We keep on seeing new smart lock options, and Otto, a keyless lock designed by a former Microsoft executive, might be the fanciest yet. It had better be -- at an asking price of $699, it's one of the most expensive smart locks we've seen.
With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios packed inside the surprisingly compact design, Otto promises to let you or anyone you choose inside with just a touch whenever it senses an authorized phone within range. Don't have your phone? Just twist and turn to enter a four-digit passcode. You can also lock and unlock Otto from anywhere using the companion app for Android and iOS devices.
Otto's creators say that they've spent four years developing the lock, and promise that it meets the sort of standards that you have to expect from one that costs $700. For starters, it comes with complimentary concierge installation -- a very nice touch given that smart locks require a properly aligned door in order to turn smoothly on their own.
"Every door is a little different, and we want to ensure the setup process is seamless," an Otto spokesperson tells me. "If it turns out that Otto doesn't fit your front door, we'll happily take it back free of charge."
That complimentary concierge installation is only a limited-time offer, though -- at some point, Otto's installation partner HomeVite will charge $149 for the service.
Otto's creators also point to the seven different grades of stainless steel used to build the lock, and the fact that it's endured extensive durability tests. They also tell us that the lock's software can distinguish between phones that are inside the home and ones that are outside, which is important -- you don't want someone to be able to open the lock simply because you left your phone sitting on an interior table within Bluetooth range.
As for cyber security, they claim that Otto's asymmetric cryptography and PKI encryption have never been known to be successfully hacked.
With no place to put a key, there's zero chance of anyone ever picking their way past Otto, either. That's part of the appeal of keyless locks like these, but it also puts some pressure on the developers to keep things running smoothly. Just recently, a company called LockState left hundreds of customers locked out after a botched firmware update essentially bricked people's front doors. Without a keyway, there's no real backup plan for a situation like that.
The other potential lock-out scenario is the battery running dead, and it's more of a concern with Otto than with the competition. That's because, unlike most other smart locks, Otto includes a built-in Wi-Fi radio for remote control via the app when you're not at home. That's a nice convenience, but Wi-Fi is a bigger battery drain than Bluetooth, Z-Wave or Zigbee.
Otto's team tells us that the two CR123A batteries that keep the lock powered should last a couple of months -- when they're running low, you'll get an alert on your phone and on the lock itself. Fail to change them, and the lock will switch to standby mode and run using a non-rechargeable backup battery.
Competing keyless locks like the Kwikset Obsidian and the Yale Assure let you power the deadbolt from the outside by touching a 9V battery to a set of nodes on the bottom of the lock, but not Otto -- once that backup battery dies, the lock is completely inaccessible from the outside.
One positive: Otto's team tells me that, once it kicks in, the backup battery can stay in standby mode for up to a year and a half.
You shouldn't need me to tell you that $700 is a hell of a lot to spend on a lock, but Otto wouldn't be the first product to break through from the high end. Just look at the Nest thermostat, which used a distinctive design and elegant controls to became one of the smart home's biggest success stories in spite of a relatively exorbitant price tag. Turns out that people are willing to spend on good-looking tech that'll sit in a prominent place in their home and be used every day.
Of course, you could nearly buy three Nests for the price of one Otto (or three similarly featured Kwikset Kevo smart locks, for that matter), so I wouldn't expect a huge influx of sales right out of the gate. But if Otto tests well (and you can bet that we'll be testing it out in the CNET Smart Home as soon as we can), then it'll sit as a legitimately tempting splurge for anyone interested in smart locks.
Something else to watch for is whether or not Otto ends up syncing with any third-party smart home platforms. There's nothing like that to speak of at launch -- no Alexa, no HomeKit, no IFTTT, no nothin' -- but an Otto spokesperson tells us that those kinds of integrations are on the horizon. "Otto was built to be updated, and integrating these platforms is definitely something we're working on in the future," he says.
Preorders for Otto are open now on Otto's website, with units expected to arrive sometime this fall. Otto is compatible with Apple devices running iOS 10 or later and Android devices running Marshmallow or better. To check if your door is compatible, click here.