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Lattis Ellipse Smart Bike Lock review:Equal parts smart and frustrating

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The Good My bike was not stolen.

The Bad My phone was smashed.

The Bottom Line The Ellipse smart bike lock has an ambitious design, but using it daily was an incredibly frustrating experience.

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Owning a bicycle brings me a tremendous amount of joy. I love the convenience of riding through a city and stopping off to explore shops, parks and cafes. The downside to such adventures though is needing to lock up my bike so someone doesn't take it. And even then a lock doesn't guarantee my bike won't be stolen.

Last year, a San Francisco-based company named Lattis, launched the Ellipse smart bike lock. It's a U-Lock packed with sensors, batteries, a solar panel and Bluetooth that connects to your phone.

Ellipse's smart bike lock of the future

In lieu of a physical key, I secure the lock with the Ellipse phone app available on Android and iOS. For basic locking and unlocking, the app works simply enough -- I tap the big blue button on the screen and voila! It's locked. I tap it again and bam: Unlocked.

The Ellipse is forged of hardened steel similar to other premium bike locks. The shackle is flattened to make it more difficult to saw or grind off.

Though I dig that the smaller design is pocketable, I wish there were was an option for a longer shackle. I would often find it nearly impossible to get the Ellipse through my bike's frame and wheel while securing it around a parking meter pole.

There's a dual-locking mechanism to secure both sides and the Ellipse is rated IPX4 which means that can handle the occasional splash. Here in San Francisco there was never enough rain to challenge that claim. In addition, the Ellipse has built-in batteries. There are two ways to charge: Through the Micro-USB port or via the cleverly integrated solar panel.

The struggle of everyday use

In everyday use, the lock worked… okay. But there were many times I struggled with it. For example when we filmed the video accompanying this review, I tried to lock my bike to a thicker post and ended up dropping my phone and cracking the screen. This scenario happened frequently: Holding the two pieces of lock and my phone, while tapping the screen to force the Ellipse closed.

Lattis Ellipse Bike Lock
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There's a light up keypad on the side that you can use to lock and unlock the Ellipse.

James Martin/CNET

The Ellipse app does provide a "handsfree" alternative called auto lock and auto unlock. To use, I close the Ellipse around my bike and the rack, walk away, and the app automatically triggers it to lock. The same thing happens in reverse to unlock it: I just have to walk towards the lock.

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