Just walk away
The auto-unlocking is one of the August Smart Lock's best features. For now it's only available to iOS users, but August says it hopes to turn it on for Android users by the end of the year.
With the auto-unlock feature enabled, the August lock will open automatically once you leave and then come back within 100 yards. I found this feature almost flawless. It will only work once you've traveled a sufficient distance away from your door. Every time I drove away from my house, or walked a significant distance and came back, auto-unlock worked exactly as expected.
The one time auto-lock failed was during the video shoot for this review, when I walked to what I thought was just past the 100-yard mark and then back again. My hunch is that you need to put more than 100 yards between yourself and the door for it to work. I'd like to test this further when I have the chance, but this was a minor hiccup given that the lock opened as expected every time I got home from work or after walking the dog.
Yes, you can use the lock in conjunction with the app and tap the virtual button in the app to lock and unlock the door. The lag that comes with Bluetooth, though, means that every time you open the August app it will pause for a few seconds while it finds the lock. After taking out your phone, opening the app, and waiting for the Bluetooth signal, you've lost any speed advantage over using a traditional key.
If you'd rather the lock open only when you're in close proximity to it, you might get your wish eventually. August says it's waiting to generate enough real world user data to see if wants to set a shorter auto-unlock distance or whether it will let you customize the distance yourself. The concern is that if works over too short a distance, you might unwittingly open the lock while you're still at home, causing a potential safety issue.
I don't blame August for acting cautiously here, although I can see how city apartment dwellers or others who may regularly leave their homes but don't travel far might want to adjust the distance. Consider accordingly before you make a purchase.
The other built-in automated feature is the Everlock setting, which will tell August to lock itself automatically 30 seconds after you've opened it. This feature also worked reliably, and it even works when your phone is turned off. August says it will let you customize the timing of this feature soon via software update.
Control from afar
To control the August outside of Bluetooth range, you'll need to bridge the device to your home WiFi network. Right now the only way to do that is via the company's new Connect WiFi accessory.
The August Connect plugs directly into a power outlet, and it must sit within 30 feet or so of the lock for a reliable connection, the closer the better. To join the two, select the new "WiFi Settings" option on your lock's settings menu in the app, and from there you'll get a brief prompt to map it to your home WiFi network. Once you've successfully paired the two, you can control August from anywhere you can get online.
Using an external device to get on your lock on your wireless network might seem cumbersome, but it's also the most maintenance-free approach given the current state of wireless technology. Built-in WiFi is certainly possible, but it also means reduced battery life. Along with August,, , , , and all have locks either in production or coming soon that take this same approach.
What August does not do yet is work with other smart home devices. The company has announced integrations with, the , and , all of which would theoretically tie behaviors between the August lock and other smart home devices. As of this writing none of those partnerships are live.
For the rest of its app features, the August lets you see a complete lock/unlock record for each lock you're assigned to as an owner. It will tell you the time of each action, as well as the user responsible. This logging feature also has a guestbook attached, where a user can leave you a note. I can imagine this might be something an AirBnB owner would make use of.
To protect your account, August boasts "financial-level" digital security, which means 128-bit AES software encryption, as well as two-factor authentication for your account log-in. It says it has taken more precautions, but it won't disclose what they are. In all, that seems as robust as most consumer-grade home security products. If you lose your phone, you can simply log in to your account from another device and remove access from the one that's missing.
It's hard not to like the August Smart Lock since it works so well and is so easy to use. From the free e-keys and logical user management, to the reliable automated lock and unlock settings, this lock can legitimately make a small element of your life easier. Yes, both the lag I encountered and the lack of true Internet-based controls are annoying, but those issues feel like limitations of the current technology, rather than design oversights or corner-cutting.
Like the, the and other hyped smart-home products, you will pay what feels like an ambitious premium for the privilege of owning the August Smart Lock. The price isn't so far off from that of its competition, though, and what you get here is a noticeably more polished smart lock.