August Smart Lock, HomeKit-enabled review: Next-gen August learns new tricks, locks out the competition
Editor's Note: In August 2020, PCMag and Bitdefender released a report alleging that August and Yale Android apps when working with Connect modules were vulnerable to a hack during setup mode that could give away Wi-Fi credentials. In August's latest response to CNET, it states, "If the Connect's firmware is up-to-date and the user's August Android app is up-to-date, their device will not be vulnerable to the original attack even if the unit enters into setup mode." The following review was published prior to this report and has not been altered.
Startup August announced back in October 2015 that a second-generation Smart Lock would be heading our way soon. Fast forward to, well, right now and the August Smart Lock 2.0 is finally here for $229 on August's site, Amazon and Best Buy. While this is technically a US-only product because it's "optimized to work in North America," Amazon will ship the Smart Lock internationally -- the price coverts to roughly £150 and AU$315 at the current exchange rate.
Smart locks are a fickle category. Because they're securing your front door, you want something durable and reliable that will actually make your life easier. But that hasn't always been our experience during testing. Some models are hard to install, others have confusing apps or hit-or-miss performance. The next-gen August Smart Lock has none of that nonsense. It looks good, it's reliable, the app is easy to use and this version works with Nest, Logitech Harmony, Comcast's Xfinity Home and Siri. So even if you aren't an iPhone user, I'd still strongly recommend August's Editors' Choice award-winning HomeKit-enabled Smart Lock.
Leave the deadbolt, take the smart lock
Like August's original Smart Lock, which is available for the reduced price of $199 while supplies last, version 2.0 retrofits to existing deadbolts. Be sure to check out the full list of compatible deadbolts before you buy, but it will typically work with most thumb-latch models from Baldwin, Kwikset, Schlage and other widely available brands.
Overall, the Smart Lock's aesthetic doesn't deviate much from the original model. It's available in either a silver or a dark gray finish, with both copper and red finishes planned for future release. And, at 3.39 inches tall by 3.39 inches wide, with a depth of 2.22 inches (8.6cm round by 5.6cm deep), it's larger than a standard doorknob, but unobtrusive nonetheless.
You won't notice any major design updates, but August did smarten up its configuration to make the physical hardware easier to interact with. A new easy-grip pattern and rounded edges improve the ergonomics of manually locking and unlocking the Smart Lock. The team also added magnets and a tweaked design to better secure the faceplate which hides the four included AA batteries. The plate on the original model tended to slip off when you turned the lock. (Battery life will vary a lot depending on usage, but August says it should last about 6 to 9 months.)
Beyond ease of use, the Smart Lock also looks slick and feels durable -- especially compared to a similar design like the Poly-Control Danalock. It's a little tougher to compare style when you venture over to models like the Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt, which require a full replacement of your existing deadbolt. Even so, the second-gen August Smart Lock holds its own as a clean-looking piece of hardware on your front door.
August's design is also discrete since you install it on the inside of your door. Since you keep your old deadbolt in place, your original keyhole and house keys will still work the same way. And everything will look exactly the same from the exterior of your house -- a plus if you want a smart lock, but don't want people to know you have a smart lock.
Installation in five easy steps
It's extremely easy to install the August Smart Lock. If you're someone who's interested in do-it-yourself smart home projects, but is new to DIY in general, this would be a great place to start. Assuming your deadbolt is compatible, you should only need a screwdriver (I needed a Phillips-head, but I supposed this could vary depending on your deadbolt) and about 10 to 15 spare minutes to swap out your old lock.
Here are the steps:
1. Make sure your deadbolt is compatible. Again, check this compatibility chart to make sure your hardware will play well with August.
2. Remove the thumb-latch on your old lock. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws on your existing thumb-latch; remove the thumb-latch.
3. Attach the August mounting plate to your deadbolt. Line up the mounting plate August provides with the tail piece of your deadbolt (that's the bit of hardware sticking out that rotates your deadbolt open and closed) and use the screws from your old lock to secure the mounting plate to the door.
4. Attach the adapter to the back of the lock and lift the wing latches. Select the adapter that's compatible with your tail piece, attach it to the back of the lock and lift up the wing latches on the lock. (August provides three adapters; I used the green one because it works with my Kwikset deadbolt, but you can figure out which adapter is best for your deadbolt in August's detailed installation guide.)
5. Connect the lock to the mounting plate and flip down the wing latches. Fit the lock over the mounting plate on your door (you'll feel it snap into place) and close the wing latches to secure it in place.
That's it, you're done. Again, it feels a little unfair to compare this setup to models that require a full deadbolt replacement. Even so, this lock is by far the easiest to install out of all the models we've reviewed so far.
So it's on my door, now what?
After you've successfully installed the Smart Lock, remove the magnetic faceplate and throw away the plastic battery separator tab so it can enter pairing mode. August is a Bluetooth lock, which means that you can only control it via its app when you and your phone are within roughly 30 feet (10m) of it (there are exceptions if you add compatible accessories, which we'll discuss later on).
Download the Android or iPhone August app, create an account and select the "Set up lock" option. From there, the app will scan for and find your lock, and you simply have to name the lock (I named mine "Front Door"), add a house name (in our case, "CNET's House") and it should connect.
Then, you'll be instructed to "calibrate" your lock, which just means you need to open and close it one time each manually so August can learn how much the motor needs to work and how far it needs to turn to lock and unlock. That's it for setup if you're only using August's basic Bluetooth functions and nothing more.
For some, this functionality will be more than enough. It means that you can lock and unlock your door from the app when you're within Bluetooth range, send virtual keys to friends, family members and anyone else you'd like to grant either permanent or temporary access to your house. It also means that you can opt-in to the automatic locking and unlocking geofencing features that, as the names suggests, will lock and unlock your door for you based on your (and your phone's) comings and goings.
To opt-in to geofencing, select Auto-unlock in the settings section of the app. Toggle the switch over to enable the feature. If your phone's location services are switched on, the geofencing map should automatically adjust to your current location. You can also customize the detection perimeter to any distance from 100 to 5,000 meters.
Unlike the auto-unlock feature, auto-lock is timer-based. That means the Smart Lock will automatically lock the door anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes after you unlock the door. Just specify your preferred time frame in the app and you're set.
Auto-lock features were available with the original Smart Lock and worked quite well, and they continued to work well (if not better) this time around. They were both responsive and worked consistently. While it's easy to see the value of hands-free access to your front door, it's also worth noting that geofencing performance can vary user-to-user by location and even by phone carrier. Here are August's troubleshooting tips if you run into any issues.
But wait, there's more
There's a bit more to this story, though. August also sells a $79 Connect accessory (about £55 or AU$105, converted) that gives your Smart Lock Wi-Fi smarts for true remote access from anywhere you can get your phone online. Adding the August Connect also gives you compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for locking your door or checking its status with voice commands. In addition, an August spokesperson confirmed that the all-new $199 August Doorbell Cam (converted, £135 or AU$260) can also act as a Wi-Fi bridge for the lock. If you're interested in August's doorbell and its lock, you won't need the separate Connect accessory for remote integration via Wi-Fi. These are excellent add-ons if you're looking for longer-range remote control, but don't care about Apple's Siri-based smart home platform.
That brings me to HomeKit. Apple's HomeKit smart home platform gives select connected home products access to Siri so you can control devices straight from your phone using your voice. August's second-gen Smart Lock is one such device. Similar to the HomeKit-enabled Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt, you can ask Siri to "Unlock/lock the Front Door," and even assign a room name so you can simply say, "Unlock the living room door."
This requires additional configuration from the August app, including scanning an eight-digit code inside the Smart Lock's faceplate, naming your lock and naming the room. This part of the HomeKit setup is seamless, as it's integrated directly into August's software and the steps are easy to follow. But this only allows for local Siri control, meaning within range of your local Wi-Fi network.
If you want to use Siri to control your August Lock when you're away from home, things get slightly more complex. Currently, you need a fourth-generation Apple TV to act as the Wi-Fi/security bridge connecting your phone and Siri to your lock. Theoretically you only need to be logged in to the same iCloud account and have the Keychain function turned on in your phone's settings.
Unfortunately, because there isn't a dedicated HomeKit app or other sort of built-in software tutorial for figuring out remote Siri access via your Apple TV, getting it to work takes maneuvering. Troubleshooting suggestions from both Apple and August include tips such as restarting your phone; logging out of and back in to your iCloud account on Apple TV; and making sure the software is up-to-date on both devices. It isn't exactly difficult to see if your phone has the latest software, but it can be time-consuming to test out various scenarios before finding the culprit.
It can make the overall experience a little trying, but he potential frustration might be worth it if you have a new Apple TV handy and want remote Siri access. Once I got it to work, it was very reliable. August's second-gen Smart Lock also integrates with iDevices, Insteon+ and Lutron HomeKit apps if you happen to have multiple HomeKit devices.
While this lock doesn't integrate with Samsung's SmartThings or Wink, it does work with Logitech Harmony and Comcast's Xfinity Home. It's also a Works with Nest partner. That means you should be able to program your Nest Learning Thermostat to switch to either Home or Away mode when you unlock or lock your door and see the current temperature in your home from the August app. You should also be able to see activity-based video clips the Nest Cam records from the August app.
All of that's to say that you have a lot of options in terms of how you connect to the second-generation August Smart Lock and how you might integrate it into your wider smart-home setup. The Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt is one of August's closest competitors due to its HomeKit integration, but you only get remote access with that product if you buy the Apple TV. August, on the other hand, has the Connect accessory and the Doorbell Cam that can also perform that function.
In addition, a lot of Schlage and Yale locks require third-party hubs to work and don't come with dedicated apps as a result. The Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt, for example, doesn't have a software component. Instead, you have to use the SmartThings app as your access point for installation, set up and general use. That's great if you like SmartThings, but it can also be limiting if your smart-home hub of choice happens to go kaput.
Even with the clunky remote Siri setup, the second-gen August Smart Lock is excellent, and deserving of a CNET Editors' Choice award. From the easy installation to interacting with the app and the hardware itself, the entire process was straightforward, simple and, best of all, worked very reliably. Given the number of Smart Lock accessories available and the option of adding Siri into the mix via HomeKit, I can easily recommend this lock as a truly smart addition to your front door.