Review: Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt with HomeKit support
From its outset, one of the goals of Apple's HomeKit platform was to provide common ground for tying together a wide variety of home automation devices, even across different manufacturers — an important step to ubiquitous home automation in a world where many vendors have otherwise partitioned themselves off into their own proprietary ecosystems. Although many of the HomeKit-enabled solutions we've seen thus far have been limited to basic outlets and switches, new products — and HomeKit-enabled versions of older ones — make it abundantly clear how the platform is delivering on its promise, bringing "whole home" automation solutions that can integrate the best products, built by companies with specific areas of expertise. Few products provide as good an example of this as Schlage's new Sense Smart Deadbolt ($229), a high-quality and high-tech lock for your front door, made by the venerable company that pioneered much of the modern lock technology we use today.
Schlage Sense is an evolution of the company’s previous electronic locks, such as the digital Schlage Touch and Schlage Connect, and carries over the same basic keypad and lock cylinder design from those prior models, while adding the ability to directly integrate with Apple’s HomeKit system using Bluetooth LE. Sense comes in two different trims — Century (shown) and Camelot — with up to three different color options, depending on your choice of trim; satin nickel is available for both trims while matte black (shown) is only available in the Century trim and aged bronze is limited to the Camelot version. Schlage also sells a variety of matching handle set options separately.
In addition to the actual lock unit, the Schlage Sense package includes everything you should need to install the lock on a typical deadbolt-equipped outside door, including a support plate, strike plate, reinforcement plates, the deadbolt with three interchangeable faceplates for different mortise styles, all of the necessary screws, a backup key, and even a four-pack of AA batteries. If your door already has a standard deadbolt in place, you should be able to swap it out for Schlage Sense in about five minutes with nothing more than a standard Phillips screwdriver by following the installation instructions. If your door has non-standard hole measurements, you may need to make a few modifications; Schlage notes the required measurements in the installation instructions and provides phone numbers and online web page links that you can use for additional instructions or assistance in this case.
Once the lock has been installed and the batteries have been inserted for power, it can be used as a simple digital touchpad lock right away with no more programming required — two default user codes can be found on a sticker on the front of the user guide. Of course, most people will want to at least change these codes, and more likely you’ll want to get the lock working with HomeKit. As with most accessories, this is all initially handled using Schlage’s own iOS app.
When you first load the app, it should automatically detect the lock via Bluetooth and will then take you through the standard HomeKit pairing process of entering or scanning the eight-digit code, which can be found next to the default entry codes on the Schlage User Guide, as well as on a sticker on the reverse side of the lock. Once the HomeKit pairing process has been completed, you’ll be prompted to set a new initial four to eight-digit access code for keypad access. This new code automatically replaces the default codes found on the front of the user guide, and as noted below the code entry field, this also determines the length of any additional user codes that you set up later — for example if you choose a six-digit code, all additional codes must also be six digits. It would appear that the only way to change the length of user codes if you want to do so later is to factory-reset the lock and go through the setup process again, so this is something that’s important to be aware of when you’re setting your first code.
After you’ve finished the setup process, the lock can then be controlled via the Schlage app, Siri voice commands, or really just about any third-party HomeKit app. The Schlage app also allows you to adjust various settings on the lock, such as enabling or disabling the built-in alarm, setting an auto-lock timeout, enabling or disabling one-touch locking, and adding additional keypad codes. Up to 30 keypad codes can be set, and each can be configured to only work during certain times of the day or days of the week, useful for providing access to guests or service people.
Using Siri, you can issue commands to lock or unlock the door, or check the status of the lock, although there’s an extra layer of security here as compared to most HomeKit devices: issuing a command from your iPhone will require that you unlock the iPhone, even if it’s simply to check the lock’s status — a reasonable precaution considering that this can be used to control access to your home. However, as is the case with Apple Pay, the Apple Watch has no such restriction — provided it’s on your wrist and you have Wrist Detection enabled — so you can simply hold it up and say something like, “Hey Siri, unlock the door.” Further, even with the iPhone you can skip the separate Touch ID authentication step simply by initiating Siri by holding down the home button with the same finger normally used for Touch ID, which basically authenticates you to Siri in the process, allowing the HomeKit command to proceed without actually unlocking your iPhone.
Although the Schlage app doesn’t provide any HomeKit features, third-party HomeKit apps such as Elgato’s Eve app can be used to control the lock and set up timers and rules for it. Unfortunately, due to Apple’s current HomeKit limitations, as a Bluetooth LE device you can’t use the Schlage lock AS a trigger — so doing things like turning the lights on when you unlock the door won’t be possible right now — but you can include it in location-based rules or rules which result from other triggers. So, for instance, you’ll be able to ensure the door is locked when you leave home, turn off the bedroom lights or call up a “Good Night” scene, or have the door unlock automatically when you return home, based on your iPhone’s geolocation. As with other HomeKit devices, remote access will require that you have an third- or fourth-generation Apple TV to act as a gateway, and as it’s a Bluetooth device, Schlage recommends that Sense be installed within about 40 feet of your Apple TV for best results.
Schlage’s Sense is a worthy entry into the HomeKit space — a robust and capable smart deadbolt that can be easily integrated with a good number of other home automation accessories. We were definitely impressed with the quality of the locking hardware — which is what one would expect from a company of Schlage’s reputation, to be fair — and both the keypad and HomeKit integration work flawlessly. The price also remains only slightly higher than competing smart lock options, coming in at about $30 more than Schlage’s similar non-HomeKit Connect lock. There’s obviously a HomeKit premium here, but in this case we think it’s a reasonable price for what HomeKit offers. It is worth mentioning that the noise of the bolt motor is definitely noticeable, so that’s a small caveat for somebody who may be looking for a more “whisper-quiet” solution, but at the same time you’ll have no doubt as to whether it’s working or not when you call out for Siri to lock the door.
The design of Sense may not be everyone’s cup of tea either — aesthetically we somewhat preferred the much more discrete look of Kwikset’s Kevo Smart Lock as compared to the more obvious “smart lock” appearance of Schlage’s design, and one could make the valid argument that a keypad is a somewhat superfluous option in a HomeKit-controlled lock. But ultimately, the design is largely a personal choice, and the keypad does provide a useful option if you want to provide controlled access without worrying about having guests or contractors install an iPhone app. Further, Schlage provides a reasonable set of trim and color options, and with more and more people moving to keypad-based electronic locks of various designs, how much Schlage’s will stand out will largely depend on your neighborhood. Regardless, Sense is still an attractive lock, and there’s no doubt in our mind that the benefits provided by HomeKit integration outweigh aesthetics in this case.