This article was last updated by Digital Trends editor John Velasco on 8/18/2020.
Beyond physically protecting your home, smart locks are also preventative guards that can track who’s going inside your home — as well as leaving. Locks with fingerprint sensors can inform you if the kids came home within a designated time, while others can self lock if you happen to forget to do it yourself. There are even some that can automatically unlock themselves as you approach the front door.
Smart locks use your Wi-Fi, mobile apps, and popular voice assistants. Leading smart lock designs are also sleek and attractive, allowing the hardware to blend in with the natural features of your home. On the other end of the spectrum, smart locks are now more affordable than ever before — so owning one is only marginally more expensive than a standard lock. Best of all, you don’t need to be a professional to install them.
We’ve tested dozens of smart locks, so we have a recommendation that will work for every owner and every home.
Best smart locks at a glance:
Why should you buy this: This lock is sleek, secure, easy to use, and now works without a bridge.
Who’s it for: Those who want no-muss, no-fuss installation and functionality.
Why we picked the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock:
This latest iteration of the August Smart Lock breaks free from the bonds of its predecessors’ need for a bridge to operate remotely. Thank to its built-in Wi-Fi connection, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock connects to your home’s wireless network without the need for a bridge or other additional hardware.
Beyond that, it’s one of the simplest smart locks to install and setup. Plus, it’s able to retain your existing lock — so you don’t need new keys. What’s impressive is that the company adds in the Wi-Fi connection, while shrinking the overall size of the lock. It is 45% smaller in volume and 20% slimmer, making it a sleek little lock, and comes in either silver or matte black plastic.
In addition to using the app to remotely operate the lock, it supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. Meaning, it integrates nicely to just about any smart home platform. There are also some advanced features that make it a premier offering, like virtual keys that work on a set schedule, and automatic lock/unlock as you approach or leave your home.
Want to learn more? Read our full review of the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock.
Why should you buy this: You don’t have to worry about losing your house key because the Nest X Yale uses a keypad and no physical key.
Who’s it for: Those who want a smart lock that works seamlessly with Google Assistant.
Why we picked the Nest X Yale:
This attractive smart lock is a product of Nest and Yale. An elegant touchscreen keypad replaces the regular old lock and key mechanism, and the exterior surround comes in satin nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, or polished brass. The oval-shaped outside keypad is 4.59 inches tall by 2.59 inches wide, while the interior lock is 7.03 inches tall by 2.78 inches wide. Four AA batteries power the lock, and the batteries should last about one year before you have to replace them.
You choose a passcode (between four and eight digits) to unlock the door, and you can also use the app. Additionally, the Nest X Yale has an automatic locking feature that activates after a duration of time that you select, and it has a home/away feature that locks the door automatically. Google Home users can voice control the Nest X Yale. You can check the status of your lock from the road, lock your door when you’re not home, and add your lock commands to Google Routines.
The Nest X Yale is not the most feature-rich lock on the market. However, the features it has work well, and it incorporates very well into a smart home run by Google Assistant.
Check out our full Nest X Yale review.
Why should you buy this: This lock is extremely attractive and easy to use.
Who’s it for: Those who want a sleek-looking device on their front door.
Why we picked the Yale Assure SL:
No matter how smart it is, most people won’t be excited about a new door lock. Locks are functional, utilitarian, and often bulky. But the Yale Assure SL smart lock is different. With its sleek, smooth onyx face and small footprint, this lock is a stylish device that you’ll admire every time you walk through your front door.
The lock is perfect for those seeking a simplified yet elegant looking lock that, when paired with a Network Module, works with Apple HomeKit. You can tell Siri to lock and unlock your door, plus you can use the app to manage pin codes and receive notifications.
The device comes in brushed silver, polished brass, or oil-rubbed bronze and features a numeric keypad that illuminates when you press the bottom left corner. The keypad is easily visible even in bright sunlight or at night. When no one is punching numbers on the keypad, the numbers disappear, and it’s just a gleaming onyx facade. Overall, it’s an attractive lock that will make your front door better looking.
Read our full Yale Assure SL review to learn more.
Why should you buy this: Schlage is an established company with a reputation for excellent hardware.
Who’s it for: Those who want solid hardware with voice assistant compatibility
Why we picked the Schlage Encode:
Schlage has been around for quite some time — well before there was such a thing as a smart lock. But Schlage has now evolved into one of the best smart lock makers in the biz. The Schlage Encode isn’t just a beautiful piece of hardware, it’s also a device that works well with Alexa, as well as a wide range of other third-party applications, including Amazon’s Cloud Cam, Key by Amazon, and Ring security products. You can also use it with the Schlage Home app.
Read more about Schlage Encode Lock.
Why should you buy this: You’ll be able to generate temporary codes for guests who are staying at your place.
Who’s it for: Anyone that frequently rents out their home to guests will appreciate the vast options for granting access to the lock.
Why we picked the Lockly Vision:
Lockly already had a phenomenal offering with the Secure Pro, but its follow up takes it one step further. The Lockly Vision has everything that Airbnb hosts crave. From its ability to unlock via fingerprint, pin code, or even through a phone, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Guests that do plan on staying at your home or Airbnb residence can be given temporary key codes that they can punch into the touchscreen keypad when they arrive, which can also be made time-sensitive for additional security. Once their stay is complete, you can have another set of codes for the next guest.
Everything is tracked by the app, which can tell you the method that was used to unlock the lock — including if it’s the old fashion way with a key! What makes the Lockly Vision even more appealing is its integrated video camera, which allows it to act very much like a video doorbell camera.
Read all about the Lockly Vision in our full review.
Why you should buy this: The design is bulletproof, and you can unlock your door a bunch of different ways, from your phone to your finger.
Who’s it for: Those that want the most secure hardware they can get their hands on.
Why we picked the Securam Touch: The Securam Touch is not afraid to show off its powerful design, which is part of why we love it. The deadlock casing is wrapped in an impenetrable milled metal shell, and the bolt itself is stainless steel. Any cat burglars looking to swipe this bad boy from your front door will be hard-pressed to pry it loose. We tried to make it budge ourselves (with tools to do so!) and had zero luck popping it free. For those concerned about hackers hacking away at your data, the Touch boasts an additional layer of armor through its AES 128-bit encryption.
Setup was a breeze with the step-by-step guide in the Securam app (available for iOS and Android), and the Touch boasts an impressive arsenal of smart lock features. Users can lock/unlock with their phone, the keypad, the sleekly housed fingerprint scanner, or with a physical set of keys (keyhole is located underneath the deadbolt). We also love that the Securam app allows you to issue visitor codes to your guests and will log all entrances and exits through your selected door.
Hands full on the way out the door? The Touch will lock once you press any button on the touchpad. If you can’t even spare one finger, that’s not a problem, either. Once you and your phone are out of range, the Touch will lock automatically.
Why you should buy this: Setup is quick and simple, and the Wyze app is loaded with features and easy to use.
Who’s it for: Those looking to add a reputable smart lock to their home without breaking the bank.
Why we picked the Wyze Lock:
There’s nothing better than quick and painless. Wyze’s entire suite of smart home products — from lightbulbs to cameras — is designed for the DIY weekend warrior … and the Wyze Lock is no exception. Setup is just a matter of retrofitting your existing deadbolt. The Wyze hardware pops right onto the inside thumb latch, and install necessitates nothing more than a screwdriver and working Wi-Fi.
With the Wyze app, you can lock and unlock the door from pretty much anywhere. For those not looking to whip their phone out every time they return home, there’s Auto Lock/Unlock. Once configured, the Wyze Lock detects your phone when you’re approaching the door, unlocking it so you can step in and then locking it behind you once you’re inside. We also love the Simple Sharing function, which lets you grant guests access to your home and logs their entries and exits.
The Wyze Lock is now compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, which means you can lock and unlock your door from the comfort of your couch. Assistant control is also great for those of us who would rather do our on-the-go unlocking with the Alexa or Google Home app.
Read all about the Wyze Lock in our full review.
Why should you buy this: It turns any lock into a smart one.
Who’s it for: Homeowners that don’t want something that blatantly looks like a smart lock.
Why we picked the Level Lock:
Most smart locks don’t try to hide their hardware. From the outside, it’s easy to spot them on a door because of the digital keypads that are typically placed near the deadbolt or handle, which is why the Level Lock is unique in the space.
Instead of swapping out your existing deadbolt lock, the Level Lock merely integrates to an existing one — all the while retaining the original look and aesthetics of your door. That’s because all the components of the smart lock are tucked away, so that your door looks normal like it did before.
Even with all the guts hidden, the Level Lock can be unlocked with a smartphone. You can also set a timer for it to automatically lock itself, as well as setting up temporary codes for different guests and users. Best of all, it’s a breeze to install and can be done all in under 10 minutes. It’s one of the pricier smart locks, but you won’t find anything else like it.
Want to learn more? Read our full review of the Level Lock.
Research and buying tips
An old school lock typically contains internal pins, and when you insert the proper key, it puts the exact right amount of pressure on each pin and the lock opens. Smart locks are electronic, and they work using a keypad, touchpad, or other means; and they also work with your smartphone, so you can operate them remotely via Wi-Fi. To work, they typically have electronic parts like small motors and actuators, and when you unlock the device with your smartphone or through other means, you’re sending an electrical impulse to the device, as opposed to inserting a key and physically moving pins.
This depends on the smart lock you purchase and your DIY skills. Some locks, like the August Smart Lock, retrofit over your existing deadbolt, which makes them incredibly easy to install in about 10 minutes. Other locks require a bit more effort, but you can probably self-install if you’re handy with a screwdriver and hammer. The Kwikset Kevo Convert is an example. You’ll need a few tools, but you can get the job done in less than an hour. You just need to pop off your old deadbolt and replace it with the Kwikset Lock. On the other end of the spectrum, some smart locks, like Schlage Sense, have a more complicated installation process.
Smart locks typically have a corresponding app, which is compatible with Alexa, HomeKit, and/or one of the other voice assistants. This allows you to use voice commands like, “Alexa, lock the door,” or “Alexa, is my door locked.” To find out specific voice assistant compatibility, visit the manufacturer’s website.
As with any Wi-Fi connected device, there’s always a small risk the device will be hacked if the user doesn’t take steps to protect themselves. However, there’s also a risk that someone can breach or pick a regular (non-smart) door lock.
By taking the proper precautions, like using a strong and unique password and taking advantage of two-factor authentication when available, this can help to greatly reduce the risk of a breach.
Some smart locks work with a key and some don’t. Smart locks typically allow you to remotely control your lock via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Z-wave. So, you can operate the lock without a key, and perhaps even when you’re away from your home. Smart locks may also include a key fob, keypad, or fingerprinting system in lieu of (or in addition to) a standard key.
Some of the corresponding apps also allow you to issue temporary access (eKeys) to guests, neighbors, or work people who need to enter your home temporarily. This way, you don’t need to give them a tangible key and worry about them making a copy of your house key.
Some smart locks, like the August Smart Lock, have geofencing. If you set up the geofencing feature, it can detect when you’re nearby (or when your phone is nearby) and unlock the door when you approach. It can also detect when your phone has left a specific vicinity, and then automatically lock the door. You set this feature up in the smart lock’s app.
A smart lock can help you to prevent or grant access to your home, and it acts as a barrier to entry. However, few smart locks (few good ones at least) have cameras, and a smart lock doesn’t provide the same features as a video doorbell, which acts as a sort of digital doorman.
A smart video doorbell can show you who’s at the door, so you know whether or not you want to answer for that person. A good video doorbell can also act as additional security, catching suspicious activity on video and helping to deter porch pirates.
You can get a smart lock up and running with just the device and your phone. However, some locks require an additional network module or an added subscription fee if you want to have all of the features the lock has to offer. If you want to use your compatible smart lock with Alexa or Google Assistant, you typically just need any Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker. You shouldn’t require a smart home Hub with most locks.
This depends on the features you want. Do you want a system where the products all work in tandem? Nest does a good job of making its smart products work together. For instance, when you unlock your Nest X Yale lock, this can automatically disarm your Nest Secure security system as well. Do you want to focus on affordability? Your best bet might be to go with the older models or to mix platforms. You can still set up routines and control your devices via the Alexa app. Do you want Alexa-compatible products? Ring is a solid option. Want Google Home compatibility? Nest is a good choice. Again, it all depends on your individual preferences.
How we test smart locks
For the past several years, we’ve put dozens of smart locks through the gauntlet (ok, not literally) in our test homes. We test for things like ease of installation and quality of the product overall. We want to know whether a professional installation is necessary or if the average consumer can DIY. While having smarts is essential for a smart lock, the thing we consider first and foremost is whether the device features secure hardware that will protect us. We’ll admit it, though, we’re also on the lookout for good-looking equipment. After all, no one wants an ugly, clunky lock on their front door. We want something with a bit of aesthetic appeal, or at least options that fit various home styles.
Next, we test for functionality. We investigate whether the device works as promised. We determine whether it’s easy to use, even if you’re not a total techie. Scoping out connectivity issues is another aspect we consider. Software compatibility and restrictions (or the need for additional setup) is on our list. And, looking for battery backup or Wi-Fi outage protection factors into the evaluation equation. After all, getting locked out of your “smart” house is a huge drag.
One final thing we look for is the smart home piece, which often comes in the form of an app. We decide whether the app works the way it promises. User-friendliness is a consideration, as is the layout. Voice assistant compatibility is a helpful feature – and so is pairing with smart home hubs. We want to know whether we can unlock the door with voice commands, or if specific keycodes are required in-app.
After all of that, we take a hammer and try to hack off the lock. Ok, not really, but we let the locks weather the elements over time to make sure that they’re tamper-proof, waterproof, or whatever-proof they claim to be.