"The lock just flashed at me."
"Yeah," I told my roommate, Zach. "It's a status indicator. Green means unlocked. I can turn it off in the app if it's bothering you."
Zach sighed. "Whatever."
So it goes at Casa Crist, where I occasionally bring home a smart-home gadget to test for a few days. The latest: the Kwikset Kevo Convert Bluetooth Smart Lock. At $150, it's cheaper than most other smart locks on the market, and unlike many of them, it doesn't actually replace your existing lock. Instead, you'll install it on the inside of your door, where it will automatically lock or unlock your deadbolt whenever you tell it to using the Kevo app on your Android or iOS device.
The Convert's retrofit approach makes it an appealing pick for renters who aren't allowed to swap their deadbolt out (and for an indifferent roommate like Zach, who'd rather just stick with the key he's already got). It also worked reliably well during the week or so I tested it, with a steady Bluetooth connection to my phone and an integration with my Nest Learning Thermostat that let me toggle the thermostatbetween Home and Away modes whenever I unlocked or locked the door.
There are compromises here, though -- namely, the need to be within Bluetooth range to check the Convert's status on your phone or lock it remotely. The third-party integrations with Nest and IFTTT also didn't go as deep as I'd like, and you can't connect it with any other smart home platforms -- no Wink or SmartThings, no Apple HomeKit and no Amazon Alexa, either. I like the Convert as a means of sharing digital access to your door, but at $150, I wish it didn't feel quite so limited.
The Convert is really just the interior half of the original Kwikset Kevo -- the part with the Bluetooth radio, the motorized lock-turning mechanism and the battery pack that powers it. You don't get the original Kevo's touch-to-open feature, but you do get its same baseline smarts that you control with the same Kevo app.
Looks-wise, the Convert is clean and simple, if not striking. It's smaller than the interior of other smart locks from names like Yale and Schlage, but only very slightly so. It's not nearly as eye-catching as the August Smart Lock, which takes a similar retrofit approach, but it's definitely not an eyesore, either.
Before you jump in with the Convert (or with any smart lock that automatically turns your deadbolt), you'll want to check your door to make sure it's smart-lock-compatible. Here's what to look for:
You'll also want to make sure that the Convert is compatible with your Android or iOS device -- particularly on the Android side, where Android 5.0 or better is required.
I had absolutely no trouble installing the Convert on my front door, thanks in large part to the detailed, illustrated step-by-step instructions in the Kevo app. All I needed was a screwdriver and about 10 minutes.
The fact that my front door uses a Kwikset deadbolt likely helped my installation, but the Convert will work with other kinds of locks, too. It even comes with multiple sets of parts and adapters -- and again, the app does a great job of helping you through the process.
Once the Convert is successfully affixed to your door, you'll pair with it over Bluetooth using the Kevo app. From there, you'll be able to check the lock's status on your phone or lock and unlock it remotely, provided you're within Bluetooth range. You'll also be able to share "eKeys" that authorize other people to control the lock, too.
So why would you want a Bluetooth connection to your deadbolt? Here are some of the most common scenarios:
All of that worked perfectly when I tested it, but there are a couple of caveats to keep in mind. The most obvious is that you can't control the lock or view its status from outside of Bluetooth range. You also can't connect it with a third-party smart home platform like Wink or SmartThings to extend the range, the way you can with competing smart locks (including Kwikset's own Z-Wave models). The only way to do so with the Convert is to buy the Kevo Plus Wi-Fi plug-in gateway device for an extra $100. And no, spending that kind of money on a hub that only controls one kind of gadget doesn't feel like a good deal to me, either.
Another limitation: There's no way to control this lock with your voice. It doesn't work with Apple HomeKit, which rules Siri out. Even though Amazon now offers developers dedicated smart-lock programming tools, the Convert won't work with Alexa either. All's quiet on the Google Assistant front, too.
Still, there's a lot that this lock gets right. In particular, the Kevo app does a great job with user management, offering easy controls for emailing eKeys to friends and contacts. I especially appreciated how easy it was to set time restrictions on those eKeys, including fully customizable Scheduled eKeys that only work on the days and times you set, as well as Guest eKeys that simply stop working after 24 hours. Best of all: Kwikset doesn't charge fees for those eKeys anymore. All of them are totally free and unlimited.
The lock history section of the app is another nice touch. It offers users an accurate and detailed list of comings and goings. It only works with app-enabled entry, though -- use your key to get in, or lock the door by turning the deadbolt by hand, and it won't show up in the app.
The Convert also takes advantage of the original Kevo's third-party smart-home integrations -- namely with Nest, IFTTT and video doorbells from SkyBell and Ring. The Nest integration worked fine, with a little pop-up that would ask me if I wanted to toggle my thermostat between Away mode and Home mode whenever I'd use the Kevo app to lock or unlock my door. But again, that only works if you're using the app to control the lock.
The IFTTT integration was much less successful. The Kevo channel is limited to begin with -- it only lets you trigger IFTTT recipes by locking or unlocking your door using the app. And while you can use the Convert to trigger your IFTTT recipes, you can't use your IFTTT recipes to trigger the Convert. That eliminates a potential workaround for things like Alexa voice locking.
Worse still, my test recipes didn't work. I suspect this has to do with the fact that IFTTT uses your phone as a relay to connect with the lock itself, and maybe the recipes would have worked like a charm if I had a Kevo Plus installed to play the role of relay, instead. Still, if you count IFTTT compatibility as a key selling point, temper your expectations.
Limitations aside, I like the Kevo Convert. I think it's a good fit for renters, and a perfectly fine choice for anyone who wants a simple smart lock that can manage access across multiple users. The retrofit design makes it a direct competitor to the August Smart Lock, one of our favorites in the category. The Convert offers many of the same features at a lower price.
But the Convert demands compromises, too. At a time when more and more smart locks are offering integrations that will let you include them in a larger home automation platform or control them with voice commands, the Convert sticks with a basic, Bluetooth approach that largely silos itself off from the rest of the smart home. That's fine if all you want is basic user access control. But if you're thinking bigger, you'll want to look elsewhere.