So long, Lockitron version 1.0, hello Lockitron Bolt
The beleaguered crowd-funded smart-lock maker hopes a new, streamlined lock design will finally let it ship in quantity.
Rich BrownFormer Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
ExpertiseSmart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
On the left in the image above is Lockitron's original smart lock design . On the right is the new version. According to the company's announcement this morning, the latter is called the Bolt, and is the one that the company can actually produce in enough quantity to satisfy its crowd-funded pre-orders and eventually hit wide retail distribution.
The Bolt has some fairly significant changes compared with the long-delayed original product the company described in a self-directed crowd-funding campaign from 2012. The company says it made the changes to address the manufacturing difficulty that came from its original design, as well as to mitigate the original's reliability and battery-life issues. The new model no longer has a knock sensor. Wi-Fi now comes via an external unit called Bridge. Bolt also replaces your entire deadbolt, rather than fitting over an existing thumb turn.
If you're an existing backer of Lockitron whose order has not yet been fulfilled, your order will be changed, automatically to the Bolt plus the Bridge unit. Your place in line will also remain the same. If you've already received an original Lockitron, the company says it will offer you the opportunity to buy a Bolt for $49. New Bolt pre-orders will cost $99, down $80 from the original $179 price, but that doesn't include the Bridge unit, which gives the Bolt Wi-Fi. To add a Bridge, you'll need to kick down an additional $80.
A round of 1,000 beta Bolt units will ship in March, and the company says it expects to ship the full production models in late spring 2015. A FAQ on the Lockitron website outlines the reasoning behind the changes and argues for why you should believe the company can hit its new production dates in quantity.
Many backers may feel relieved to receive any hardware from Lockitron; even if it shipped today the Bolt would be entering a smart-lock market that looks much more competitive than it did back in 2012. Smart-lock competitors Kwikset and August both have robust products that offer essentially the same functionality as the Bolt, although both are more expensive than the Bolt, even without their own Wi-Fi bridging accessories. Schlage, Yale, and others have also been churning out new connected locks. Schlage in particular has an enticing Sense lock due out this summer that, like August and Kwikset, will work with Apple's HomeKit smart home protocol.
Lockitron says it's working on smart home partnerships of its own, but it has announced only a handful, and none so far with major platforms like Apple, Nest Labs, SmartThings or Quirky's Wink.
On balance, moving to ship a more reliable product to backers is a positive. Crowdfunding purists might call this out as a bait-and-switch given the lost knock sensor and other tweaks, but considering what you will get in the Bolt compared with other smart locks out there, you'll at least know that the Bolt will have relative feature parity. If Lockitron can keep the Bolt-plus-Bridge pricing where it is, it will also be one of the more price-competitive smart-lock packages currently on the market. All else being equal, it's the smart-home partnerships that will make or break the Bolt. Here's hoping Lockitron can find a way to both ship a product and play nice in the smart home at large.