As we enter the closing months of 2017, the battle for smart home supremacy is suddenly raging once more. Last month, way back in 2014, when using your smartphone to lock or unlock your front door felt like you’d walked on to the set of The Jetsons. We loved its stylish, if chunky, design and ease of installation – but at $249, the debut model felt like quite the investment.
The company subsequently launched a second-generation design, with HomeKit support and Siri voice control for iOS users, plus Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant following closely behind. It was the first (and only) lock to support all three platforms.
As out of the box experiences go, it’s buttery smooth.
So, what’s new with August Smart Lock? Priced at $279, the August Smart Lock Pro is billed as the most advanced smart lock in the market. With a similar 3.4 by 3.4-inch design to previous models, it’s bundled with the August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge and can support Wi-Fi, HomeKit, Bluetooth and Z-Wave Plus connections out of the box.
It’s the latter (alongside support for Apple’s Siri voice assistant) that differentiates the Smart Lock Pro from the entry-level third-generation August Smart Lock. The enhancements allow the Pro to communicate with a wealth of smart home devices (for example, switching off your thermostat when you leave for work).
Joining popular features from earlier models such as Auto-Unlock, smartphone control, and virtual keys, is a debut feature called DoorSense. An integrated sensor can tell whether your door is open or closed. That may sound basic, but it allows the Lock to monitor how long the door has been open, automatically lock the door when it closes, alert you if it opens accidentally, and alert you if it’s forced open by someone else.
Smooth and simple installation
Unlike competing designs, which require you to completely replace your existing door lock, August Smart Locks install over a standard deadlock, on the interior of the door. This leads to an average installation time of just 15 minutes. As the exterior door hardware stays in place, you also get to use your traditional door keys as a backup. That means there’s no need to bamboozle grandma.
The rapid installation time is no fluke. Much of the ease is due to the care that’s been taken to guide users through the procedure. The August mobile app includes step by step instructions, with short video clips that makes installation a breeze.
You only need a Phillips screwdriver to secure a mounting bracket over your existing deadbolts. The main body of the Smart Lock clamps ingeniously to the bracket using wings that pull out, then snap in to fix the unit firmly to the back of your door. I found the Smart Lock Pro to be a little fussier than its little brother when fitting to the bracket, though. If the bracket is screwed too tightly to your existing lock, the Pro will struggle to turn.
The locks work with deadbolts from a wide selection of manufacturers, thanks to three color-coded plastic adapters included in the box. The app guides you to the correct adapter to use, although in my case it pointed me to the wrong color for my Weiser deadbolt. A quick check of the deadbolt shape, and I was able to switch from the green adapter to the correct option – a minor black mark in an otherwise beautifully designed experience.
If you wish to take advantage of August’s DoorSense feature, you’ll need to install an additional sensor – included in the box. The neatest option requires a little drilling, allowing you to flush mount the sensor in the door frame, opposite the lock. If that sounds like too much hassle, you can simply screw it into the front face of the frame. That’s not as pretty, but the August Smart Lock won’t complain.
For those concerned about hooking up their front door to the Internet, be assured that August takes online security seriously. You must include a photo when configuring your account to ensure easy visual verification when sending virtual keys. There are also two separate forms of identity verification required during setup. First, a code is sent to your mobile phone via SMS, then a second is sent to your email address.
With the account configured, your phone scans for a Bluetooth connection with the lock and, once found, will run through a quick lock calibration. This guided procedure requires you to lock and then unlock the door, allowing the lock to sense the deadbolt position with each step.
If you’re calibrating DoorSense, you then open the door fully, leave the door slightly ajar, and then close to complete calibration. A quick test of the lock with a tap of the screen, and you’re done.
The average installation time is just 15 minutes.
Plug-in and set up the included August Connect Wi-Fi hub, which creates a bridge between your home network and the lock. Configuration includes a test of both your Bluetooth and network signals, offering tips on placement if connection is weak.
Adding other users to the lock is simple, with defined access levels restricting the use of certain features such as Auto-Unlock and other settings for guests. Guest accounts can be enabled for a one-off, temporary period or a recurring schedule, so arranging access for the cleaner, baby-sitter, or the guys refitting the kitchen is easy.
Once you’ve configured access, an activity log keeps a record of who is accessing the lock each day, while smart notifications can be configured to alert you specific events.
Well organized app with smart, automated features
August’s neatly organized smartphone app (Android | iOS) is easy to use, with a huge button facilitating a one-tap lock or unlock of your door. When the door is locked, the button turns bright red. When open, it switches to green. It’s the kind of simplicity busy householders deserve from their smart home kit.
For Bluetooth connections, you’ll need to be reasonably close (up to 10 meters) for control, but there’s greater freedom with August Connect on board, including remote connections away from home. If you have a data connection, you’re good to go. The Smart Lock Pro includes audio chimes, providing an additional cue to signal activity. Thankfully, they can be disabled from the app.
Manual controls work brilliantly, but of course, it’s August’s automated features that really elevate these locks above traditional “dumb” competitors. The great news is that you’re in control of the magic, with user-defined configuration settings that allow you to enable only those features with which you’re comfortable.
The August Smart Lock Pro supports automated unlocking of your door when you arrive home – a blessing when you’re carrying the groceries, or simply can’t be bothered fishing around for your keys. It works via geolocation, detecting when you’re within roughly 200 meters of your home. While we’ve seen that some users have had trouble with the feature previously, our experience was positive. Automatic locking can also be configured, securing your door immediately when closed, or after a delay of your choosing.
In terms of connectivity, the choice of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections to control the Smart Lock Pro adds convenience. However, I found that a direct Bluetooth connection between the lock and my phone always provided the fastest response.
Over Wi-Fi, even when connected to the local network (with Bluetooth disabled on the handset), a few seconds of lag was introduced between a command on the phone and a response from the lock. It’s not a major issue, but something to be aware of when away from home.
Comprehensive third-party smart home integrations, but stilted voice control
Z-Wave Plus support, alongside the bundled August Connect Wi-Fi bridge, ensures the Smart Lock Pro boasts comprehensive third-party device compatibility, with support for Comcast Xfinity, Honeywell Total Connect, Logitech Harmony and POP, Wink Hub, Nest Cam, Nest Learning Thermostat, and IFTTT.
Hook-ups with AirBnB and HomeAway allows rental owners to send virtual keys to guests post-booking, and support 24/7 check-in and notification when your guests have vacated the premises. You can then issue the cleanup crew another virtual key, so they can prep the property for the next arrival.
Hook-ups with AirBnB and HomeAway allows rental owners to send virtual keys to guests post-booking.
Alongside the ability to monitor and control the lock from any location (with data service, that is) the bridge opens access to voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant and extends the range of available third-party integrations. Importantly, support for Apple HomeKit and Siri is restricted to the Smart Lock Pro.
Voice integration is less polished than other aspects of the August experience. Integration with Google Assistant, for example, was smooth — but as a connected service, you’re forced to say, “OK Google, let me talk to August” before you can access lock controls. You can check the status of your locks and lock an unlocked door. But you can’t unlock a door at present, most likely for security reasons. The features available work well and, the experience can only get better over time. Right now, it’s the one aspect of life with August that feels a little clunky.
Otherwise, the August Smart Lock Pro remains a class act. Depending on the design of your door, the smaller-profile, entry-level Smart Lock design may be preferred, though. It looks great, retaining the quality finish of previous generations in a sleeker form-factor and lower price point.
August Smart Locks are supported by a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and one-year limited warranty.Our Take
With good looks and enhanced features, the new August Smart Lock Pro rightfully deserves a place near the top of your smart home shopping list. Simple to install and easy to get along with, life with a smart lock will quickly become the norm.
Is there a better alternative?
The $249 Kwikset Kevo is worth a look, but is more complicated to install and offers fewer features. Right now, the August Smart Lock Pro is at the top of the heap.
How long will it last?
With security giant Assa Abloy recently announcing its acquisition of August, the company now has strong financial backing that should see these devices supported and enhanced for years to come. At this point, it’s unclear whether August Home will be run as a self-contained brand and business unit (like Nest Labs with Alphabet), or absorbed into one of the company’s existing brands like Yale, but you can be sure these locks will be around for the long term.
Should you buy it?
If you’re in the market for a smart lock, you can stop searching now. The new August Smart Lock Pro builds on the success of previous generations with new, helpful features that boost intelligence and convenience. Support for Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant alongside Z-Wave Plus, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi make it one of the best-connected smart locks around and few, if any, can match August’s first-class user experience.