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Friday Smart Lock review: A retrofit smart lock with serious style

Friday Labs crowdfunded its first effort at a retrofit smart lock. The result is an eye-catching $249 lock with less than stellar smarts.

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Molly Price

Former Editor

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4 min read

After two years of crowdfunding and development, the Friday Labs Smart Lock is here. This $249 smart lock claims to be the world's smallest retrofit lock, and it's definitely easy on the eyes. I can't recommend you rush out and buy it just yet though, as it's still got some learning to do.

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6.3

Friday Smart Lock

The Good

This lock has great design. It's available in seven colors and can be used as a regular thumb latch.

The Bad

Friday needs some serious firmware updates to deliver real Wi-Fi capability and temporary guest access. It also only integrates with Apple HomeKit.

The Bottom Line

If all you're after is a good looking Bluetooth smart lock, Friday fits the bill. If you want something with more remote capability and broader smart home integration, look elsewhere.

The Friday was designed by Big Ideas, the think tank within architecture's well-known Bjarke Ingels Group. It's clear the priority here was design, and I think it's miles ahead of the competition in that regard. Measuring just 2.7 inches in diameter, it's significantly smaller and less bulky than August's line of retrofit locks.

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Friday comes in seven different metal finishes.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The lock's metal shell is available in seven metal finishes. With so many color options and a measured compromise between modern and traditional design, this lock will look good almost anywhere. You can easily change the shells by sliding a credit card beneath it to release a clip. Friday Labs has yet to offer individual shells for sale -- you have to buy the whole lock -- but that's something it says is coming very soon.  

Installation is simple in theory. The instructions do warn that if the tailpiece is too long, however, you'll need a hacksaw (not included) to shorten it. Be warned: If you go this route, you won't be able to change your mind and put your old thumb latch back on. You'll need a whole new lock system, since you've sawed away at the first one.

The Friday is designed to work with your existing lock, and I found that to be true with a few caveats. I didn't have to do any sawing, and in fact, more than one of our doors had both cylinder and turn knob tailpieces, making the cylinder tailpiece just barely too short to reach the Friday. 

I also ran into an issue with my deadbolt's machine screws. The round-headed screws that came with my deadbolt blocked the Friday turning mechanism, preventing it from functioning. Friday Labs says it can provide countersunk screws if you have this issue. I swapped my machine screws out for a flatter pair and had no problems with the rest of installation.

Take a look at the smallest retrofit smart lock yet

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A large, rechargeable battery powers Friday.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Friday comes with a large, rechargeable battery and USB-powered charging cradle, instead of the more common four-AA setup. Friday Labs says the lock's battery should last for at least three months and up to nine months, depending on use. August claims up to a year of battery life, and we've seen that to be relatively accurate, so the Friday sounds like a bit of a power hog by its own estimation.

Notifications in the app will let you know when your battery is low. Having a rechargeable battery might save you trips to the store for AAs, but it also means your lock has to be turned by hand while the battery charges, which would take about 1.5 hours.

The Friday Lock also comes with "over-torque," a preventive solution to gear breakage and short-circuiting. Two spring levers sit in the faceplate and detect when it's being twisted against its will while the motor is running. Should this happen, it will mechanically disengage the gearing to protect the lock.  

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Friday is managed through the Friday Labs app. 

Screenshot by Molly Price/CNET

Once your lock is installed, the Friday Labs app guides you through naming the device, setting up multiple users and calibrating the lock by opening and closing the door. The app also includes Friday Assist for locking and unlocking. Toggle these two options and the deadbolt will lock when you close the door, and unlock when you approach it. Friday Labs uses geofencing to enable the unlock assist feature, meaning the app will detect the location of your phone and detect if you're within a certain distance of the lock. Unlock assist worked much better than the lock assist feature in my experience, though both were intermittent at best, which doesn't inspire confidence in that feature.

Here's where it starts to get hairier. As far as HomeKit compatibility, you can use Apple's smart home platform to lock and unlock the Friday lock. You can also incorporate it into multidevice scenes. Remote access for these features, however, works only if you have an iPad or Apple TV set up as your HomeKit hub. 

Wi-Fi is supported, but not enabled yet, and Android users are out of luck as far as remote access goes. A firmware update is in the works to enable Wi-Fi for better integration with smart home platforms, but there's no word on when exactly that will happen.

Friday's app is where most of the action happens, and it does let you set guests and designate an owner. Guests get unlimited access, however. There's no scheduling or creating temporary Bluetooth keys, although Friday Labs also promises a future firmware update to enable this. 

Temporary, recurring and scheduled access is a common feature in most high-end smart locks. We've seen it in Kwikset's eKey and in August locks, among others. It's especially useful for Airbnb owners, people with dog walkers and pretty much anyone who might ever need someone to stop by their house. I'm disappointed that feature isn't currently available with this lock and hoping Friday Labs pushes that update out soon.

I really wanted to love this lock. It looks much better than any retrofit lock we've seen thus far. The hardware is great, but the software just isn't there yet, and Friday Labs knows it. Keep an eye on this lock as firmware updates roll out. That Wi-Fi update is supposed to appear by the holidays, and if this and other shortfalls are addressed, the Friday Lock has real potential. Until then, you're better off with a clunkier, but smarter August Smart Lock Pro

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6.3

Friday Smart Lock

Score Breakdown

Features 6Usability 6Design 8Performance 5
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