If you’re the kind of person who believes that their porch can never be stuffed with too much tech, hold on to your hats. Hot on the heels of outdoor smart cameras, door locks, and camera-equipped door bells comes a camera-equipped smart lock.
Invented by two former Google Glass engineers, the $349 Gate Smart Lock received almost $500,000 via a successful 2016 Indiegogo campaign. Packing a motion-activated 720p camera with an impressive 150-degree field of vision, the connected lock allows you keep an eye on your porch at all times. An integrated doorbell call button pings your phone and, if you’re away, Gate supports two-way audio for communication with hawkers, delivery drivers, and nosy neighbors.
With an integrated keypad, traditional key lock cylinder, and app control, Gate offers an array of easy access features designed to make home protection simple. But with the likes of Yale, Google, and Amazon emerging as smart home security leaders, is there still time and space in the exploding smart home security market for indie innovators like Gate to compete?
Locked and loaded
Almost $350 is a lot of money to invest in a door lock, and Gate’s price tag is step up even from premium locks like the Nest x Yale and August Smart Lock Pro. But Gate’s comprehensive package is stuffed with security features that elevate it above its peers in some ways. Unlike some smart locks, Gate fully replaces your existing door lock (rather than slotting over an existing deadbolt). Wi-Fi connectivity is integrated directly, so there’s no need to buy a plug-in network gateway — required for remote access on several competing locks. The circular, push-button keypad and key lock cylinder add convenience, and let’s not forget that network camera, microphone, and speaker. From a hardware standpoint, you’re getting a lot for your money.
The real surprise is how well this technology has been integrated into such a good-looking piece of kit. While it’s currently only available in a satin-nickel finish, Gate’s teardrop-shaped front face is both stylish and sturdy. The top-mounted camera is unobtrusive, while the rubberized buttons running around the face of the lock are small but allow precise finger control.
In several areas, performance lags well behind the best.
Around the back, Gate’s elegant and simple rear housing is a world away from the slab-like designs afflicting most smart locks. Perhaps influenced by the equally-compact August Smart Lock Pro, Gate’s rear form factor follows the teardrop shape of its front face, locking with a single turn to the left. As you’d expect given the sheer amount of hardware packed inside, it’s a little chunky, but overall, we love the design.
One area of concern, however, is Gate’s weatherproofing. The lock is classed as “weather-resistant” meaning that it won’t stand up to direct exposure from heavy rain or snow. That may prevent some households in winter climates from jumping on board.
Easy installation, if you’re rocking iOS
Installing Gate is somewhat of a mystery at first, as it ships embedded in a black plastic block which needs to be carefully removed to access the hardware. On Android, Gate’s poorly-delivered, app-hosted instructions only served to deepen the mystery. They mention a battery housed inside the block, which we searched for in vain, only to discover the entire rear of the lock is referred to as the “battery pod” later in the instructions. Connecting the lock to our Wi-Fi network using an Android device initially repeatedly failed, with the app lacking the necessary chops to switch from a direct connection to the lock to our wireless router. A recent update to the app, however, brings a better user experience.
Switching to iOS revealed accompanying images with the instructions that made life easier. Network setup also worked without a hitch.
Compared to some smart locks we’ve reviewed recently (we’re looking at you, Yale), Gate’s high-quality deadbolt was a cinch to install. There’s no need to mess around with internal cable connections either; once the deadbolt is screwed into the door, you simply sandwich the front and rear of the lock on either side and secure with screws. If you’re using an iPhone, you’ll have the lock installed in 15 minutes — Android users, not so much.
Limited features & poor two-way audio disappoints
With first-class security doorway security systems now flooding the market, other than the integrated camera, Gate offers little that really stands out from the pack. More concerning is that in several areas, performance lags behind the best.
Gate’s camera automatically detects motion and will fire a notification to your smartphone when the call button is pressed. From the Gate app, you can see and talk to callers remotely from your smartphone and easily toggle the lock by sliding a button left or right. We loved the auto-locking feature that secures your door on a user configurable timer and Gate’s activity log, which includes time stamped notifications of events and video captures of all callers.
We found activating the lock to be responsive, both from the app and from the keypad itself. We were also delighted to find that Gate is far quieter than some smart locks, whose gears noisily crunch and grind in action. However, the front camera, which does a decent job of detecting motion, suffers from over-exposure and a heavy fish-eye effect. It achieves a decent field of vision, but the image quality fails to stack up to the likes of Nest Hello, which also offers advanced features like facial recognition not present in Gate.
Gate’s poor-quality two-way audio is likely to preclude most users from ever considering a paid upgrade.
We initially found Gate’s two-way audio be dreadful. But a recent firmware update has improved this technology. The lock’s integrated speaker was initially quiet, coarse and crackly. Callers could barely make out what we were saying to them, while at our end of the call, audio lagged with frequent cut outs. But Gate has said it has improved the Wi-Fi range, and therefore it’s calling quality, by 400 percent. The lock now has sensitivity settings that allow you to monitor activity from various distances.
To rub salt into the wound, Gate users will also need to pay up to $80 per year to benefit from Gate’s full feature set, which includes scheduled access for an unlimited number of guests plus 30-days video history and sharing. The free, basic service tier includes notifications, live streaming, remote locking and access for four users, but there’s no video history or sharing support. However, on this showing, Gate’s poor-quality two-way audio is likely to preclude most users from ever considering a paid upgrade.
The Gate Smart Lock is protected by a one-year limited warranty.Our Take
Gate’s converged home security proposition is impressive, but its debut execution is flawed. The designers have done a top-notch job with the deadbolt hardware and keypad, which looks fantastic and is simple to fit on your front door. While we could put up with the limited quality of Gate’s integrated camera, poor quality and laggy two-way audio is a real cause for frustration, a patchy Android experience proves Gate’s engineers have work to do across both hardware and software to convince us their smart lock is ready for the masses.
Is there a better alternative?
While we’re yet to see a smart lock that packs in as much technology as Gate, there are better performing doorway solutions available. The $299 Yale Assure Lock SL Connected by August neatly integrates a deadbolt and touchscreen keypad with a strong suite of app-controlled features. In combination with the $179 Nest Hello doorbell, you’ll have all the features delivered by Gate, with a far richer and less frustrating experience.
How long will it last?
Crowdfunding is often an investment risk, even after successful seed funding. Blockbuster launches can generate the funds required to grow a startup, improve debut products and provide a springboard for enhancements and new lines. Gate has significant work ahead to improve its smart lock in a highly competitive marketplace. Time will tell if they can make the leap to the next level.
Should you buy it?
No. Gate is fantastic concept and an exciting glimpse of tomorrow’s smart lock. But for the next year or two, multi-device porchways will offer the best experience.
Updated March 16, 2019 to note that Gate has since updated its firmware and mobile app to address some of the issues detailed in this review and has added adjustable motion sensitivity. We will update this review when we’ve had the opportunity to test out the changes.