We first saw the Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt in January, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Showcase in Vegas. It was one of a number of products at the show that grabbed headlines by jumping on board with Apple HomeKit, the set of smart home control protocols that have been baked into your iPhone since 2014's update to iOS 8. Now, Schlage Sense is finally set to start selling on November 1st.
As the first HomeKit-compatible door lock (and still the only one, at least for now) Schlage looks to be in a pretty good position. With HomeKit, you can control your smart home gear using Siri commands -- that means that right now, Schlage's got the only deadbolt in town that you can lock and unlock with your voice right out of the box.
At $229, the Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt is priced pretty comparably to what we've seen from competing Bluetooth locks likeand the , but note that it costs about 50 dollars more than other smart Schlage locks that communicate using Z-Wave, and that aren't beholden to HomeKit. Those Z-Wave locks work with a number of smart hubs from systems like , and , all of which allow you to lock and unlock them from beyond your home's Wi-Fi network. With Schlage Sense, your only option for control beyond the home is , which, for the time being, is .
That makes this lock a great fit for Cupertino loyalists with Apple TVs already installed in their living room, or for anyone who's decided that HomeKit is worth buying into on a big scale (Schlage certainly has). If, on the other hand, you aren't so keen on marrying your smart-home setup to HomeKit, you've got a lot of options that make a lot more sense.
What does it do?
With a connected lock, you should expect to be able to lock and unlock your door using a smartphone app. Schlage gets the job done with its Schlage Sense app for iOS devices, though you'll be able to control it in other HomeKit apps, too, includingand .
Smart locks with numeric keypads like the one Schlage Sense uses will also let you assign user-specific codes for different people. With Schlage, you can set parameters for when each code will work, a useful way to let a dog-sitter or a handyman in. I'd like to see Apple work these codes into HomeKit's automation capabilities -- distinct smart gadget triggers tied to specific codes getting entered -- but as of now, the controls don't go that deep.
A bigger limitation is that you can't control the lock from beyond the range of its Bluetooth radio, and especially not from outside the home. At least, you can't unless you've got an Apple TV installed in your home (and installed somewhere that's within Bluetooth range of your front door). If you do, the Apple TV will play the part of your phone while you're out and about, serving as middle man between lock and router.
It's not just a middle man, though. Beyond translating the lock's Bluetooth into router-friendly Wi-Fi, the Apple TV serves as a sort of smart home bouncer. When you send a command from outside your network, Apple TV checks its ID before letting it in.
When I tested this arrangement out at the CNET Smart Home, I was able to lock and unlock the door from 40 miles away, albeit with about 9 or 10 seconds of lag. But again, you can't do that if you don't have Apple TV.
What you can do is automate your lock alongside other HomeKit gadgets, and integrate it into grouped scenes that trigger several gadgets at once. As an example, a "bedtime" scene could turn the downstairs lights off, turn the bedroom ceiling fan on, and lock the front door -- provided you're using HomeKit-compatible gadgets to control everything.
Oh, and Siri. You can control it all using Siri.
Siri can unlock my door?
Sure she can, so long as you ask nicely. (Actually, not really. I tried telling her to "lock the damned doors" at one point, and she didn't miss a beat.)
Jerkitude aside, Siri controls are really the marquee feature with HomeKit, and they're even better with the always-on "Hey Siri" functionality. Admittedly, there's something a little bit magical™ about asking your phone to control physical things in your home.
And sure, a lot of it comes down to a convenience-minded laziness angle. I can't count the number of times I've nestled into bed only to realize that I forgot to lock the door -- the idea of asking my phone to take care of it so I can stay tucked in is an appealing one. That said, we'd be remiss not to mention the elderly, the disabled, and anyone else with impaired mobility, for whom voice-activated smart-home gear could be tremendously beneficial.
All of this in mind, I eagerly asked Siri to lock and unlock the front and back door of the CNET Smart Home at least a few hundred times. I came away pleased. Siri never screwed up, telling me she'd locked a door when in reality she hadn't. There were one or two occasions where my commands didn't work, but Siri gave me an error message each time, telling me that for whatever reason, she couldn't access my locks just then. In each case, the same command worked perfectly on the following attempt.
She also did a good job of distinguishing between the two doors. Part of the HomeKit protocols is that you'll give each device a "Siri Nickname" when you add it to your setup -- you'll need to refer to the device by that nickname in order for Siri to recognize it. I kept things simple with the locks, going with "front door" and "back door," and Siri never got the two confused. I was also able to control both at once by asking her to "lock the doors," (damned or otherwise).