In keeping with the theme of our Everyman's Guide to Smarthome-ification, it's important to ask ourselves if a potential purchase is capable of solving a formerly unsolvable or just-plain-annoying problem. Voice-activated lights? Nifty, but not essential. A smart coffee maker that listens to Alexa? Interesting idea, but is it really worth the $110 price hike over a cheap Mr. Coffee? As far as quality of brew goes, most likely not.
Assuring you'll never be locked out of your apartment, on the other hand, is a worthy crusade. Thanks to the August Smart Lock, the prospect of an automated locking system you can trigger remotely is now within the reach of the average consumer. Formerly the province of spendthrift early adopters and folks with an extensive knowledge of carpentry, the world of smart locks has been broken wide open by systems like the August that bolt onto an existing deadbolt and spring to life in under five minutes. The future is now, my friends.
Installation is guided by prompts on the August app, which uses quick video-illustrated steps to help you remove your deadbolt's keyturn on the inside of the door, choose the correct adapter for the bolt (which come with the kit), and clip the August unit onto the door. A separate sensor adheres to the door frame as close to the August as you can get it, and you're ready to calibrate the system. Open and close the door a few times so the sensor knows when your door is closed, and that's basically it.
The app is stupidly simple to navigate. The home screen features a big circle that's red if your door is locked, or green if it isn't. An activity log indicates when the door has been opened or closed, and a user screen lets you "invite" contacts from your phone to access your pad. This is without a doubt the August's most bankable feature.
If you're running an AirBnB, hosting friends while you're out of town or simply interested in giving a friend access to your house for emergencies, offering remote access is as easy as setting the time and date of when they're allowed in and texting them an invite through the app. They'll need the August app on their end to use the invite, but the two friends I asked to water my plants while I was away for a week had no trouble getting it to work within five minutes.
Support for Alexa requires a bridge (ugh!), but getting the lock and the bridge bundled together ($250) provides enough of a discount to make the purchase feel ok. August works fine without it, but you'll need it to operate the lock at will from a location outside of your network, which is essential if you need to let the plumber in and can't count on him spending five minutes to install an app. If you're near your place and have your phone on you, however, the location detection knows you're there and can be set to automatically open without the bridge. This is clutch if you just want to walk down the block and don't feel like bringing a set of keys with you.
The main caveat to never being locked out again is that you'll need your phone on you at all times, so now is a good time to reflect on the last time that was. If it took more than a few seconds to remember, the August Smart Lock may be a worthwhile purchase. It sure beats schlepping a carabiner full of keys around just to get in and out of your apartment, that's for sure.
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