The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock Is the New Standard in Smart Locks

Gif: Gizmodo

Like a lot of people, as I’ve been stuck inside quarantined from the outside world, I’ve started to look for little home improvement projects. And when it comes to smart home tech, after dipping your toes in the water with smart lights or a smart speaker, a common next step is the addition of a smart lock. Unlike security cameras, smart locks don’t have the same sort of privacy concerns (cause ya know, no cameras), they’re easier to install, and because there’s no footage or data, they’re easier to manage.

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The problem with smart locks is that up until recently, many models lacked one or two basic features people usually want like built-in wifi, automatic lock and unlocking, or integration with today’s most popular smart home platforms. On top of that, some smart locks require you to completely replace your deadbolt with an entirely new system, which is often a big no no for renters or people who are part of an HOA. But with its new $250 Wi-Fi Smart Lock, it feels like August has created something that covers all the most important bases and put them in a simple package that works for practically everyone. And in a lot of ways, the Wi-Fi Smart Lock is setting a new standard that all smart locks will be compared to going forward.

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Installing the Wi-Fi Smart lock is incredibly simple, with the lock also being 45 percent smaller than August’s previous model: the Smart Lock Pro. Instead of needing to completely replace and throw out your existing deadbolt, August’s system attaches to the inside of your lock by removing the deadbolt’s backplate, and leaving the outside keyhole visually and functionally unchanged. That means anyone with a physical key can still get inside, which is important for landlords or service professionals who might need access in case of emergencies. Also, if you’re a renter, whenever your lease is up, you can remove the smart lock and replace it with the original deadbolt’s backplate, leaving your security deposit safe and sound.

The only tool you’ll need that doesn’t come in the box is a screwdriver (typically a Phillips head), so you can remove the bolts screwed into the back of your deadbolt. Once those bolts are removed, you can remove your deadbolt’s backplate, attach August’s included mounting plate, add on the correct adapter, and then using the locking wings on the Wi-Fi Smart Lock, fit the lock over the mounting plate and secure everything in place. That’s it, installation complete. If I hadn’t been stopping to document and take pictures during installation, I estimate I could have installed all the hardware in less than 10 minutes.

The free August app includes a very handy and straightforward step-by-step guide on how to install the smart lock.
The free August app includes a very handy and straightforward step-by-step guide on how to install the smart lock.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Now I admit there are a few more minor steps in the process, like putting tape on the exterior half of the lock to prevent the lock from twisting or turning as you screw in the mounting plate, but as long as you follow the step-by-step tutorial inside the August app (available on both Android and iOS), it’s really quite difficult to mess up. Despite my deadbolt not having any branding indicating which company made it, I was able to find the right adapter through simple trial and error. Out of the two adapters that actually fit on the cam, only one had nubs that pointed straight up and down when attached, which is what you’re looking for.

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From there, you’ll need to attach August’s tiny DoorSense sensor somewhere near the lock. August provides two included options: a small circular sensor that’s installed into the door itself or a small pill-shaped sensor that you screw into your door frame next to the lock. I went with the latter because you need a small 3/8ths-inch drill to create a tiny indent for the circular sensor, which I don’t own and because of covid-19, didn’t really want to run out and buy.

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Then, it’s just a matter of connecting the Wi-Fi Smart Lock to the app, first via Bluetooth on your phone, and later over wifi (2.4Ghz only), which gives you full access to the lock’s entire range of smart features. As its name implies, the inclusion of built-in wifi is the biggest addition to the new Wi-Fi Smart Lock. August’s previous Smart Lock Pro was Bluetooth only, unless you forked over an extra $50 for August’s Wi-Fi Bridge.

After registering for an account, you can then invite others and assign people as either owners or guests. Designating invites as guests can be super helpful in case you ever need to let someone like a dog walker or maintenance person in while you’re not there. Alternatively, if you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can always manually unlock the door remotely over wifi via the app, as long you have an internet connection. And thanks to the app’s built-in logging system, you can see a history of every time your door is opened and closed, and if it was unlocked by someone registered in the app, who did it.

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Also, if you ever lose power or wifi, the deadbolt still works like a good ole dumb deadbolt. It’s like the old Mitch Hedburg joke about escalators “There will never be an escalator ‘temporarily out of order’ sign, only an ‘escalator temporarily stairs.’ Sorry for the convenience.”

While I didn’t experience any issues with the auto-unlocking feature, depending on which Android phone you have, the Wi-Fi Smart Lock might be a little slow to respond.
While I didn’t experience any issues with the auto-unlocking feature, depending on which Android phone you have, the Wi-Fi Smart Lock might be a little slow to respond.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
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But the most useful upgrade feature for me is August’s automatic unlocking feature, which can detect where you are so that instead of fumbling around for your keys, the door will automatically unlock itself when you get close to home. It’s something you don’t really appreciate until you arrive home with four bags of groceries in each hand, and really don’t want to put everything down just to get inside.

That said, while I haven’t experienced any issues so far, I did run into a warning from August inside the app about auto unlocking not working properly on some Android devices. I reached out to August for more info on the issue, and August says that due to the way Bluetooth Low Energy is implemented on certain Android devices, there may be “some variability in BLE connection timing across Android devices,” which can cause auto unlock to happen slower than expected. August says it has been working on refining the app and improving connection speeds, and that it will continue to refine the process in the future.

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Illustration for article titled The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock Is the New Standard in Smart Locks
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Once you’re inside, the Wi-Fi Smart Lock also has an automatic locking feature, that re-locks the door after a specified amount of time (up to 30 minutes). Not only does this make it easy to prevent the lock from overworking itself if you’re having people over or whatever, but it also offers a nice sense of security, especially if you’re like me and once or twice forgot to lock the door after taking the trash out at night—a fact my wife understandably hasn’t let me forget ever since.

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The August Wi-Fi Smart is compact, easy to install, and has all the features that most people really need. And even though it has built-in wifi, it’s actually $30 cheaper than August’s previous Smart Lock + Wi-Fi Bridge bundle. Its app has a handy activity log so you can track every time your door open and closes, and it works with your existing deadbolt so it doesn’t matter if you rent or own your home. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is the epitome of what good smart home tech should be, it’s simple, it’s non-invasive, and if you’re looking to smarten up your home security, the Wi-Fi Smart Lock should be one of the first devices you consider.

README

  • The only tool you’ll need is a screwdriver to remove the cover plate from the back of your deadbolt.
  • For the Wi-Fi Smart Lock, August switched from two AA batteries to two CR123 batteries, which should last between three and six months.
  • Because of the way Android handles background apps, auto unlock may not work quite as smoothly on some Android devices, though August is working on fixing that with future updates.
  • The only thing the Wi-Fi Smart Lock is missing compared to previous models is built-in Z-Wave support. For that you’ll need to go back to the Smart Lock Pro + Wi-Fi Bridge.
  • Works with HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and the Google Assistant for voice controls.
  • The Wi-Fi Smart Lock will be available first in silver, and later in black starting sometime in the next few weeks.
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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

I know HOAs are piles of shit, but how would they have any say in what locks you use on your door?