August Smart Lock Pro Review: Part 1 | Digitized House

Guide to the Connected Home

August Smart Lock Pro Review: Part 1

August Smart Lock Pro Review: Part 1
Our testing setup for the August Smart Lock Pro. Image: Digitized House.
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August Home, as a pioneer in the smart door lock genre, continues to add versatility and diversity to their connected home platform. We have been testing the 3rd generation of the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect Wi-Fi Bridge over the past few months, and in this review we will cover the ins and outs of these locks and how they work with the August app, Apple Watch, and Apple HomeKit.

But that’s not all. In a forthcoming follow-on article, we will delve into the recently announced hub-less integration with Samsung SmartThings, as well as how they work with the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant ecosystems.

August also announced a new product at CES 2020, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock, which has an onboard Wi-Fi radio—obviating the need for the Connect Wi-Fi Bridge. This lock has a form factor similar to the August Smart Lock Pro, albeit in a smaller package. It will come in at a lower price point ($149 suggested retail). We will take a deep look at this lock once it begins shipping in early 2020.

Read on for the details of our in-depth look at the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect.

Your Smart Lock Decision: Keyed, Keyless, or Hybrid?

Looking for a well-connected smart door lock? The August Smart Lock Pro has all the boxes checked, including Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Z-Wave, and more. Image: Digitized House.
Looking for a well-connected smart door lock? The August Smart Lock Pro + Connect has all the boxes checked, including Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and more. Image: Digitized House.

There are several schools of thought on smart door locks. These include keyed, keyless, various types of hybrids using keypads with and without keys, some with physical near-field communications (NFC) keys, and still other alternatives.

August is firmly in the camp (at least so far) with keyed locks, where the August Smart Lock Pro module essentially replaces the interior thumbturn portion of a standard compatible deadbolt, while retaining the exterior deadbolt hardware and functionality of the existing keys. The door can then be accessed by using the August app, auto-unlocking via smartphone geo-fencing, Apple HomeKit, Apple Siri, Apple Watch, or the physical key. Additionally, the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect can be controlled through Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Yet, still more control options are available with the August Smart Lock Pro, including the forthcoming direct SmartThings integration and compatibility with Z-Wave systems. And then there is the option to control them from a big-screen TV, including the Samsung SmartThings app on the Samsung line of QLED TVs.

Yes, the options can be dizzying, but we’ll help you work through them.

August Smart Lock Pro Review: Out of the Box

Heavy metal: The August Smart Lock Pro lock module is a hefty piece. Image: Digitized House.
Heavy metal: The August Smart Lock Pro lock module (left) is a hefty piece. The Connect bridge (right) plugs into a nearby outlet. Image: Digitized House.

Available in dark grey (like our test unit) or silver finishes, the August Smart Lock Pro lock module is a solid, hefty piece of hardware—a fact you will immediately notice as you lift it out of its recyclable packaging. Crafted from aluminum alloy, the lock exudes quality with its knurled body, machined quick-release mount (with tool-less wing latches), and magnetic faceplate/battery cover. A set of four Duracell AA batteries power the lock and are included in the box.

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August Smart Lock Pro + Connect Wi-Fi Bridge (3rd generation, Dark Grey)

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August Smart Lock Pro + Connect Wi-Fi Bridge (3rd generation, Silver)

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As these smart locks directly replace the interior thumbturn portion of a standard single-cylinder U.S. deadbolt, they are not compatible with handlesets which have integrated deadbolts or doors with integrated multi-point locksets. August has a comprehensive compatibility list on their website.

The entire contents of the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect kit. Image: Digitized House.
The entire contents of the August Smart Lock Pro + Connect kit. Image: Digitized House.

You won’t find much in the way of mounting hardware in the box. What you do get are a metal mounting plate, three plastic lock adapters, and an adhesive strip used to secure the keyed portion of the existing deadbolt during installation. The August DoorSense sensor is also included, which can be installed to detect when a door is left open or ajar.

Since we were testing the August Smart Lock Pro with the Connect Wi-Fi Bridge, the bridge was also included. The Connect bridge plugs directly into any standard U.S. electrical outlet.

A set of four AA batteries power the August Smart Lock Pro and reside behind the magnetic faceplate. A cast metal mounting plate attaches to the door. Image: Digitized House.
A set of four AA batteries power the August Smart Lock Pro and reside behind the magnetic faceplate. A cast metal mounting plate attaches to the door. Image: Digitized House.
The reverse side of the lock body, revealing its metal construction. The mounting plate is adjustable to match the spacing of the mounting screws in the original deadbolt. Image: Digitized House.
The reverse side of the lock body, revealing its metal construction. The mounting plate is adjustable to match the spacing of the mounting screws in the original deadbolt. Image: Digitized House.

August Smart Lock Pro Review: Installation and Setup

If you are looking for a stealth installation, the August Smart Lock Pro will get you there: there are no smart lock components visible from the outside. That also means installation is quite straightforward, with no need to route wires through the deadbolt hole or install and configure keypads (though August does offer their wireless Smart Keypad as an accessory).

We won’t go into excruciating detail on the installation here. But, here are the steps to get to a functional state.

Hardware Installation

You’ll need a Philips screwdriver to install the smart lock. Once that is in hand, proceed to the following steps.

  • Secure the keyed exterior side of the deadbolt with the supplied adhesive strip. This keeps the hardware in place while the August components are installed on the inside.
  • Remove the existing thumbturn assembly from the inside of the door using a Phillips screwdriver. Set the two screws aside for use in the next step, and store the thumbturn away for later use in the event the August lock is removed.
  • Place the August mounting plate over the deadbolt bore, and re-install the two Philips screws to secure the plate. These should be snug, but not over-tightened.
  • Select the proper adapter (see the August website for help) and install it over the deadbolt’s existing tailpiece.
  • Install the lock body by fully opening its wing latches, then centering it over the mounting plate and closing the latches to secure the lock.
  • Tap the August icon on the faceplate to open it, then install the 4 AA batteries and replace the plate.
  • Install the DoorSense sensor following the instructions in the August app. You can elect to do a surface mount next to the door frame (quite easy, using supplied screws), or a flush mount inside the door frame (more involved, requiring the boring of a 5/8-in. hole in the door frame—so you will need a drill and a drill bit).

That’s it on the hardware side. Now, onto the lock setup.

Lock Setup

The August app runs on both Apple iOS and Android devices, so to get started download the smartphone app from the App Store or Google Play. If you don’t have an August account, the app will prompt you through creating an account. Now, the app will walk you through setting up the lock.

  • Select the Set Up a Smart Lock option to begin lock setup. The app will begin scanning your network for locks, using Bluetooth. You’ll want to be close to the lock for this step.
  • After the lock is discovered, choose the house where the lock resides or create a new one, then tap Continue. The app will then proceed with registering (or pairing) your new smart lock with the app.
  • Calibrate the lock and DoorSense sensor by tapping the Lock and DoorSense button, then follow the instructions in the app.

At this point, the lock is fully functional. But to enable remote locking/unlocking and Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant capabilities, you will want to install the Connect Wi-Fi Bridge.

Connect Wi-Fi Bridge Setup

The Connect bridge integrates your August Smart Lock Pro with the local Wi-Fi network and the August Servers, while still using Bluetooth to communicate between the lock and bridge. Before setup, simply plug the bridge into the outlet closest to the lock. The August app will then walk you through setup. Be sure to select a 2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi channel on your network when prompted.

August Smart Lock Pro Review: August App

The August app. From left to right, the Lock Circle screen, House Settings, and Activity Feed. Image: Digitized House.
The August app. From left to right, the Lock Circle screen, House Settings, and Activity Feed. Image: Digitized House.

Once setup is complete, the August app will be all you need if you don’t intend to use any of the other Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or other third-party services with your lock. And that’s not a bad thing, since the app is well done. It delivers instantly-responsive access to basic locking/unlocking as well as activity logging, guest accounts, and advanced settings.

Security-wise, August employs two-layer encryption here for lock operations, using AES 128-bit and TLS technology.

August App: Keychain (Home)

Guests you invite for locking/unlocking privileges with a digital “key” may be puzzled with the home screen of the August app, which is called Keychain (not to be confused with Apple Keychain, the password management tool built into macOS). Here, on a “keychain” of digital keys, August smart locks and other August devices associated with an account will appear. Simply tell guests to tap one of the devices in their Keychain to control it.

August App: Lock Circle Screen

From the Keychain screen, tapping the house name will display the Lock Circle screen. In the most basic operation, tapping the lock circle will open or close the lock, with a green ring showing when the lock is open and solid red circle when it is locked. This works from the inside or the outside of the door.

As the lock circle is tapped, there is an immediate result at the lock, including a whir as the motor engages followed by a quarter-turn rotation of the lock body. While this happens, the deadbolt engages or disengages with the door’s strike plate. By default, the opening or closing operation will be accompanied by a chime, but this can be turned off if desired.

When the DoorSense feature is activated, the app will show a fragmented lock circle when the door is left open or ajar.

From the inside, the lock body can be turned manually to open or close the deadbolt—in much the same fashion as the original thumbturn. The lock circle in the app updates realtime accordingly.

The Lock Circle screen will also show how the lock is currently connected to the app. This will be either a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi icon, a decision the app will make on the best available connection.

August App: Activity Feed

For August app users designated as Owners, the Activity Feed screen can keep track of who comes and goes through the door, log all locking, unlocking, door open, door close, and door ajar events, as well as display other notifications as set through the app. These can be automated events, app control events, or even when manually locking and unlocking the door.

August App: Automation

Beyond basic operations, you may elect to enable the Auto-Lock, Auto-Unlock, and DoorSense features, as well as adjust the Door Ajar Timing. These are accessible by tapping the Gear icon from the Lock Circle Screen, which displays the House Settings screen, then tapping the Lock Settings icon.

Auto-Lock, when enabled, will automatically re-lock the door after it has been unlocked. This can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. This is a great way to ensure your lock always gets secured after coming home, but can also lead to lock-outs if you don’t have your phone on hand or physical key. Setting it to 10 minutes or so will help prevent getting locked out when unloading groceries from your car.

Auto-Unlock, as the name implies, can automatically unlock your door when you arrive home, without having to use the August app or keys. This is done based on your smartphone’s location through geo-fencing and detection of Home and Away modes. As you approach the door with the smartphone on your person, Auto-Unlock will unlock it using Bluetooth. The August app can send notifications as Auto-Lock is attempted and when you leave the neighborhood. These should be enabled for safety.

DoorSense, if installed during setup, can detect whether the door is open or closed and send the appropriate alerts. If you elected not to calibrate DoorSense earlier, you will need to do it here to get things working.

Door Ajar Timing can only be used when the DoorSense sensor is in place and calibrated. A Smart Alert can be sent when the door is ajar for the desired duration, ranging from one to 30 minutes.

August App: Guest List

For most homeowners, they will want to invite one or more guests to receive digital key access to the home through the August app. These guests can be invited based on their mobile number, or an existing contact (with a mobile number stored). Upon receipt and acceptance of the invite, the guest will need to install the August app to gain access.

Guest List settings for each user can be set to Guest (lock and unlock privileges only with the app), Owner (full access to all features and automations as well as lock settings), or None (no access). For Guest-level access, they can get Always access (7x24x365), Recurring access (certain intervals on certain days of the week), or Temporary access (time-bound with a start and end date).

Owners can easily adjust access privileges for any given guest from the app. Furthermore, all August accounts require two-factor authentication (2FA) as the accounts are activated for additional security.

August Smart Lock Pro Review: Apple Watch

The native August app (left) and the Apple Home app (right) on Apple Watch. Image: Digitized House.
The native August app (left) and the Apple Home app (right) on Apple Watch. Image: Digitized House.

For Apple iOS users with an Apple Watch, the August app on watchOS can be used for simple locking and unlocking functions. To enable Apple Watch access, turn on Show App on Apple Watch for the August app from the Watch app on iOS. Once enabled, launch the August app then simply tap the red lock circle to lock or the green lock circle to unlock. A corresponding status message appears as the lock circles are tapped.

For this type of direct August app access on Apple Watch, it’s not necessary to add the August Smart Lock Pro to the Apple HomeKit ecosystem. However, if you want to use Siri voice commands with your Apple Watch to control the lock, you will need to enable Apple HomeKit access (see details below). In that case, the August Smart Lock Pro appears in the Apple Home app on watchOS, and Siri voice access gets enabled.

August Smart Lock Pro Review: Apple HomeKit

The Apple Home app and HomeKit on iOS. From left to right, Home screen with active August lock tile, lock control screen, and Scene Settings. Image: Digitized House.
The Apple Home app and HomeKit on iOS. From left to right, Home screen with active August lock tile, lock control screen, and Scene Settings. Image: Digitized House.

With native, built-in support for the Apple HomeKit ecosystem, adding the August Smart Lock Pro to HomeKit is model of simplicity for Apple users. When we added the lock to our existing HomeKit testing platform, the entire process took less than a minute. This was done through the August app by selecting HomeKit from the Lock Settings screen and scanning the unique HomeKit setup QR code behind the August lock faceplate—that was it. We can only wish adding devices to the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant ecosystems were as simple.

Once the August lock was added to HomeKit, the lock’s tile immediately appeared in the Apple Home app on iOS, macOS, and watchOS. For basic locking and unlocking, a short tap on the tile facilitates immediate action at the lock—just as speedy as when using the August app on iOS.

With HomeKit active, Siri voice commands for basic locking and unlocking are possible. Furthermore, the August lock can be included in HomeKit Scenes and Automations (you will need a HomeKit Home Hub for automations, however). By way of example, we set up an Automation to automatically re-lock the front door at 8:00 PM each night.

Overall, Apple HomeKit access for the August lock is a shoe-in for Apple ecosystem users that prefer to use the Apple Home app and the Siri assistant.

August Smart Lock Pro Review: The Bottom Line

The August Smart Lock Pro is an excellent option for homeowners desiring to secure their doors with a flexible, automated, and highly connected smart door lock. The Smart Lock Pro is a solidly-built piece of hardware with a well-designed app, and can connect to virtually any connected home ecosystem out there. We highly recommend it, particularly for use with the native August app as well as the Apple HomeKit and Siri ecosystem.

Stay tuned for our follow-on content around how the August Smart Lock Pro works with Samsung SmartThings, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.

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Tom Kolnowski

Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.