August is a fancy lock that could make you ditch your keys

31 Comments

Credit: August

Updated: This story was updated at 4:50 to correct the story. The August lock doesn’t use Wi-Fi.

For most people it’s going to take a considerable value proposition to get them to shell out $250 for a connected lock. The question that connected lock startup August needs to answer with its product hitting shelves today is whether or not it’s worth it. After playing around with it, the answer falls solidly in the yes category with a bunch of caveats.

August, which launched in May 2013, can make it so you never have to carry your keys again as long as you carry a smartphone when you leave the house. And for iPhone owners today, you never even have to take your phone out of your pocket. You can also use the August app to grant access to people who’d you would normally give a spare key to and they can get in as well. It’s pretty awesome.

The lock connects to your phone via Bluetooth. Thus, you can use your phone to unlock your door. If your phone is dead or not on you, you can use your key, since the you only replace the inside portion of the deadbolt with the August lock. The outside remains the same.

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Your mileage may vary

But there are caveats. First is the big difference in how the lock works today for iOS users and Android users. Folks toting an iPhone get the benefit of being able to unlock their door using geofencing and Bluetooth, which means that it will unlock even if you don’t take your phone out of your pocket. Android users don’t have that feature for “another few months,” which means to unlock your door, you need to take out your phone and open up the app.

If your hands are full, this means you’re just as out of luck as if you had a key to jam into the lock, although at least you’re not having to carry around both keys and a phone. My husband, who has a keyless ignition on his car, would be all over this lock simply to eliminate some of his pocket clutter. I carry a small purse, so it’s not as big a deal to me. I also tend to forget my phone when I walk the dog on mornings when I don’t have a jacket, in part because none of my pockets are big enough to carry my giant phone.

And if you are like me and you tend to forget your phone, I’m going to recommend you don’t use the Ever Lock feature that August has. As you can imagine, the feature automatically locks the door after it closes. While I think it could be awesome for kids or anyone who wants to avoid inserting the key into the lock, I found myself locked out of my house because I stepped outside to get something from the garden without my phone. Of course, this is a function of where the lock is located (my back door) and me just not remembering that I had my lock set to automatically lock behind me.

SideView_072_FB.R6.1-F2And this leads me to another caveat. Unless you’re keen to blow $500 to $750 replacing all your locks, there are certain places the August makes more sense.

The back door is lame, because I wander out there all the time without my smart phone and rarely leave my house that way. I’d pop the August lock on your front door or your garage door, especially if you like the security of knowing your garage door is locked. Of course, if you do it inside the garage, you may not get the benefit of using it as a replacement key for people who need access to your house.

Unfortunately, I have a rare type of door lock that requires me to lift a latch before the door locks instead of a traditional deadbolt, thus the August lock won’t install on my front doors. Hence, my lame, back door location.

Additional features and the install

You can give guests and regularly scheduled people access to your home via the app using a schedule or time frame. You can also give people constant access, but they can’t give out keys. This would work for kids or maybe family members. And finally, you can grant people (like your spouse) ownership status and they can issue keys and control the app as well.

The different levels of access is a nice feature, although I pity the Bay Area housecleaner or dog walker who is stuck with six different locking apps on his or her handset because their employers all have different smart locks. And there are people out there who aren’t using a smartphone or even an iOS or Android phone. Those people will still need a key.

family-keychain

If you decide to take the plunge, or wait like I would for the Android support, then rest easy knowing that installing the August takes a Phillips head screwdriver and about 10 minutes. The instructions — from making sure you tape the outside of the lock before you take out your screws and providing the tape — are meticulous and easy to follow.

The lock itself is pretty freaking cool. I do wish it had an indicator light that showed if it was locked at a glance instead of having to look on my phone. There is a circle of green lights that glow when the lock engages or disengages, but it’s not always lit. I’m sure that’s done in part to save on the battery. By the way, that battery should last about a year under normal use, with normal being opening and shutting a door about 20 times a day.

Attention to detail

What struck me visiting the August team last month was the amount of physical detail that went into building the lock. This isn’t merely a connected object, but one that has to slam a bolt home consistently every day, about twenty times a day over the life of the lock. The deadbolt turn is a precision-made steel gear set made in Japan. There are a variety of mechanical redundancies and tweaks that range from how you remove the battery case (it hooks in with a satisfying snap thanks to magnets) to the design of the lock itself that will likely impress design aficionados.

In the August office are a row of test locks that are constantly slipping a deadbolt open and closed. Some locks have over 100,000 flips of the bolt so far.

In the August office are a row of test locks that are constantly slipping a deadbolt open and closed. Some locks have over 100,000 flips of the bolt so far.

everything from the packaging Roadmap event in November

Finally, because this is a lock, I’ll get into the security aspects of the product. August says that it uses the same communications technology used by financial institutions for online banking, and that it has worked on ways to mitigate false unlocks from inside the door. I couldn’t test this yet, since my Android handset couldn’t use the Auto Unlock feature.

I know that the firm had hired a security firm to try to hack the lock, although it hasn’t disclosed which firm it used. The registration process required many-factor authentication before I could authenticate my lock, although anyone who stole my phone could get access to my home if I didn’t put a passcode on my handset. However, I can also go to the August website and revoke my stolen device’s authentication. I’m comfortable with the security provided since my dumb locks can also be circumvented. This is a lock that provides the same illusion of security as most installed locks while adding more convenience, plus additional features that actually enhance your security.

In short, for the people who purchased a Nest, the August lock is likely the next obvious gadget to pick up. It’s beautiful, highly functional and changes the way you think about an everyday object by adding connectivity. The plans are to integrate the August with HomeKit and a few other programs, including Nest’s as time goes by. Sadly, because my front door is apparently one of the estimated five percent of locks that don’t work with the August lock, I’m out of luck for this particular stage of the revolution, but I will be sad to have it pass me by.

31 Comments

Jim Hogan

In the spirit of full disclosure and journalistic integrity, don’t you think it’s worth mentioning that your boss, Om Malik, is also a venture partner at True Ventures, where his close colleague and venture partner, Tony Conrad, is an investor in August? Your boss also runs the Giga Om conferences, where August just recently presented as the only invited smart lock company.
The scroll bar is limitless on the web, so don’t buy the “ran out of space” argument in not including other products.
Would have liked to at least see reviews on other products in the space as well: kevo, Lockitron, Goji, etc even if as a part 2 or 3 in a series.
See this more as an August PR favor piece than a meaningful truthful review of the existing space and products.
Or perhaps we expect too much from the press these days?

Syed

So, if I wanted to give guest access to someone, they would have to download the app?

Also, their website states that ever lock and auto lock features are in beta. Does that mean they are not available on the lock or simply buggy?

I am a gogi smartlock purchaser and they have promised shipping in November. If they delay again, I’ll most likely ask for a refund and buy august.

Avid Reader

According to other articles, August does NOT connect to your wifi network. It only connects via bluetooth to your phone, and through the phone to the service network. Is that correct?

Stacey Higginbotham

You are right. I have updated the story. I should have reread the specs, but my Wi-Fi went out during my install and it didn’t work until I restarted my network. But in retrospect, that was probably just my phone getting hung up.

mediagrunt

Wait, so you can only unlock the door from the inside electronically? So when you need to rush out of the house in the dark of night because of an emergency such as a fire or earthquake, you need to use your phone to escape? And pray that the batteries on both the phone and lock are charged? That’s nuts.

Stacey Higginbotham

You can unlock the door manually from the inside by turning the entire lock. It’s as easy as opening a normal deadbolt. Possibly easier because it’s easily grippable, which is nice for people with arthritic hands.

Stacey Higginbotham

I didn’t mention Lockitron or the Kevo, or even my existing connected locks, mostly because i ran out of space and wanted to focus on August. That being said, this is prettier than the Lockitron and the guest access feature isn’t available on the Kevo. Although that may have changed somewhat, since Kwikset/Kevo has changed the pricing on digital keys.

seizetheweek

Kevo now allows users to send free and unlimited Guest eKeys to recipients as well as Scheduled eKeys with day and time constraints for regular house guests like baby sistters, dog walkers, etc.

Matthew Stotts

Just adding the keyword Airbnb to this post for what seems the most likely and useful application – Airbnb renters of apartments with a single access point (door) .

Krish

Stacey, you could use it for Garage and derive similar benefit as long as your Garage door opener is linked to MyQ kinda Smartphone based system

Me

How does it compare to the Kwikset Kevo? The Kevo had been out for a while and seems like a comparison is needed.

RD

What happens if your phone dies/runs out of battery? Is there another way to unlock?

TS

Please have someone edit this before you post it next time. The grammar is atrocious.

Vlad Preoteasa

“In short, for the people who purchased a Nest, the August lock is likely the next obvious gadget to pick up.”

I purchased a Nest (Protect) last year. The pre-order was submitted in October and I received it in December.

In contrast, I submitted my August pre-order in January and have yet to receive mine. After checking in, I received this statement from them in, of all months, August:

“With thousands of pre-orders, it will take us several months until all pre-orders are shipped. Please be patient with us and look for an email from [email protected] within a few weeks.”

It’s mid-October and I’m still in the dark. This whole crowdfunding movement needs to be reigned in. How long is it acceptable to expect your customers to wait?

– Vlad

Stacey Higginbotham

I think as people experience these sorts of delays it will affect how willing they are to commit to a pre-order. I don’t do as many anymore, for example.

crunchynator

lol, same here. The credit card I used to preorder expires in January, and so they have until then to deliver mine.

pnosko

Given how insecure pretty much everything is that is connected, why would anyone want a soft-lock on their front door?

Stacey Higginbotham

Some people won’t. But the average lock is both pickable or breakable thanks to the wood it’s installed in, so I think it becomes almost a feature trade-off. August has done a lot of legwork on security and I don’t expect it to stop simply because the product is out on the market. But this is also an attitude that will change with time.

Matthew Stotts

Lock maker’s paradox – Any lock that locks can be unlocked.

Stacey Higginbotham

I actually have a Z-wave lock on my garage, which is tied into a home automation system. August provides more features, however in the guest access and with automatic unlocking. I did have the Z-wave lock auto unlock when a presence tag pulled up, but when that ran out of battery I just let it go.

Bob

Does it connect to a service or does it just connect to my home network and communicate directly with my phone? I have a big issue with these devices that I have to connect to a service to use.

Stacey Higginbotham

It connects to your Wi-Fi network to report it’s status to a cloud service. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth. So this might not be a lock for you.

TechGuy

Actually you are wrong. The August Smart Home Lock does not connect to Wi-Fi at all… It only uses Bluetooth LE to interact with your smartphone.

TechGuy

From August’s site: “August works independently of your home internet service.” So it does not connect to your home network.

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