"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 thermostat between 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.
Design and setup
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, 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:
- An existing standard deadbolt that sits separately above the knob or handle
- A door that's between 1 3/8 and 1 3/4 inches (38mm and 44mm) thick
- Proper alignment with the doorframe -- you shouldn't need to push or pull on the doorknob in order to turn the lock
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.
Performance and features (and limitations)
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.