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Level's Newest Smart Lock Turns Your iPhone Into a House Key

Equipped with an NFC radio, the new Level Lock Plus with Apple Home Key support can unlock when your iPhone or Apple Watch is near.

The deadolt, cylinder, thumbturn and exterior keyway of the Level Lock Plus against a purple background. It's Level's newest smart lock, and with Apple Home Key support and a built-in NFC radio, you can unlock it whenever your iPhone or Apple Watch is nea
Ry Crist/CNET

The Level Lock was already CNET's pick for the best smart lock that works with Apple HomeKit. Now, the brand is doubling down and releasing a new, Apple-exclusive smart lock built to support Apple Home Key, which lets you unlock your door simply by bringing your iPhone or Apple Watch into close proximity with the lock using the same NFC tech used for Apple Pay.

Called the Level Lock Plus and available exclusively via Apple in satin nickel and matte black finishes, the new smart lock costs $329, the same price as Level's touch-enabled smart lock. That's a steep price to pay for the Home Key support, as the standard version of the Level Lock, which features a nearly identical design without the NFC radio, can currently be had for $199.

The Level Lock Plus installed in a display door, with the deadbolt extended. The tip of the deadbolt is unscrewed and removed, revealing a single CR2 battery inside that keeps the thing powered.

The Level Lock Plus runs off of a single CR2 battery which slides straight into the deadbolt itself.

Ry Crist/CNET

Even so, there's a lot to like about the Level Lock's unique design. For starters, the lock's motor is packed into the lock's central cylinder -- the part that sits inside of your door. That makes it one of the quietest smart locks CNET has ever tested. It's efficient, too, running off of just a single CR2 battery packed into the deadbolt itself. That eliminates the bulky battery pack on the exterior of the lock, so most people won't even be able to tell that it's a smart lock at all.

As for features, the Level Lock works with Apple HomeKit, which lets you control it with Siri voice commands, and you can also use Level's app to check the status of the lock and control it remotely, manage and share access, or enable auto-locking and auto-unlocking.

With the addition of Home Key support, you'll be able to create a digital house key that lives alongside your credit cards and boarding passes in your Apple Wallet. Open your Apple Wallet on your phone, select your digital house key, and then hold the device in front of the lock to unlock. Same goes for Apple Watch users.

That's an appealing pitch for anyone who's already grown accustomed to using the NFC radio in their iPhone or Apple Watch to buy things using Apple Pay, but time will tell if people are willing to pay up for the convenience. Level isn't the only manufacturer putting an expensive price tag on the feature -- Schlage was there first earlier this year with the Schlage Encode Plus, a $300 smart lock that also features a built-in keypad for coded entry.

We'll have more to report on the Level Lock Plus once we've finished testing it out, so expect an update to this post at that point.