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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)

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).

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.

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

Schlage

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.

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.

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.

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.)

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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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