yale doesn't offer as many options and is only compatible with the Nest/Google smart home platform. We were disappointed that you can't put time constraints on any of the access codes you share. Additionally, you can only share access with those with a Nest account who have the app installed on their mobile device. Even with all those needs met, we still ran into some error messages when trying to share codes for the first time with a new person. All that being said, smart locks tend to be finicky in general, and we still think this lock is a good option for Nest users.
The Kwikset Kevo doesn't offer any sort of keypad. Thus, sharing access with someone requires that they download an app and create an account which we found to be much less convenient than just being able to create a temporary key code and text it to someone. Once someone downloaded the requisite app, keyless entry was often annoying and laggy.
Our least favorite model for smart features and their execution is the Schlage Z-Wave Connect Camelot. It requires purchasing a separate smart hub to access the lock's smart features, which we found fairly disappointing. Apart from narrow smart home compatibility (this lock can only be used with Alexa and Z-wave platforms), the biggest downside is the lack of access sharing options. You can only share codes, those codes can only be disseminated from within the app over email, and the codes cannot be given any time restraints. While you can create multiple codes and access a log of their use, unless you need to let multiple different people into your home, this functionally isn't much different than emailing someone the code to a traditional keypad lock.
We evaluated how well each of our locks meshed into the daily routine of locking and unlocking doors to make sure you're not creating two new problems to solve one. Thus, keyless entry testing focuses on how easily each lock granted access to its main user. In a practical sense, we are talking about walking to the door with an armful of groceries and getting in without dropping the broccoli.
We found both the Schlage Encode and the ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro to be near perfect in their keyless entry, with both locks responding almost instantly when using the corresponding Bluetooth key and key codes. We would give a slight edge to the ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro as it allows you to use geofencing to have the lock automatically unlock when you get home based on your phone's location, a feature the Schlage Encode does not offer.
The Schlage Sense was one of the best performers in this category. In our testing, we were mostly able to open the lock via the app when we were within 30 feet of the door or could pick up the house's WiFi network. This meant we could usually unlock the door from the car before grabbing two big handfuls of groceries. Generally, opening the lock with the app took less than 10 seconds. We only encountered a couple of glitchy moments where it took longer than that. It was also quite easy to type in an access code if we didn't want to deal with using a phone. Finally, this lock maintains the option of using an old-fashioned key if all else fails.
We also liked the keyless entry performance of the Nest x Yale. It offers pretty much all the advantages of the top-scoring Schlage Sense with simple Bluetooth unlocking and a keypad if you'd rather unlock the door without fumbling for your phone. The only downside to this model in comparison to the Schlage is that there is no physical key. It's not a deal-breaker, but being able to leave a physical key in your glove compartment in case the smart lock malfunctions may bring some people peace of mind.
What About Geofencing?
Many models offer a geofencing feature that automatically unlocks the door when your cell phone gets within a set distance of the lock. While this is convenient, we've come across many reviews mentioning this technology malfunctioning and unlocking the door while the occupants are home or even in bed. Therefore, if you choose to use this feature, we suggest you do so with caution.
The Schlage Z-Wave Connected Camelot functions the same as its sibling, the Schlage Sense. Doors can easily be unlocked via the app, a key code, or a physical key. However, when trying to open the lock via Bluetooth, we did run into some issues where we needed to restart the app before the door unlocked.
We found the simple Bluetooth key functionality of the August Smart to work quite well. However, when we connected it to a smart hub and tried to unlock the door from outside of Bluetooth range, we often ran into issues.
The August Pro + Connect was consistently inconsistent in our keyless entry testing. When keyless entry worked, it was flawless — just a couple of taps on your smartphone, and the door was unlocked. However, about half the time, we experienced delays of keyless entry of up to 20 seconds, meaning we opened the app, and then it took 20 seconds before it would respond to any of our commands. The lock still has a key option, so you can go old school if the app is being particularly finicky, but that defeats the purpose.
The Kwikset Kevo was our least favorite lock to use. The lack of a keypad forces you to use Bluetooth to unlock it, which involves opening the app while within Bluetooth range, and then tapping the lock with your finger — at least, that's what it's supposed to involve. In our testing, we found ourselves opening the app, tapping the lock a few times, putting the phone right next to the lock, tapping it a few more times, cursing into the ether, tapping a few more times, and then finally hearing the bolt unlock. If we weren't testing this product, we would have switched to using the optional physical key after just a few uses.
We assessed the security of these locks in two ways. First, we looked at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rating for each lock. This is a rating from 1 to 3 (1 being the best) of how secure the physical deadbolt is. We also evaluated the efficacy of auto-locking features that will automatically lock the door, even if you forget to do so yourself.
The Schlage Z-Wave Connect Camelot and the Schlage Encode led the field in our security testing. Both models carry an ANSI grade 1 security rating, the highest possible. They both also have an auto-lock feature that engages after 30 seconds of inactivity, so you'll always 'remember' to lock the door.
Don't Lock Yourself Out
Autolock features are great, but they also make it pretty easy to lock yourself out of the house if you go to check the mail sans phone (keypad models do give you another option if this happens). We also found that most models will engage the deadbolt, even if the door is open. So, if you've left the door open for a while, you'll want to make sure the deadbolt isn't engaged lest you smash the door frame.
The Nest x Yale also performed well in security testing. Its ANSI rating is grade 2, and you can set a custom auto-lock delay. This means you can set a longer delay if you tend to pop outside to grab the mail without your phone and don't want to get yourself locked out.
Most of the models we tested fell into the average bucket. The Schlage Sense has an ANSI grade 3 rating (low, but likely secure enough) and does have an auto-locking feature. Both the August Pro + Connect and the August Smart do not have ANSI ratings as they install onto an existing deadbolt. They both also have auto-lock features that work well.
The ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro earned a relatively low score from our security testing simply because it does not carry an official ANSI rating. However, it does offer an auto-lock feature that will engage if you forget to lock the door.
The Kwikset Kevo was the lowest scorer in this metric. It is ANSI grade 2 and has no auto-locking features, which doesn't complement its finicky touch controls very well.
We scored ease of installation based both on how difficult it is to physically install each lock into a door, how arduous it is to get the lock talking to a smart hub, and in turn communicating with your phone. While some of these locks are certainly more difficult to install than others, the differences aren't huge. Therefore, we wouldn't let a lower installation score dissuade you unless the phrase 'DIY' makes you shudder.
We found the Nest x Yale to be the easiest lock to install. It installs as easily as any deadbolt. It is clear that Nest has been in the smart home game for a while, as getting the lock connected to the app and all set up was a breeze compared to many of the other models.
Both August models we tested, the Pro + Connect and the Smart, mount onto an existing deadbolt, so you won't have to fuss with the actual bolt at all. Just remove a couple of screws to take the thumb latch off, screw on the August baseplate, and slide the lock on, simple as that. We also had very little trouble syncing the locks with smart hubs.
The Schlage Encode also performed well in our installation testing. We had no issues getting it situated in our door with nothing but a screwdriver, and the initial setup was a breeze.
The Kwikset Kevo presents more installation problems than most in our testing. We didn't find the process particularly arduous, but it took some finagling to get it to seat properly. The app likewise presented issues, as we had to perform multiple restarts before it started playing nice with our office WiFi network.
The right smart lock can offer useful features and valuable peace of mind that you didn't accidentally leave the door unlocked. However, less than stellar smart locks provide little if any value over much less expensive "dumb" keypad locks. We hope our test results have helped you find the best and most useful product for your home.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.