Product Review: August Smart Lock with HomeKit

“Hey Siri, did I lock the front door?”

August Smart Lock with HomeKit
August Smart Lock with HomeKit (Siri). Photo: August Home

Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, is becoming more versatile every day. In the past, Siri could answer simple questions, set alarms, tell you the weather, and trivial things of that nature. Each iteration of iOS seems to bring with it new Siri capabilities.

Enter: Apple HomeKit. Apple’s HomeKit standard provides yet another extension of Siri’s reach. HomeKit allows Siri to control home automation technologies such as thermostats, lighting, and security devices including electronic deadbolts.

That’s where the new Smart Lock from August comes in. August recently released the August HomeKit-enabled Smart Lock giving you voice control over your deadbolt via Siri.

This is the second iteration of August’s Smart Lock and the first to be HomeKit-enabled.

This Smart lock is not a complete lock hardware replacement like those offered from Kwikset and Shlage. August’s Smart lock connects to your existing deadbolt so you only replace the inside door portion of your lock, the outside (key side) remains the same and you can continue to use the lock as a standard key-operated deadbolt. This makes this lock perfect for apartment and rental situations where you aren't allowed to install a new lock.

The inside components of the lock is where the real magic happens. The August lock contains a motor, batteries, the lock mechanism, and wireless components all in a sleek cylindrical package that easily replaces the inside components of your deadbolt.

Installation only requires the removal / replacement  of the two deadbolt screws already present, and the removal of the inside thumb-turn mechanism, which is replaced by the August unit.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the August Smart Lock with HomeKit support.

Unboxing and First Impressions:

The August lock comes neatly packaged in a book-like box.

The lock and other materials are well protected by foam and plastic covering and the instructions and mounting hardware is packaged in such a way where it is easy to see and organize all the parts for installation.

The product packaging is very “Apple-like”, perhaps because August knows that this package is likely headed to homes of people who purchased it solely for the HomeKit (Siri) Integration, or maybe they just want you to know that they care about those kind of details, whatever the reason, the packaging makes you think that August is a detail-oriented company.

Installation:

If you have an apartment like I do, making changes to your front door lock can bring on feelings of apprehension. You worry “what if I screw this up and have to call my landlord?” Thankfully, installation was a breeze. There are really only two pieces of hardware that you have to install other than the lock. All you need is a screwdriver and some masking tape and they even included the tape you need (just not the screwdriver).

Basically, to install this lock, all you do is put a piece of tape over the lock on the outside of the door to hold it in place while you work on the inside. You take out the two screws that go through your deadbolt, mount the included mounting plate, put the original screws back in through the mounting plate, choose and connect one of three lock turning pieces based on the brand of deadbolt you own, push the lock onto the mount, pull two leavers to lock it in place, and you’re done.

It literally took less than 10 minutes from opening the package to being done with it mounted on the door.

The 4 2AA batteries are already installed in the lock, removing a plastic battery tab is all that is required to power up the lock. Everything else from that point forward is done via the August smartphone app, a free app downloaded from Apple’s App Store or from Google Play (depending on what type of phone you have).

The lock uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for communicating with your phone so you must have Bluetooth turned on for it to work with your phone.

Features and Use:

The lock itself feels solid, it has the heft you would expect from a quality lock.

The battery cover has magnets that keep it securely on the lock and keep its logo and indicator lights aligned properly. It's easy enough to remove but the magnets are plenty strong enough to keep it from falling off during normal use.

The deadbolt turning mechanism is solid.  I prefer the notched look of the old lock style over the new design because the older one appears that it would be easier to tell if it was locked from across the room.

The indicator lights on the lock change from green to red when the lock is engaged and then back to green when disengaged. The way the lights move in a pattern during this operation is impressive and adds a "secret agent" feel to the product. Both unlocking and locking the deadbolt remotely are accompanied by not only the lights but also by different confirmation sounds so you can hear when the lock has been engaged or disengaged. The sounds are only heard when locking or unlocking is performed remotely, not when done manually.

Range of operating the lock via Bluetooth-only was good, and if the lock is paired with the optional August Connect (essentially a Bluetooth to Wi-Fi bridge that plugs into a electrical outlet near the lock) range is pretty much unlimited. Unlocking and locking remotely using the connect feature appeared to work as advertised although there was occasionally a 10 second or so delay in obtaining the current status of the lock (whether it was locked or unlocked) and occasionally it took several taps on the app's lock/unlock button to unlock or lock the door.

When operated locally using the app (not via the cellular network) the delay from when the button on the app was pressed versus when the lock is engaged or disengaged was minimal. The response was almost instantaneous with virtually no perceptible delay.

Siri (HomeKit) Integration:

Once your lock is properly installed and configured, it can be controlled by Siri. For example, you can tell Siri “Lock the front door” or “Unlock the front door” and she will comply with your request.

Additionally Siri can answer questions related to the status of the lock, such as whether or not it is locked or unlocked. For example, you can say “Siri, did I lock the front door?” and she will query its current state and let you know if you did or not.

Given that allowing Siri to lock and unlock someone’s door is a pretty big deal, there has been some security added so that this request cannot be made if your phone’s lock screen is engaged. If you attempt a command that would bypass the lock screen security, Siri will say something such as “To use this function you must first unlock your phone.” This keeps strangers from having Siri unlock your door if you happen to leave your phone unattended.

Apple Watch Integration:

August also offers an Apple Watch companion app that lets you unlock and lock your door from your Apple Watch. Additionally Siri on your Apple Watch can perform the unlock and lock function just as she does on the phone. This is extremely handy when your hands are full and your phone is in your pocket and you need the door open.

Just hold your watch up to your mouth and have Siri unlock the door for you!

Virtual Keys and Integration with other Products and Services:

This Smart lock also allows for the lock owner to send virtual keys to others so that they can unlock and lock the door without the need for a physical key. Lock owners can send out “invites” to provide access to others. They can limit invitees to “guest” access which has a limited privilege set, or they can give them “owner” status which allows them full access to all lock functions and administrative abilities.

Virtual keys can be either temporary or permanent and can be revoked at any time by a lock owner. August has partnered with other services such as AirBNB to extend the Smart Lock's usefulness in situations such as vacation home rentals.

This lock also integrates with other August products such as its Doorbell Camera and Smart Keypad

Summary:

The August Smart lock with HomeKit (Siri) integration is an excellent upgrade to August's previous Smart Lock. Its fit an finish are on par with Apple products. Siri integration works as advertised. Those who embrace smart home automation technologies are sure to love the features offered by this lock.