Review: August's Smart Lock Pro + Connect bundle is a pricey but useful Apple HomeKit add-...

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 8
August's top-end Smart Lock Pro + Connect bundle is probably a costly luxury for most people, but works as advertised, and with HomeKit in tow can be a gateway to some clever automations.




Installing the Smart Lock Pro is, as you might expect, a lot more involved than than your average smarthome accessory. First off you need the correct kind of deadbolt, compatible with an included mounting plate and adapters. Then you'll have to unscrew and completely replace your existing thumblatch, which thankfully shouldn't take any longer than 15 minutes, assuming you don't fall into one of a few exceptions which require extra steps and parts. The August Home iPhone app is pretty good at guiding users through the standard procedure with step-by-step video clips.

Another item to install is the DoorSense, which detects whether a door is open or closed, and not simply whether it's locked. You can mount it on a nearby surface or flush within a door -- we opted for the former, since that was easier to do and the latter option leaves a pretty big hole even when it's practical.

The Connect is a plug-mounted Wi-Fi bridge that's normally a paid add-on for other Smart Locks. This enables remote access, which is important not just for when you leave the house, but sometimes for when you're on the other side of it -- it's relatively easy to wander outside of Bluetooth range. In fact we found it's essential for the Connect to sit relatively close to both the door and the Wi-Fi router, since a flaky connection will result in the app failing to see door status.

People invested in HomeKit will also need an Apple TV, iPad, or HomePod operating as a Home hub for remote use and automation.

Standard use

We'll get back to HomeKit in minute, but it's worth noting that many of the Pro's settings and controls are accessible only through August Home. You can assign co-owners and guests, check logs, and create temporary access keys, which is one reason August targets Airbnb and HomeAway.




We tested the lock alongside August's Doorbell Cam Pro, which in that combination lets homeowners see and talk to visitors then unlock the door for them, all from the same part of the app. We felt the Doorbell Cam was actually the weakest part of the equation -- it was relatively slow to trigger notifications, and video lagged a second or two behind. HomeKit compatibility is still unannounced, so you can't (yet) answer a ring and unlock the door from an iOS Home notification.




We didn't have a chance to test the Pro with the $79 Smart Keypad, which may be a necessary add-on for people with kids or less technically-inclined guests. Physical keys will still work, of course.

Perhaps the most important part of the app is actually its auto-lock and auto-unlock settings. You can set the former on a timer ranging from instant to 30 minutes, or disable auto-lock entirely -- we went with 3 minutes, which seemed like ample time in most cases, including getting inside after auto-unlock. Instant is likely a terrible idea for obvious reasons.




Auto-unlock may be the Pro's best feature. The lock can detect when you and and your iPhone have arrived home, letting you enter without fumbling for a device or keys. This proved very reliable at our test house, though we did have to leave our main key slot unlocked in order to waltz on in -- we went back to fully locking up, just using the Pro to save a little time.

HomeKit




Once a Pro is authenticated, Siri commands let owners control one or all equipped doors, and check status with questions like "Is the Front Door locked?" or "Are all my doors locked?" It's often faster to operate the Pro manually than talk to an iPhone or Apple Watch, mind.

Our favorite automation involved adding the Pro to a "Good night" scene, which made sure our door was secure in addition to turning lights off. Some people might also enjoy using the lock as a conditional trigger, for instance turning lamps and fans on when coming home at night.

You'd think geofenced automations would be the best use of HomeKit, but you'd (probably) be wrong. We tried setting up an exclusively location-based parallel of August's auto-lock/unlock routines, but the fact that the iOS Home app wouldn't run them without approval -- when we were driving down the road, no less -- made them useless.

Notes & conclusions




The Smart Lock Pro nevertheless proved a handy addition to our test home. Ultimately it was about peace of mind -- while it's convenient to come and go without touching a key, the best thing was knowing for certain that our door was locked overnight or when we left for the gym.

August's $279 asking price is likely to be the main obstacle for Connect bundle buyers, except maybe the rich or those running an Airbnb. We've also heard people complain about the Pro's look and size, as well as its battery consumption, since you should expect to swap in four AA batteries two or three times a year. Get rechargeables if you plan on making the leap. (Update: August tells us you should use standard alkaline batteries, or you may receive false notifications of low power, or no notification at all.)

Depending on your needs, there are potentially better HomeKit-ready smartlocks on the market. The Smart Lock Pro + Connect will at least do the trick, however.

Score: 4 out of 5

Where to buy:

Abt Electronics has the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect bundle in silver and dark grey for $279.00 with no sales tax collected on orders shipped outside IL, IN, MI and WI. Amazon and Best Buy also carry the Smart Lock Pro for $279.99 with free shipping, but both retailers collect sales tax in all applicable states.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 6
    I’d like to hear more about the so called alternatives.
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 2 of 6
    bshankbshank Posts: 131member
    I have the previous generation August smartlock. I would mostly be curious how the performance of the pro compares. I generally enjoy my current August smartlock. The geofencing works fairly well, but sometimes takes 5-15 seconds to open while I stand at my front door waiting for it to trigger. I do walk fast, so my experience has been that if I have to unload the car, or walk down my hall at a more leisurely pace, the geofence trigger works 90% of the time.
  • Reply 3 of 6
    I’d like to hear more about the so called alternatives.

    This.
  • Reply 4 of 6
    bshank said:
    I have the previous generation August smartlock. I would mostly be curious how the performance of the pro compares. I generally enjoy my current August smartlock. The geofencing works fairly well, but sometimes takes 5-15 seconds to open while I stand at my front door waiting for it to trigger. I do walk fast, so my experience has been that if I have to unload the car, or walk down my hall at a more leisurely pace, the geofence trigger works 90% of the time.
    I just installed 2 of the new Pro locks, replacing both 1st gen August locks.  First impressions...good!  August still insists on making the setup too automagic for those of us techies who have layered security.  I had to turn off some of my security layers in order to get the Connects to configure.  August also STILL insists on NOT providing the MAC address for the Connects.  Yes, once I got the Connects to run thru thru their automagic configuration (seems to ALWAYS require multiple run thru to complete successfully), I was able to determine the MAC addy ( I run static NAT addy, MacAC filtering and very limited DHCP range)

    Now as for the actual lock differences.  
    First off the door position awareness is FANTASTIC!  I went down the path of drilling the 5/8" cavity in the door jam and installing the magnet so that it was hidden.  Much better looking that the hideous external mount and really not all that difficult assuming you have a 5/8" wood bit. Now there are no more annoying autolocks while the door is open while talking to someone and I love the notification of when the door is detected to have been open for longer than a user selected time period.  I did wind up having to recalibrate the door awareness sensor a few time as I kept getting an indication that the door was open/locked.  I am not sure why that situation seemed to finally clear up as I calibrated the sensor the same way each time.   Oh well, a minor inconvenience, easily resolved.

    Second kudos is the inclusion of HomeKit compatibility, but this is not new as gen 2 also included this, but it was a new feature to me as I was replacing gen 1 devices.  I did discover that despite the option in the August iOS app to add a new room to the HomeKit home, that does NOT work.  Not a big deal, just jump over to the HomeKit app, add the room, then back to the August app and setup the lock in HomeKit.  I was a bit surprised that August did NOT include the scannable code for setting up HK, but keying the ID number was not a big deal.  Siri control is cool but HomeKit HA is way more than Siri.

    Third. PERFORMANCE....BIG IMPROVEMENT!  Gen 1 devices always worked but as you stated, you had to be patient.  Now the unlock happens super fast.  Also the announcements to the August App & HomeKit app are virtually instantaneous.  

    As for how well GeoFencing compares, I have not had a lot of time to evaluate, but I never had issues with the Gen 1 products detecting that I had entered the geofenced area, was outside the home, and then triggering the unlock.  Given how fast the gen 3 devices seem to work the problem I see is that I want a SHORT time to auto lock now that I don't have to contend with it auto locking while the door is open, BUT that means that the door will likely unlock on geofence trigger, then relock before I can get to the door.

    I am VERY glad I passed over the gen 2 devices as the door awareness sensor is a much needed and welcome improvement.  I felt like I got burned a bit on the gen 1 devices (I was a VERY early adopter so I do feel I got my money worth regardless) as it was alluded that HomeKit was coming but then as we discovered that was NOT possible in the gen 1 devices and August's offer of a $50 discount was pretty lame.  Still, we love the August locks and I intend to repurpose the gen 1 locks to the entry door from the garage as well as my pantry door and probably my kitchen pantry (I have my reasons)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 6
    macguimacgui Posts: 769member
    I've always like the August lock and so far it's the only one that works with my particular lockset and ticks the boxes relevant to me.

    I like the auto lock feature. Am I correct in assuming that this isn't available with the current base August (non-Pro) lock?

    At some point previously, I believe most if not all 'smart locks' couldn't be proximity unlocked and required 'manual' unlocking via the manufacturer's app. Am I reading the article correctly when I assume this is still the case?

    I don't need the Connect feature, if it's purpose is just to provide internet access. So maybe it's the non-Pro version and the Door Sense bit. I'll have to scour the August site.

    My preference for the August, despite being comparatively expensive, is partly the fact that the keypad is optional. I neither need nor want one. This also makes the lock nearly undetectable from the outside; a plus in my opinion.

    A question for August owners— if the magic smoke suddenly and inconveniently escaped, can the lock easily be opened with the key? Until there's a Jarvis lock, I'll probably not trust a smart lock to not fail at the wrong time.

    Another question— if the auto-lock function is set for 3, 5, or 10min or so but you elect to lock the door within a minute, can you simply turn the body of the August after entering your domicile, or do you need to use the app?
  • Reply 6 of 6
    Hi Macgui - to answer your last questions, you can always unlock the door from the outside with a key, and when you're inside, you can turn the August manually. In fact the app's activity log distinguishes between manual and automatic opens.
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