August’s WiFi Smart Lock made my old lock new again
Once the new hardware is in place, the August mobile app takes over for calibration. You’ll have to open and close your door several times in locked and unlocked positions to ensure that the Doorsense sensor lines up properly with the lock. You can see this all unfold in real-time on the app, which displays a bright red button if the door is locked, or green if unlocked. There are also designations for when the door is ajar.
Unlike some modern flush smart locks or locks with external number pads, the August WiFi Smart Lock offers manual access that’s intuitive for anyone. The slight point on the outer edge of the smart lock acts as an arrow to indicate whether the deadbolt is open or closed. You don’t have to check the app to know the status unless you’re on the outside part of the door. But if that’s the case, you can pop in your keys and test it as if it were a manual lock or pull on the door.
That is one of the positives of using the August compared to some other brands: Your door can still be used like normal. I was constantly worrying about the batteries dying on the Nest x Yale Lock because then I’d have to find a 9V battery to jump start the lock before I could open the door. August managed to strike a balance by making its smart lock accessible to those who want to get on the connected gadget train but don’t want to institute an entirely new way of living.
The rest of the app is relatively easy to navigate. The simplicity of the interface makes it less overwhelming than the Nest app, especially when you’re managing multiple devices. The August app requires only a tap on a big, clear button to lock or unlock a door. You can also use voice commands with Siri, Alexa or the Google Assistant to lock a door or find out its status. Assistants can unlock the front door, though it requires setting up a code beforehand. Similarly, the August app has limited automation offerings, or Smart Alerts, which notify you of status changes. If you have more than one guest coming through for extended stays, you can offer them virtual keys to unlock the door with their smartphone or Apple Watch.
One thing I appreciate about August as a smart gadget maker is that it takes a candid approach to account security. From the get-go, August forces you into two-factor authentication, requiring you to verify it’s you through both a text message and email before you can login. Anyone who has access to your phone can still configure the smart lock, though. If you’re worried about someone getting to your phone, August offers an online portal you can access from your computer to disable the app and keep anyone from using the app’s virtual keys to access the door. By default, the app also uses Bluetooth encryption, AES 128-bit and TLS encryption.
August is known as one of the original purveyors of auto-lock and -unlock abilities, though it’s finicky with Android devices. On the WiFi Smart Lock, it’s supposed to perform the deed within 200 meters (around 650 feet) away from your home. I was only able to get this feature to work once on one of the two Android phones I tested with. There is a warning when you’re setting it up that alerts you to this particular caveat, citing the issue of how Bluetooth works on different Android devices.
I didn’t immediately consider how the lack of reliable auto-unlock would affect convenience since it wasn’t a feature available on my last smart lock. But as I approached my house with a baby stroller in tow, I realized what I was missing. It would be more convenient to unlock the door without having to pause outside and sync up software. At least with a visible keypad, I could type in a few digits to open. With this August smart lock, I have only been able to successfully do so by physically tapping into the app or using my keys. I did find a workaround to ask the Google Assistant to unlock the door for me, but I have to say my PIN aloud to make it happen. Even in times of social distancing, I don’t feel comfortable doing that for fear of eavesdropping.
Inconveniences aside, except for a bit of indentation left from the former lock plate, there was minimal disruption to the original look and feel of my front door. I appreciate that the August WiFi Smart Lock didn’t require overhauling a part of the house that partially inspired my moving into it. I’m personally opposed to dealing with a smart gadget requiring a significant install, like some brands of smart blinds or the Brilliant smart control panel. The August WiFi Smart Lock is a bit more subtle, and it’s accessible to anyone comfortable wielding a screwdriver.
The August WiFi Smart Lock’s $230 price point might seem a bit steep for a smaller lock unit and the added convenience of always-on WiFi connectivity. But by comparison, it’s $50 less than the Nest x Yale Smart Lock and some of the other highly rated smart locks and doesn’t require the separate WiFi connector as many other models do in this price range. August also has a better track record with security vulnerabilities compared to other affordable smart lock brands.
I wanted a smart lock to know if the door is locked at night when we’re upstairs, and I wanted something that would match my 1970s front door. The August WiFi Smart Lock almost hits all the marks. The only thing it’s missing is the true ease of being able to remotely unlock your door. Hopefully, the auto-unlock feature becomes more stable for Android users like me by the time we’re allowed to leave the house again.