We’ve seen waves of smart locks splash onto our shores over the past few years – beautifully-crafted, intelligent devices combining security and convenience.
Most have been Bluetooth devices that pair locally with your smartphone. Some, like August Smart Locks, offer standalone Wi-Fi bridges that allow the device to connect to your home network for remote monitoring and access.
The $250 Schlage Encode smart lock goes one better, with integrated Wi-Fi connectivity that removes the need for (and additional expense of) a plug-in bridge. This sounds like an obvious step – so why don’t all smart locks support Wi-Fi out of the box? It’s all about battery life. Bluetooth-enabled locks (particularly those supporting the latest protocols) sip power, ensuring longer battery life. Wi-Fi chips typically drain power more quickly, which is why those Wi-Fi bridge accessories plug straight into a power outlet.
Wi-Fi support opens up a host of innovative features and integrations that differentiates Schlage Encode from the pack. Alongside remote access, this lock an be controlled via a range of third-party applications, including support for Key by Amazon, Amazon’s Cloud Cam, and Ring security products, as well as the updated Schlage Home app (previously branded Schlage Sense). Add Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice control, and it’s clear that this is one lock that likes to make friends.
If all that connectivity sounds like science fiction to friends and neighbors less-familiar with technology, an integrated touchscreen keypad on the lock’s front face allows easy access via a private PIN code and one-tap locking when you’re on your way out. There’s even a metal keyhole for those that like to keep it old-school.
Versatile indeed. Our question is whether all of this smart connectivity can be delivered without users continually swapping out batteries. Schlage tells us that the lock should operate for up to six months using the four AA batteries supplied in box. Obviously, that varies on usage, but it sounds reasonable.
Lots of design choices, sturdy hardware
Like the older Schlage Connect deadbolt we reviewed back in 2015, Encode is available in a range of finishes and trims. Our review model is the more traditional Camelot trim, available in Satin Nickel and Aged Bronze. A sleeker, rectangular Century trim offers a simpler, more contemporary aesthetic and comes in Satin Nickel and Matte Black. You’ll have your preference (ours is for the Century trim), but either way, it’s great to have the choice.
As you’d expect from Schlage, the hardware is well-built and sturdy, while remaining elegant to the eye. The satin nickel front face of our review model looks stylish, but has a reassuring heft in the hand. The rear of the deadbolt, clad in a mix of the same metal finish with a contrasting black plastic battery cover is less attractive. It’s wider than some smart locks we’ve reviewed, and that plastic cover is flimsy and dominates the housing design. Darker finishes do a slightly better job of presentation but, like most smart locks, you’ll certainly notice the lock hanging on the rear of your front door.
Ten-minute deadbolt replacement is a breeze
Even though you’ll need to remove and replace your existing deadbolt, installation of the Schlage Encode deadbolt is a simple task, requiring just a Phillips screwdriver. It’s aided by helpful, step-by-step instructions and great quality internal hardware, which screws together securely and with ease. Schlage’s adjustable deadbolt extends with a twist, if required, a far better design than the finnicky mechanisms you find on some devices.
This is one lock that likes to make friends.
Ten minutes after starting the work, we were done. A quick, automated calibration test and the hardware installation was complete. You can opt to continue set up using the supported Amazon Key app (which will soon support remote home, garage and car unlocking for home deliveries) but we went with the updated Schlage Home app.
Pairing the lock to your phone and subsequently to your Wi-Fi network via the app was again easy – although Schlage could really use a copy editor to jump in and fix some basic grammar errors. Once connected, name your lock, set a personal PIN number, and you’re done. Overall, installation was simple and seamless – great job, Schlage.
Simple, straightforward and solid app control
The Schlage Home app follows a common playbook deployed across most smart locks we’ve reviewed. But that’s no criticism – the small selection of features available are easy to manage and work well.
A large central button, in the shape of a padlock, allows you to easily toggle the deadbolt from the app. Notifications are sent to your phone each time Encode is locked or unlocked, but these can be deactivated if you prefer.
Up to 100 access codes for friends and guests can be easily allocated from the app. You can choose to activate these codes on a recurring schedule or alternatively, for a specified time period. Once configured, a Share button pops up, allowing you to send out the code via your preferred channel. Again, you can choose to be notified when a guest access code is used, while a comprehensive access log provides a detailed history of lock usage.
It’s all very easy to manage and, as your guests don’t have to install the Schlage Home app, very convenient. We also found the integrated touchscreen keypad to be responsive throughout our tests, with little pressure required to register a keypress. We loved the keypad illumination, which added convenience in the evenings, while the choice of a keypress beep ensures you know when a digit has been registered.
This lock is well-built and sturdy, while remaining elegant to the eye.
Family members or regular, trusted guests can be issued a virtual key supporting a choice of administrator (full lock control) or guest permissions (lock or unlock only). Virtual keys do require the use of the Schlage Home app, and configuration is mostly simple. At one point our guest was a little confused when they clicked the emailed invitation link, as it wasn’t made clear that they needed to create an account first before logging in to the app, but this was a minor issue and quickly resolved.
While Schlage Encode doesn’t benefit from auto unlocking as you approach the door – a feature found on some competitor devices – you can configure an automatic relock, with time periods available from 15 seconds up to four minutes. Elsewhere, Schlage Encode is equipped with an alarm that can be activated should an intruder attempt to force the lock open, which is a neat feature.
The Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt is protected by a generous three-year electronics warranty, plus a limited lifetime mechanical and finish warranty.Our Take
We were delighted with the Schlage Encode smart lock. Aside from integrated Wi-Fi, it delivers everything you need from a smart lock with style, simplicity and grace. A choice of finishes and trims ensures Encode matches your home décor, while high-quality components and concise instructions make installation easy.
A versatile array of secure access methods for family, friends and guests are simple to manage and Encode ensures you’re always up to date with who’s using the lock. While the new Key by Amazon service may not be to everyone’s comfort, we admire the partnership approach Schlage is taking to integrate their locks with third-party platforms and services.
Is there a better alternative?
Schlage Encode is an accomplished performer and its integrated Wi-Fi elevates the device above its peers. There are locks available that offer other features, such as the integrated camera on the $349 Gate Smart Lock, fingerprint control on the $249 Lockly Secure Plus, or August’s automated door unlocking and DoorSense features.
But few smart locks offer the combination of style, security and simplicity you’ll find with Schlage Encode.
How long will it last?
A strong warranty period on the lock’s internal electronics and external finishes ensures Schlage Encode should support you for the long-term. A six-month expected battery life means that running costs are likely to be higher than competitors, but the convenience of integrated Wi-Fi is well worth it.
Should you buy it?
Schlage Encode is a great pick. It delivers all of the mainstream features you expect from a modern smart lock, with no fuss. Buy and enjoy.