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Kwikset Kevo Bluetooth Deadbolt (2016) review: Kwikset's touch-to-open lock is back, and better than before

The only problem? The fob doesn't come included. It did in generation one, but now, you'll need to pay an extra $25 for it on top of the $230 that you're already spending on the lock itself.

About the app

You can manage users and monitor who's coming and going using the Kevo app for Android and iOS devices.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

As said earlier, the app does a nice job walking you through the installation process. After you install the lock, you probably won't need the app very much. You can use it to lock and unlock the door remotely (provided you're within Bluetooth range), but I never had reason to do so during my day-to-day tests. If you want to connect to the lock from beyond Bluetooth's limited range, you'll need to purchase the $100 Kevo Plus plug-in gateway to get the lock on your WiFi network.

The real post-installation purpose of the app is to help you manage multiple users. You'll do so using what Kwikset calls "eKeys." Send one to a friend's email address, and they'll be able to sync their phone up with the lock, too. From there, they'll be able to use touch-to-unlock to get inside, and you'll be able to see when they come and go in the app's history section.

eKeys come in three varieties: Anytime eKeys, Guest eKeys and Scheduled eKeys. Like the name suggests, Anytime eKeys will work indefinitely until you revoke access. Guest eKeys are just Anytime eKeys that only work for 24 hours, then expire. Scheduled eKeys come with optional schedule restraints -- you can give them an expiration date, or restrict them to work only on certain days or at certain times.

Best of all, Kwikset no longer charges you $2 per eKey. All three varieties are now completely free and unlimited -- a definitive win for the user base.

On the smarts front, I was underwhelmed with the Kevo's third-party integrations. Despite being around for three years, the Kevo doesn't work with any larger home automation platforms, and instead, only connects directly with the Nest Learning Thermostat and with video doorbells from Skybell and Ring. Kevo does offer integration with Amazon Alexa, but you'll need to purchase the $100 Kevo Plus Wi-Fi module. Competing smart locks do better, especially the August Smart Lock -- in addition to Nest, it also works with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to let you lock the door using voice commands.

The recent addition of an IFTTT channel for the Kevo helps, though. An acronym for "if this, then that," IFTTT is a free online automation service that connects things that don't work together otherwise. With the Kevo, you can trigger IFTTT-compatible devices and services each time your door is locked or unlocked (you can also limit those triggers to only fire when a specific person uses the lock.) For instance, you could create an applet on IFTTT that turns your Lifx smart LED bulbs on each time you unlock the door.

We tried (and failed) to break in

One last thing: This is a stronger, more secure deadbolt than generation one, which, three years ago, we showed was susceptible to a specific brute-force attack that uses a screwdriver and a tension wrench to force the lock to turn.

That's not the case any more. For generation two, Kwikset made sure to address the vulnerability -- even going so far as bringing the independent security expert who discovered it, Marc Weber Tobias, on as a consultant to help correct it. A vocal critic of the deadbolt used in the first Kevo, Tobias now calls it one of the most secure locks on the market, and even told me that he uses one in his own home when I spoke with him on the phone.

It wasn't for lack of effort.

Chris Monroe/CNET

We didn't just take his word for it, though (he's on the Kwikset payroll now, after all). Instead, we broke out the toolbox and tried the technique out for ourselves, just like we did with the first-gen Kevo. CNET technical editor and all-around handyman Steve Conaway made the brute-force entry look easy three years ago -- but this time, he wasn't successful. The lock didn't give one bit, no matter how hard he tried.

In addition to the sturdier design, the SmartKey deadbolt inside of the Kevo is nearly impossible to pick, with very high ratings from independent testers and security experts. It's also designed to prevent lock bumping, a popular and alarmingly easy way of forcing cheap locks open.

On the cyber front, Kwikset uses end-to-end encryption for all of the lock's wireless transmissions, and doesn't connect to the cloud at all unless you purchase the Kevo Plus Wi-Fi extender. It would take a very skilled, very determined hacker to trick it into opening, and they'd need to be within Bluetooth range to do so.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

If I had to pick a smart lock for my door right now, I think I'd go with the second-gen Kwikset Kevo. It isn't as well-connected as smart locks that are designed to work with larger home automation platforms, and it doesn't quite get us to the key-free promised land, but it's still a unique and futuristic gadget that works as promised. Touching to unlock is convenient, unique, and undeniably cool -- the charm of it never really wore off during my multitude of tests.

Still, $230 is a painful premium for an upgraded deadbolt, and it's more than the original Kevo cost despite the fact that the key fob accessory no longer comes included. I like this lock a lot, but I don't think I'd pay more than $200 for it.

EDITOR'S NOTE, 3/3/17, 4:10 PM: Since publishing this review, Kwikset eliminated the $2 fee to send someone an Anytime or Scheduled eKey. The text has been updated accordingly, and the Kevo's score has risen from 7.9 to 8.1 out of 10.

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