A physical “smart lock” that uses your phone instead of a key to lock and unlock doors is going on nationwide retail sale. The August Smart Lock, previously an online exclusive, will be stocked in Apple stores for $250.
The lock fits on the inside of a door, meaning it won’t be noticeably different from the outside. It works as an add-on for a single-cylinder deadbolt rather than completely replacing the lock. This set-up also means you’ll still be able to open it with a traditional key if needed. August says you should be able to self-install with an ordinary Phillips screwdriver in 10 minutes, though it’s also trained around 300 locksmiths in installing the product.
The system works by connecting to your home Wi-Fi and in turn to your phone via a Bluetooth conntection and app. This means that as well as pressing a button on your phone to open the door at your home, you can check the door is locked from anywhere (great for those with OCD-like tendencies) and remotely unlock it, for example if a friend is visiting and you are running late so can’t let them in. You can remotely block the phone app from working via the August website if your phone is lost or stolen,
For those who have frequent trusted visitors such as a cleaner or secret lover, you can get them to install the app on their phone and grant them access for as long as you like. You can restrict this to a particular schedule and of course you can withdraw this access if things turn sour.
The app works with a password login, so if your phone battery dies and you haven’t got access to a physical key, you can borrow somebody else’s device to get temporary access. The Wi-Fi connection is only necessary for remote access, so if your power goes down or your router goes offline, you’ll still be able to unlock the door in person.
To coincide with the Apple store launch, the iOS version of the app will now automatically unlock the door as you approach it, without you needing to pull the phone out of your bag or pocket and press buttons. You can override this feature, for example when approaching the door from the inside to answer an unknown caller.
You can also enable a feature called Everlock that automatically locks the door when you close it, in effect turning your deadbolt into a Yale-style lock. That might be handy for some, but it means that you’ll be locked out if you leave without your phone, so it’s not for everyone.
August says it uses “the same secure communications technology used by financial institutions for online banking” and has hired a security firm to try to crack its system, presumably unsuccessfully.