Sesame Smart Lock review: The Sesame Smart Lock throws its hat into the retrofit ring
Retrofit smart locks are designed to smarten your deadbolt without replacing it entirely. It's a great concept for anyone just getting started with smart home technology, and we've seen August and Kwikset have success with their models. Candy House, a startup created by a Stanford University student, launched a kickstarter campaign in 2015 to create the Sesame Smart Lock. It's available for purchase now, and at $150 it's an affordable option, but not one I can recommend over August's more refined product line. The Sesame's $150 price converts to roughly £110 or AU$195.
The Sesame looks a lot like an old-fashioned kitchen timer. It comes in several colors and you have the option to label it with stickers to indicate which way to turn the lock to open or close it. The plastic construction of the lock and overall feel make it seem cheaper than any smart lock I've tested. The August Smart Lock, made from a combination of metal and plastic, costs $149, the same as the Sesame, and with its August Connect bridge priced at $80 and the Sesame's Wi-Fi Access Point priced at $70, there's just $10 difference between the two for the full combination of lock and Wi-Fi bridging accessory.
Finding a lock to test it on proved more difficult than I'd anticipated. While Candy House advertises that the Sesame works with "almost all cylinder deadbolts," I ran into an issue with the decorative plate and thumb latch size at the CNET Smart Home (video). The thumb latch didn't fit inside the dedicated portion of the lock designed to turn it. Candy House shows a gallery of locks on its website that the Sesame works with and while they might all technically fit, some would certainly look out of place or not sit flush with the mounting surface. I swapped out a deadbolt with a standard Kwikset model in order to test the Sesame. If you're going to purchase the Sesame Smart Lock, be sure to double-check the dimensions on the Candy House website before shelling out any cash.
The Sesame attaches to your door with an adhesive strip. That doesn't seem like the sturdiest approach for a piece of hardware that you physically turn and manipulate multiple times per day. The Sesame is powered by two CR123A 3V lithium batteries. The team at Candy House says the batteries are good for approximately 5,000 actions, which works out to around 500 days if you use your lock 10 times per day. It's not a hard battery size to find in stores, but it's certainly not as handy as the AA or AAA batteries you're likely to have lying around the house.
The Sesame only works with smart home platforms via IFTTT right now. Direct integration with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are supposedly in the works for later in 2018. The IFTTT applets I tested worked well and I'll admit, it is fun to say, "OK, Google, open Sesame" and watch your door unlock. However, you could set that up with a number of locks using a custom IFTTT recipe. And you'll need the $70 Sesame Wi-Fi Access Point in order to use these features.
If you purchase that $70 Wi-Fi Access Point, you'll be able to lock and unlock your Sesame Smart Lock from anywhere you have an internet connection. The Wi-Fi Access Point is a USB device, which means you'll need a USB adapter plug for your wall. That's not included in your purchase, nor can you purchase it from the Candy House website. Luckily, I found one in the bottom of my junk drawer at home, and it worked just fine.
Within the Sesame app, you can view notifications, settings and add managers or guest access. The app includes other convenience features like an auto relock option and a geofencing auto unlock to grant access when you approach the door with location services and Bluetooth turned on. It doesn't include anything like August's DoorSense, which lets you know not only if your door is locked, but also if it's closed. If you don't close the door entirely and the lock engages, you wouldn't know unless you checked it yourself.
The most interesting feature of the Sesame Smart Lock by far is the knock-to-unlock option available on iOS devices (sorry, Android users). With Bluetooth turned on and the Sesame app running in your phone's background, you can knock three times on your device to hear a knocking sound, then a voice saying, "Open sesame!" accompanied by two banner notifications on the lock screen. Knock-to-unlock is a fun feature that worked for me most of the times I tried it, but it isn't something I'd use as my main method of locking or unlocking the door.
I applaud Sesame for getting in the game and bringing us another retrofit smart lock option. I really like the idea of retrofit smart locks, and I'd love to see more competition in that arena. The Sesame was initially funded a few years ago when the first August Smart Lock was priced at $229, making $150 sound pretty competitive. Last year, August lowered the price of the August Smart Lock to just $149. So again, just $10 separates the two pairs of locks and bridges. It's worth mentioning that the Kwikset Kevo Convert, a different style of retrofit lock (at least aesthetically), is also priced at $150, but the Kevo Plus module to extend remote access and integrate with voice assistants is a pricey $100.
In the end, Sesame's price would have to be lower for me to comfortably recommend it over August's lock. Should you buy it if it goes on sale for $125? Maybe. $99? Definitely. In my testing, it performed well enough, but I'd still spend the extra $10 for an August smart lock that integrates with your smart home platforms without IFTTT, feels like a higher-quality build and includes door sensing technology.