Best Smart Lock: August vs. Kevo vs. Schlage vs. Premis vs. Yale
After a week with smart locks, I wanted to call it quits and scrap this post.
Installation was a pain, doors didn’t lock when I wanted, Bluetooth connections were shaky, keypads responded slowly, and the locks just weren’t “smart” overall.
During my second week of testing, I came home with five bags of groceries in each hand and finally experienced the magic.
My keys and phone stayed in my pocket, while my door unlocked itself automatically. All I had to do was turn the knob.
It took hours of tweaking settings and learning about each lock to get to that point, but I got there.
What are the benefits of a smart lock?
You can leave your keys behind. You can give houseguests, babysitters, nannies, or housecleaners temporary or recurring scheduled access to your home. You can record who comes and goes. And they provide peace of mind.
A smart lock should secure your home while you’re away without making it difficult to enter when you return.
We’ll compare five different models (August vs. Kevo vs. Schlage vs. Premis vs. Yale) to find the best smart lock, while evaluating six categories: setup, inside design, outside design, locking, unlocking, and software.
- Smart locks only work with deadbolts, and only if your door is shut completely and well-aligned.
- Bluetooth can be challenging, and all smart locks use it in some capacity. Smart locks should use NFC, fingerprint or facial recognition, but they don’t have that technology yet.
- HomeKit support for iPhone users is nice but not a necessity.
- Automations in the Home app (i.e., locking the door automatically when the last person leaves home) aren’t fully automated like they are with lights and thermostats. You get a message on your iPhone asking, “Would you like to run this automation?” when it’s time to run the automation. If you don’t tap “run” after five minutes, it doesn’t run.
- Asking permission to unlock is fine, but why does an automation need my permission to lock? Where are the bad guys who LOCK doors?
- If you want to use Siri to unlock, your iPhone needs to be unlocked first. Although, your phone doesn’t need to be unlocked to lock the door.
- To control a smart lock with smart assistants, you’ll need a smart hub (i.e., SmartThings, Wink) or a HomeKit hub (i.e., Apple TV, HomePod, or iPad).
- Smart locks have an auto-lock feature that triggers after a specific amount of time has elapsed since the door was last unlocked. It’s a solid feature in certain circumstances but not perfect in real life. For example, if you go outside for quick tasks like taking out the trash or getting fresh air, you might find yourself locked out if the timer is too short.
#5 - (Grade: F)
Kwikset Kevo Gen 2
- An interactive guide in the app walks you through installation. It gets the job done, but the directions weren’t perfect. The app implies you sync Kevo to your phone first, but that isn’t correct. You sync after the lock is installed.
- For installation, you need to remove your existing deadbolt. Then, drill a bigger hole if your previous hole isn’t 2-⅛” (most are 2-⅛” already), install a new deadbolt latch, mount the front and back plates, attach the wires, and install a new strike on the door frame. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish.
Outside Design (B):
- From the outside, Kevo looks an ordinary lock with a keyhole. When you tap the top of it, there’s a blue ring that lights up, then turns green when it’s unlocked.
- It doesn’t look fancy and won’t attract unwanted attention.
Inside Design (B-):
- It has a sturdy-looking, thin metal cover that goes over the plastic base.
- You have to unscrew the three screws to take the battery cover off. Then, slide the battery pack out.
- Once your household members have the Kevo app on their phone and are signed in, they tap the top of the lock and, if their phone is nearby, Kevo unlocks the door.
- When it works, there’s nothing more satisfying. It’s like you’re living in the future.
- But Kevo only works on the first try 50% of the time. It usually works on the second try, but I’ve had it fail on the second try too. I’ve never had to try more than three times to get in, but others on Amazon say differently. If an attempt fails, you’re waiting a solid 20-30 seconds. At that point, why not just use a key?
- Kevo won’t work if you’re on a phone call or listening to music via Bluetooth because it uses Bluetooth as well.
- The app needs to be running in the background for a tap to unlock the door. If your phone’s battery dies or you close your apps, you’ll need to restart Kevo in the background. You shouldn’t close your apps because it doesn’t save battery life. But most of my friends, girlfriend included, are compulsive app-closers, and I’m sure lots of others do this out of habit too.
- If you have family members without smartphones, you can buy a key fob to keep in their pocket which allows them to tap and open.
- You can use a standard key as a failsafe.
- There’s no auto-lock feature.
- The only way to lock is by tapping Kevo, opening the app or using a standard key.
- You can’t lock yourself out because Kevo senses when your phone is on the other side of the door.
- Unfortunately, you’ll face the same connectivity issues as with unlocking.
Extra Stuff (F):
- You can give someone scheduled access on Kevo, but they need to sign up for an account, download the app, keep it on their phone, and have the app open when they tap. That’s too much to ask of a guest.
- You can’t control anything remotely, and it doesn’t work with Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri (HomeKit) out of the box.
- For an extra $100, the Kevo Plus Hub gives you remote access and smart assistant controls. Unfortunately, even with the hub, it isn’t compatible with HomeKit. Also, the Alexa command is wordy, “Alexa, tell Kevo to lock the back door.”
- Because of limited features, Kevo’s batteries seem to last longer than others.
#4 - (Grade: D)
Outside Design (B-):
- The design is sleek and the digits are big and easy to read, but it’s a bit too bulky.
Inside Design (B-):
- The interior design is similar to Kevo’s, with a thin metal cover that goes over the plastic base. It looks alright but it’s nothing special.
- You have to unscrew the metal cover with three screws to access the battery.
- There are interactive hardware instructions similar to Kevo’s in the Premis app. It’s not bad but it can be confusing.
- For installation, you need to remove your existing deadbolt. Then, drill a bigger hole if your previous hole isn’t 2-⅛” (most are 2-⅛” already), install a new deadbolt latch, mount the front and back plates, attach the wires, and install a new strike on the door frame. It took 30 minutes from start to finish.
- I had a hard time aligning the keypad.
- You can set it to auto-lock after 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, or 4 minutes.
- I suggest leaving the Secure Keypad Randomizer off because it requires using an extra two buttons to lock. Otherwise, with the randomizer off, you just tap the lock button on the keypad.
- You can ask Siri, use the Home app or the Premis app to lock.
- You can lock with the included key.
- You need to wake up the screen to enter the code, but it doesn’t work well. It takes at least 5-10 seconds for the screen to turn on.
- You type in your 4-8 digit unlock code once the keys are visible.
- The keypad doesn’t work with gloves and it doesn’t work well in the cold.
- You can ask Siri to unlock if your phone is unlocked.
- You can unlock with the included key.
Extra Stuff (F):
- The Premis app on iPhone is a mess.
- You can’t use Premis with an Android phone.
- You don’t get smarts or control away from your home without an Apple TV or HomePod as your hub. It’ll just function as a keypad lock without an Apple hub.
- There are Issues connecting to HomeKit sometimes. In my experience, Premis needs to be closer to the Apple TV than other locks for it to work properly.
- There’s a cool “Secure Mode” to indefinitely disable all codes you’ve given to other people.
- The activity log that lets you know when the door was locked and unlocked isn’t always accurate. In my activity log, it says the door was unlocked in December of 1999.
#3 - (Grade: C-)
Yale Assure SL
- You can put three or more fingers on the keypad to lock.
- You can set it to auto-lock after 10, 30, 60, 90, 120, or 180 seconds.
- You can use Siri, the Home app or the Yale app to lock.
- You can lock with Alexa if you have a home hub.
Outside Design (A+):
- It’s beautiful, featuring a sleek, well-built, low-profile keypad. It’s a piece of art and everything I could ever hope for in a design aesthetically speaking.
- There’s no keyhole, which adds to the minimalistic look.
- The touchscreen works while wearing gloves.
Inside Design (A+):
- It’s the best-looking of the locks I tested and doesn’t stick out as far from the door as the others.
- The batteries are easily accessible with one screw.
- You use two different apps: one third-party app to install the hardware and one to control the lock.
- Getting the hardware on the door was easy. For installation, you need to remove the existing deadbolt setup. Then, drill a bigger hole if the existing one isn’t 2-⅛” (most are 2-⅛” already), install a new deadbolt latch, mount the front and back plates, and attach the wires.
- Yale’s strike plate for the doorway is unique and smaller than anything I’ve seen. It’s required because Yale won’t lock fully with other strike plates. This frustrated me because my pre-existing deadbolt hole was bigger than the entire Yale strike plate.
- The software setup was hard because the packaging was confusing and the app sucks.
- It wasn’t apparent that my lock shipped with a network module. Once I found the module and installed it, the HomeKit QR code on the module wasn’t visible. Also, I couldn’t find the documentation with the secondary HomeKit QR code until after the install.
- The instructions to set up the lock with your “master code” were unclear and there was no mention of anything in the app.
- The lock speaker is supposed to include voice guidance, but it didn’t work.
- You can place three or more fingers on the keypad to activate the screen. I’d prefer a dedicated button for this.
- Once the keypad lights up, you tap in your code followed by the check mark. The check mark seems like an unnecessary extra step.
- The keyhole is normally the failsafe option for smart locks when things don’t go as planned. Yale thinks differently. If your batteries run low, you hold a 9-volt battery to the bottom of the lock while typing in the code.
- I know what happens when the battery is dead, but what happens if the software fails or the system dies, or the motor gets locked up? How do I get into my house if I only have one exterior door? I haven’t had these problems, but this is concerning, especially considering the poor-quality software. (If you only have one exterior door, Yale recommends the non-SL Assure models that include a keyhole. Unfortunately, non-SL models aren’t HomeKit compatible).
- You can ask Siri after your phone is unlocked.
Extra Stuff (F):
- The Yale Secure app is a mess. It looks like something you’d expect from a lifelong hardware-only company.
- You can create a “wrong code entry limit” between three and 10 times before the system locks you out.
- There’s no way to give someone temporary access or make a code only work during certain hours.
- Yale Assure SL requires a $50 network module for control when you’re not home or you want to use it with smart assistants. You choose one module, either Homekit (iM1) or Z-Wave Plus, and you can change modules whenever, so don’t get locked into an ecosystem.
- You’ll still need a $100 smart hub with the Z-Wave Plus module if you want to control it with Alexa or Google.
#2 - (Grade: C+)
Sense & Connect
- There wasn’t a walkthrough tutorial in the app, but the paper instructions were fine, and Homekit setup was simple.
- For installation, you need to remove the existing deadbolt. Then, drill a bigger hole if your previous hole isn’t 2-⅛” (most are 2-⅛” already), install a new deadbolt latch, mount the front and back plates, attach the wires, and install a new strike on the door frame. It took 30 minutes from start to finish.
- The easiest way to lock is to tap the big Schlage button.
- You can ask Siri, use the Home app or the Schlage app to lock.
- You can lock with the included key.
- You hit the Schlage button and type in your 4-8 digit code. There’s no need to tap any other buttons afterward.
- Locking and unlocking is loud. It’s annoying and can be heard throughout the house.
- You can ask Siri to assist after your phone is unlocked.
- You can unlock with the included key.
Extra Stuff (C+):
- The app is messy, but you can make it work.
- You can create scheduled times for certain codes to work for specific guests. They don’t need to download an app, just know the code.
- Schlage Connect and Schlage Sense have the same functionality. The one minor difference is the keypad design, but the only major difference is that Schlage Connect can work with Z-Wave devices like Alexa (if you buy a $100 hub), while Schlage Sense works with Homekit out of the box.
- There’s an alarm that sounds when a forced entry is detected.
Outside Design (D):
- The keypad is not a traditional touchscreen. It’s more of a push-button display, so it works well with gloves or in the cold.
- It’s ugly and looks like an old-school keypad.
- From far away, you can’t tell it’s a keypad because there isn’t a screen and the numbers don’t light up until you tap the Schlage button.
- Other users have reported issues with moisture (from humidity or rain) causing the lock to malfunction. Make sure your lock has overhead coverage and don’t use this lock if you live in a humid climate.
Inside Design (F):
- It’s huge, ugly, and definitely attracts attention.
- There’s only one small screw to get battery access, but the battery case doesn’t slide out well because it’s connect by a wire.
#1 - (Grade: A)
August Pro Gen 3
- You only need a screwdriver to install it, and you get to keep your previous lock setup. The only thing you’re changing is the deadbolt lever on the inside. This makes August the most compatible and easy-to-install smart lock on the market.
- The app is well-designed and walks you through a 13-step installation with video gifs for each step. It took a combined 10 minutes to set up the hardware and software.
- “Auto-Unlock” unlocks your August when you arrive home, but this only works if you leave your home. For example, if your August looks while you’re hanging out in your yard, it’s not going to Auto-Unlock because you never left the geofence. You’ll have to use the app in that situation.
- The more secure “Auto-Unlock” method (if you’re HomeKit hub owner), is to create an automation to unlock the door when you arrive home. The notification is waiting for you when you get to the door and you tap one button on your phone to unlock. You don’t open any apps.
- You can unlock in the August app, Home app, or the Apple Watch app.
- You can use Siri after your phone is unlocked.
- You can unlock with your original key.
- You can buy the optional August Keypad for $50 and create entry codes.
Inside Design (B):
- It sticks out from the door more than the others, but it’s unobtrusive and doesn’t take up much space.
- It looks futuristic, but it’s not as intuitive as an old-school (dumb) lock. Guests don’t know they can turn it to unlock.
- The magnetic metal battery is easy to remove but it’s not going to fall off on its own.
Outside Design (B+):
- You use the same external keyhole lock and latch that you used on your previous lock, meaning you get to use your old key.
- It’s discreet, so no one has to know it’s a smart lock.
- None of the technology components are outside. This means you don’t have to worry about temperatures, humidity, or rain affecting the operation.
Extra Stuff (A):
- My roommates struggle with shutting the door completely. DoorSense warns you in the app that the door isn’t shut. When that happens, it won’t use the Auto-Lock feature.
- You can do cool integrations with IFTTT, like turning on certain smart home devices when August is triggered.
- You can check the status of your lock when you’re not home if you buy August Connect for $50. Or if you have a HomeKit hub like Apple TV, iPad, or HomePod.
- You can grant one-time access at a specific time or recurring access (i.e. every Tuesday from 5-7) to anyone. Guests have to download the app and confirm with their phone number and email. It’s too much work for a guest. If you want to grant temporary or recurring access, it’s best to get the August Smart Keypad for $50.
- August is in the “hate” section for this category because I’m assuming you don’t buy the optional August Keypad. With the keypad, it gets an “A” because you can lock with one button on the keypad.
- There isn’t a way to automatically lock your door with with geofencing after you leave the house like August implies.
- You can set it “Auto-Lock” after a set amount of time passed since it was unlocked.
- You can lock with the August or Home app.
- You can ask Siri to lock.
- You can lock with your original key.
Which one is for you?
Smart locks aren’t for everyone and they’re not perfect. But they’re a must if you’re a parent who wants to track when your kids get home, someone who doesn’t want to carry keys around, or an AirBnB host.
What lock should you go with?
Schlage Sense and Connect are ugly and bulky. Even if you look past the aesthetics, the software is poorly designed too. Although, Schlage Sense is a solid budget option for Apple users because you don’t need any additional parts to control away from home.
While Yale Assure SL is beautiful, it isn’t an option if you only have one entry door because there’s no keyhole and the software is sub-par to put it lightly.
Getting the hardware right on smart locks is easy, it comes down to this: who do you trust with software? Old-school lock companies (Schlage, Kwikset, Yale) who’ve made hardware for most of their existence, or a company like August whose existence is based off of software?
You want August.
August is the easiest to set up, most compatible and smartest out of the box.
What’s the best August configuration?
You need to have control away from home if you’re getting a smart lock, so having August Connect or a HomeKit hub (Apple TV, HomePod, or iPad) is essential.
The August Smart Keypad is optional, but I highly recommend it for guest access, if you plan on using the “Auto-Lock” timer, or you want to lock the door with one button.