Best Smart Lock of 2020
Best Overall Smart Lock
The perfect smart lock provides simplicity and versatility, and in our opinion the Schlage Encode offers both in spades. On the simplicity side of the equation, it has built-in WiFi capabilities, meaning you don't have to deal with the extra complexity of using a separate smart WiFi hub. The keypad also lets you share access via the creation of simple numeric key codes, negating the need for your guests to create accounts and download apps in order to enjoy access. On the versatile side of the equation you can unlock the lock via a Bluetooth key on your phone, remotely over WiFi, with a key code, or even with a physical key. No matter how you share access it can be time constrained, so you can set your dog walker's code to only work between 10am and 2pm on weekdays. 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.
Built-in WiFi requires more power, and the requisite four AA batteries make this lock stick out from the door more than most. This bulge is mostly on the inside of the door and, depending on your interior design opinions, is either made less conspicuous or more egregious by the black plastic battery cover. Additionally, a lack of geofencing means you'll have to take your phone out of your pocket to unlock the lock, it won't automatically unlock as you approach the front door. Despite some minor drawbacks, we think the multitude of features and reliable performance of the Schlage Encode make it the best smart lock for most people.
Read review: Schlage Encode
Outstanding Value on a Tight Budget
If you're looking for the cheapest and simplest way to share access to your home via your phone, the August Smart will probably fit the bill. This device installs right on top of your existing deadbolt, which both minimizes required handiwork and maintains the utility of your existing 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. The August Smart shines as a low-cost and streamlined option for people that want to easily share access to their home.
Reade review: August Smart
Best for Smart Features
ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro
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 trouble shooting. If you want access to advanced smart features like fingerprint scanning, we think the extra cost and hub are well worth it.
Read review: ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro
Best for Nest Users
Nest x Yale with Connect
The Nest x Yale with Connect is a strong option for those who have already bought into the Nest ecosystem. In that case, the Nest x Yale can be conveniently controlled through your existing Nest app and offers a familiar user experience. We also found it relatively easy to install, and it offers a slightly beefier than average ANSI grade 2 security rating.
The biggest downside to the Nest x Yale is that, in our experience, 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) can malfunction a notable proportion of the time. One thing that always worked for us was creating keycodes to share so that your visitors could simply punch in a code instead of using the Nest app. However, these codes cannot be time-constrained, so you must closely manage them if you don't want people to have access to your home all the time. Still, if you already spend time in and are familiar with the Nest app, we think this is more convenient than using a completely separate interface just for your lock.
Read review: Nest x Yale with Connect
Why You Should Trust Us
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 Wi-Fi 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.
Related: How We Tested Smart Locks
Analysis and Test Results
We assessed the performance of the smart locks we tested in four different areas: smart features, keyless entry, security, and installation.
Related: Buying Advice for Smart Locks
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.
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 models earned the score of 7 out of 10 in our smart features testing: 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, however, was somewhat problematic, but also not a feature we felt we'd want to use 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.
Falling into the average tier and earning a 5 out of 10, the Nest x Yale doesn't offer as many options as most of the top-scoring models. It is only compatible with the Nest/Google smart home platform. To be fair, we think this is a great platform, but you'll have to commit to it with this lock. Our bigger complaints pertain to access sharing, as you cannot put time constraints on any of the access codes you share with people. Additionally, you can only send those codes between Nest applications, meaning those you share access with must both have a Nest account and 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 when it comes to 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 different codes, and access a log of their use, unless you need to let a lot of 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 2 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, earning an 8 out of 10. 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.
Just behind the top scorer, the Nest x Yale earned a 7 out of 10 for its keyless entry performance. If offers pretty much all the advantages of the top-scoring Schlage Sense with simple Bluetooth unlocking and a keypad in case 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.
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 false starts where we needed to restart the app before the door unlocked. For this reason, it earns a slightly lower score of 6 out of 10.
The August Smart earned a 6 out of 10 in this metric mostly because we found its simple Bluetooth key functionality 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 enough in our keyless entry testing to earn a mediocre 5 out of 10. 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 to begin with.
The Kwikset Kevo was our least favorite lock to use, earning it a score of 3 out of 10. 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, it involved opening the app, tapping the lock a few times, then 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 earning scores of 9 out of 10. 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.
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 was next up in our security testing, earning a score of 7 out of 10. 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, all earning scores of 5 out of 10 in our security testing. 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, picking up a 4 out of 10. 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, and how arduous it is to get the lock talking to a smart hub, and in turn talking to 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, earning it the top score of 9 out of 10. It installs as easy 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, scored 8 out of 10 in this metric. Both locks 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 earned a top score of 8 out of 10 in our installation testing. We had no issues getting it situated in our door with nothing but a screwdriver, and initial setup was a breeze.
The Schlage Sense was only mediocre in our installation testing, earning a 6 out of 10. The Sense has slightly less wiggle room when it comes to installation. Most people will likely be able to pop it right in, but there is more of a chance you might need to move things around and maybe drill some new holes. App setup was relatively painless, and the included smart hub set up quite easily.
The Schlage Z-Wave Connect Camelot was one of the worst scorers in this metric, earning a 5 out of 10. Like some of the manufacturer's other offerings, we found the physical installation of this lock to be a bit more difficult than most. We also had some difficulties in getting the lock to talk to the smart hub during installation. We had to restart the app multiple times before we could complete the initial setup.
The ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro was somewhat problematic in our installation testing. Getting it situated in the door took some finessing but wasn't too difficult. Linking the lock to the smart hub to access all its smart features is where we ran into some issues. We had to restart the app and unplug the hub a few times before things started working properly.
The Kwikset Kevo presents more installation problems than most in our testing. We didn't find the process particularly arduous, but it did take 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 one of the former locks, rather than one of the latter.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata