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Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt (Apple HomeKit-enabled) review: Schlage's smart lock makes Sense of HomeKit (if you've got an Apple TV)

The Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt is the first HomeKit-compatible smart lock. Here's our full review, straight from the CNET Smart Home.

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Ry Crist
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Ry Crist

Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

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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.

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7.6

Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt (Apple HomeKit-enabled)

The Good

Schlage's HomeKit deadbolt works very well within Apple's smart-home framework, and offers a simple, intuitive app that makes it easy to manage user codes. Voice-activated Siri controls worked like a charm when we tested them out.

The Bad

You won't be able to access the lock from beyond the range of its Bluetooth radio unless you've got an Apple TV hooked up in your home, and the app doesn't dive as deep into HomeKit's standardized controls as others we've seen. The interior of the lock is also bulkier than we'd like.

The Bottom Line

If you've committed to HomeKit for your smart-home setup (and if you own an Apple TV), then this is an easy lock to recommend, but keep in mind that other locks like it are compatible with more products and platforms.

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.

Here's a Siri-powered smart lock for the connected home (pictures)

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At $229, the Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt is priced pretty comparably to what we've seen from competing Bluetooth locks like August and the Kwikset Kevo , 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 SmartThings , Wink and Staples Connect , 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 Apple TV , which, for the time being, is the de facto HomeKit hub.

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.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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, including the iDevices app and the Insteon+ app .

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.

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You'll need an Apple TV (third generation or later) in order to access your lock from outside the home.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

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 that comes with the newest iPhones. 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).

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Can I install it myself?

I don't know -- are you good with a screwdriver? If so, then yes, you can probably install this lock yourself. The only potential hiccups would be an irregularly sized door, or one that doesn't sit in alignment (a door where you need to push, pull, or lift as you use the lock to get it to turn smoothly). In those cases, you might want to call a handyman.

In the CNET Smart Home, I was able to install the two locks I tested with relative ease. The included step-by-step instructions were nicely detailed, enough so that I didn't even need to pull up the installation walkthrough video that you'll find in the Schlage app.

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It's probably worth measuring your door before making a purchase.

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You'll scan your HomeKit code with your phone's camera to add the lock to your setup.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

The only problem I ran into was with the front door's doorframe: the slot into which the deadbolt extends was shorter than the Schlage specifications by a few millimeters. I proceeded with the install anyway, and fortunately, the lock seemed to work fine when all was said and done. Still, it's the sort of thing you might want to measure before making a purchase. Also keep in mind that the interior half of the lock is pretty bulky -- it'll eat up a good deal of real estate on your door.

With the lock installed, you'll sync with HomeKit by following the instructions in the Schlage app. The app was able to detect both locks in the CNET Smart Home right away -- from there, I just needed to scan in the HomeKit-specific eight-digit code on the front of each lock's manual. It's a cool little HomeKit trick -- the app uses your phone's camera to read the numbers, similar to the way a lot of phones will scan in your credit card info when you're shopping online.

Once you're scanned into the system, you'll be up and running in the app within a few seconds.

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Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

So, how is the app?

It's very good for what it is: a place on your phone where you can add a new lock to your HomeKit setup, tweak its codes and settings, or lock and unlock it with a tap. The design is clean and appealing, and the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. Tapping the home screen's lock will lock or unlock the door, while convenient text at the bottom lets you know what happened the last time the lock was accessed. If you're using multiple deadbolts, you'll swipe left and right to swap between locks.

It isn't a great app for HomeKit-at-large, though, by which I mean it doesn't include controls for other types of gadgets. You can't use it to sync your HomeKit compatible lights with your deadbolt, for instance, nor does it do much of anything to take advantage of HomeKit's built-in scene control capabilities. It's perfectly adequate if locks are all you've got, but once you add more gear to your HomeKit setup, I think you'll almost certainly want to start using a different app for primary control.

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You can control the lock in other HomeKit apps, too. Here it is in the iDevices app.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Fortunately, you've got some options there. I had no problem discovering and controlling the lock using the iDevices app, for instance. That one sits neck and neck with the Insteon+ app as my HomeKit controller of choice, and both of those products would pair well with Schlage Sense.

Tap the home screen's gear icon, and you'll find various, tweakable settings for the lock. Aside from updating the Siri nickname, you can set it to beep whenever the door is opened, or to ring out in alarm if it detects someone trying to force their way in.

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Programming user-specific codes is a cinch, and it's easy to add scheduled access, too.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

The other icon at the bottom of the home screen looks like a typical icon for contacts, and sure enough, that's what it's there for. Tap it, and you'll be able to program a user-specific code, then send it to that user right from the app. You can also customize a schedule for when that code will work, in case you aren't comfortable sharing 24-7 access with someone. You can also delete a code if needed.

The only features I wish the app included (aside from deeper HomeKit integration) are an option to set an expiration date for a code and a history page showing you a log of when the doors were locked and unlocked. Neither are must-haves, but they both would have made nice additions. (EDITORS' NOTE: Turns out that there is an event log in the Schlage app -- you access it by tapping the status text that sits beneath the lock on the homescreen.)

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The verdict

The Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt works very well within the HomeKit framework, so if that's the platform you've decided to build your smart home off of, I think that it's a sensible buy at $229 -- especially if you've already got an Apple TV. If you haven't bought in with HomeKit yet, but think you might, I'd recommend waiting a bit to see how things develop. As of today, there are still only a handful of HomeKit-compatible products (less than ten brands as of writing this, per Apple's master list). As more get added -- and as more take advantage of the new HomeKit features found in iOS 9 -- the platform stands to improve.

All that said, if you're just looking to get your feet wet with smart home gear, then I wouldn't recommend starting with a product that's as fenced-in as this one (same goes for the rest of the HomeKit lineup, for that matter). Other locks -- including Schlage's own Z-Wave version of the same deadbolt -- will work with a greater variety of platforms and third-party devices, giving you more room to shop around and experiment with your setup. Unless you're an iOS devotee, that seems like the better approach to me.

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7.6

Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt (Apple HomeKit-enabled)

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 7Design 8Performance 9
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