August Smart Lock (3rd gen) review
August has been at the forefront of home security for several years, impressing consumers with two generations of smart and secure door locks that integrate with third-party devices and work with Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. So, it was no surprise to hear that the company was gobbled up by security giant Assa Abloy, owners of Union, Yale and other well-known brands.
August’s family of Smart Home products include the Smart Lock Pro, the August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge, and August Doorbell Cam Pro. Today we take a look at August’s new entry-level smart lock.
We first met the August Smart Lock back in 2014 and found it to be attractive, secure and easy to install. Packed with technology and priced at $249, this debut model felt like quite the investment, with a chunky, circular design that worked well on solid doors but was less successful on glazed designs.
This iteration of the August Smart Lock arrives with a lower price of $149 (you can often find it on sale for cheaper), sporting a new, slinkier industrial design at 4.8 inches high and 2.6 inches wide with many of the same features as its predecessor. Like that model, it fits over the interior side of your existing deadbolt and includes a traditional thumb turn to lock and unlock the door.
We admired the original August Smart Lock from afar, but were put off by its size. The new design is a revelation. Its slimmer, but taller, profile works much better on doors with integrated glazed panels and retains all the build quality of the original.
August Smart Lock supports an impressive array of features.
You can choose to partner lock with the August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge, available separately at $79 for remote access and enhanced smart device integration. Otherwise, the August Smart Lock supports an impressive array of features.
In addition to auto-unlock, smartphone control, and virtual keys found on the first model is a new feature called DoorSense. An integrated sensor can tell whether your door is open or closed. That may sound basic, but it allows the August Smart Lock to monitor how long the door has been open, automatically lock the door when it closes, and alert you if it opens accidentally or if it’s forced open by someone else.
The new generation locks are also equipped with a new Bluetooth chipset which boosts battery life, the company tells us.
Smooth, simple and seamless installation
August boasts an average installation time of just 15 minutes thanks to an innovative design and step-by-step guidance through the process. Despite being less than half the price of the Smart Lock Pro, it’s pleasing to see that August hasn’t scrimped on the Smart Lock’s impressive user experience.
Unlike competing locks, which require you to completely replace your existing door lock, August Smart Locks install over a standard deadlock on the interior of the door. As the exterior door hardware stays in place, you also get to use your traditional door keys as a backup. So, there’s no need to cut new keys for extended family, and you can choose to provide digital or traditional access to the home depending on your guest’s technical aptitude.Terry Walsh/Digital Trends
Much of the ease of installation is due to the care that’s been taken to guide users through the procedure. There’s nothing too complex here – if you can wield a screwdriver, you’ll be up and running in no time. The August mobile app (available for iOS and Android devices) includes step-by-step instructions with short video clips at each point that makes installation a breeze.
For the basics, once you’ve removed your lock’s existing rear turn-screw, you only need a Phillips screwdriver to secure a mounting bracket over the existing deadbolt. The main body of the Smart Lock clamps ingeniously to the bracket using wings that pull out, then snap in to fix the unit firmly to the back of your door.
The locks work with deadbolts from a wide selection of manufacturers thanks to three color-coded plastic adapters included in the box. The app guides you to the correct adapter to use, although in our case it pointed us to the wrong color for our Weiser deadbolt. A quick check of the deadbolt shape and we were able to switch from the green adapter to the correct option – a minor black mark in an otherwise beautifully designed experience.
It’s pleasing to see that August hasn’t scrimped on the Smart Lock’s impressive user experience.
If you wish to take advantage of August’s DoorSense feature, you’ll need to install an additional sensor, which is included in the box. The neatest option requires a little drilling, allowing you to flush mount the sensor in the door frame opposite the lock. If that sounds like too much hassle, you can simply screw it (or stick it) into the front face of the frame. Not as pretty, but the August Smart Lock won’t complain. Damage-free installation ensures the August Smart Lock is a great option for renters as well as homeowners.
For those concerned about hooking up their front door to the Internet, be assured that August takes online security seriously. You must include a photo when configuring your account to ensure easy visual verification when sending virtual keys. There are also two separate forms of identity verification required during setup. First, a code is sent to your mobile phone via SMS, then a second is sent to your email address.
With the account configured, your phone scans for a Bluetooth connection with the lock and, once found, will run through a quick lock calibration. This guided procedure requires you to lock and then unlock the door, allowing the lock to sense the deadbolt position with each step.
If you’re calibrating DoorSense, you then open the door fully, leave the door slightly ajar and then close to complete calibration. A quick test of the lock with a tap of the screen and you’re done. As out-of-the-box experiences go, it’s buttery smooth.
Once fitted, connected and configured, we found the August Smart Lock to operate smoothly. Manual turns are easy, with just enough resistance to create a feeling of weight and quality despite there being absolutely no change to the actual deadlock. However, automatic turns of the deadbolt were noisier than we’d like, sounding less refined than the Smart Lock Pro. As a plus point, it means that you’ll certainly hear when the lock is active from around the home. But additional noise insulation would have made for a better experience.
Well organized app with smart, automated features
August’s neatly organized smartphone app is easy to use, with a huge button facilitating a one-tap lock or unlock of your door. When the door is locked, the button turns bright red. When open, it switches to green. It’s the kind of simplicity busy householders deserve from their smart home kit.
The Bluetooth-connected August Smart Lock requires you to be in reasonably close proximity (a few feet away maximum) for control, while there’s no restriction if you add the August Connect Wi-Fi bridge (which we did and found it to be similarly easy to install). If you have a data connection, wherever you are, you’re good to go.
Manual controls work well, but of course, it’s August’s automated features that really elevate these locks above traditional competitors like Yale and Kwikset. The great news is that you’re in control of the magic, with configuration settings that allow you to enable only those features with which you’re comfortable. While many of these features are available out of the box, we’d recommend investing in the August Connect Wi-Fi bridge for full automation.
Taking a leaf from vehicle locks, one feature enables your door to be automatically secured when it’s unlocked but not opened within a specified time limit.
With the Connect bridge installed, the August Smart Lock also supports automated unlocking when you arrive home – a blessing when you’re carrying the groceries or simply can’t be bothered fishing around for your keys. We’ve seen some users reporting difficulty with this feature in the past – it’s partially dependent on your phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth implementation, so mileage may vary. That said, we found the feature worked well with both Android and iOS phones.
Adding other users to the lock is also simple, with defined access levels restricting the use of certain features such as Auto-Unlock and other settings for guests. Guest accounts can be enabled for a one-off, temporary period or a recurring schedule, so arranging access for the cleaner or babysitter is quick and reasonably simple.
Once you’ve configured access, an activity log keeps a record of who is accessing the lock each day, while smart notifications can be configured to alert you specific events.
Comprehensive third-party smart home integrations but stilted voice control
With integrated support for Bluetooth Smart, the entry-level August Smart Lock plays together with a selection of smart home devices, but for extended compatibility, you’ll need the August Connect Wi-Fi bridge. Alongside the ability to monitor and control the lock from any location (with data service, that is) the bridge opens access to voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant and extends the range of available third-party integrations.
Best of all, the August Smart Lock is simple to install and very easy to use
It means, for example, that when you lock the door to leave for work, you’ll be asked if you want to set your Nest Learning Thermostat to its Away mode, reducing heating bills. Hook ups with Airbnb and HomeAway allows rental owners to send virtual keys to guests post-booking, support 24-hour check-in, and notifications when your guests have vacated the premises. You can then issue the cleanup crew another virtual key so they can prep the property for the next arrival.
Voice integration, at this point, is less polished than other aspects of the August experience. Integration with Google Assistant, for example, was smooth but as a connected service, you’re forced to say, “OK Google, let me talk to August” before you can access lock controls. You can check the status of your locks and lock an unlocked door. The features available work reasonably well and, in these early days of voice control, the experience can only get better over time. But right now, it’s the one aspect of life with August that feels a little clunky.
Otherwise, August remains a class act. This smaller-profile Smart Lock design looks great, retaining the quality finish of previous generations, in a sleeker form-factor and lower price point. The addition of the DoorSense feature boosts intelligence and usefulness, without adding complexity, but you’ll need to spend a little extra on August Connect to maximize smart controls.
Best of all, the August Smart Lock is simple to install and very easy to use, thanks to a perfectly-implemented user experience that combines a first-class hardware and software design with practically flawless execution.
August Smart Locks are supported by a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and 1-year limited warranty.
With new features, greatly improved styling, and a lower price point for this entry-level model, the August Smart Lock is fantastic addition to any home. You’ll need to spend an additional $79 on the August Connect Wi-Fi bridge to maximize smart lock control, but even without these enhancements, the August Smart Lock is a compelling proposition.
Is there a better alternative?
The $249 Kwikset Kevo is worth a look, but is significantly more expensive than August’s entry-level lock, is more complicated to install, and offers fewer features. Right now, this new generation August Smart Lock is top of the heap.
How long will it last?
August continues to refine its smart lock range, adding new features and connectivity options. That development is likely to continue, but picking up the August Connect Wi-Fi bridge should futureproof your investment for some time to come. At this point, we do not know how the Assa Abloy acquisition of August Home will impact the existing product range, but you should expect warranty coverage and support to be unaffected.
Should you buy it?
If you’re in the market for a smart lock, you can stop searching now. But before you dive in, consider whether you really need Z-Wave Plus support. While the premium August Smart Lock Pro offers the most comprehensive range of connectivity, many homes will be just fine with the entry-level Smart Lock, paired with the August Connect bridge.
Updated June 2018 to include information about August’s partnership with Airbnb and to add a link to Digital Trends’ review of the August Smart Lock Pro.