Schlage as a brand has been around almost a century, offering interior and exterior door knobs, handles, and deadbolts. And when it comes to home automation, they have been offering compatible products to consumers for some time. As such, it should come as no surprise they are one of the first in their industry to bring to market an Apple HomeKit compatible deadbolt. Let’s check out their new Schlage Sense device in this quick-look blog post!
As we head into the 2015 holiday season I’m reminded that just a year ago, during the 2014 holiday season, I purchased & installed a set of Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt devices in my home. You can read more about that upgrade to my two exterior doors in THIS BLOG POST. Schlage still offers the Connect devices, which works using Z-Wave protocols. To harness the full power of that Schlage Connect device you’ll want to acquire a smart home hub, such as the Samsung SmartThings, Wink Connected Home Hub, or the D-Link Staples Connect Hub. Those hubs bridge the connection between the lock, and your phone.
SIDEBAR: Stay tuned to my blog for a huge shootout coming soon. In this forthcoming post I’ll compare the Wink, SmartThings and Staples hubs directly against Apple HomeKit. We’ll also be testing other hardware, such as the Amazon Echo. Keep your eyes here!
With the new Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt kit you no longer need a smart hub to control your deadbolt. All you need is a newer Apple iOS device in order to harness the Bluetooth power of the Sense. But before we get into these new features, HomeKit accessibility, and software changes, let’s first talk about the hardware.
Unboxing & Installation
Having installed the prior generation Schlage Connect just a year ago, I found this new Schlage Sense to be a nearly identical device. Since the major change here has to do with the circuitry inside the device (see next section), this permitted Schalge to keep the exterior hardware mostly the same. For those of you who have encountered Schlage’s smart deadbolts before, this will all looks very familiar. They still offer two styles/shapes, and three different metal finishes.
For newcomers, don’t freak out! Believe it or not, the installation remains a very simple task, typically requiring only a screw driver. There are always exceptions, such as if you’re adding a bolt to a door without the necessary bore. Or if you need to increase existing hole sizes, drill new pilot holes, and so forth. But no matter how involved your particular install may be, the instruction manuals included with the Schlage Sense are very thorough, allowing even the most novice individual the hand-holding needed to make short work of the install. In my case I was swapped over to my new smart deadbolts in less than 10-minutes each.
There were some changes I noticed when comparing this new hardware to their prior iteration. For example, the new panel has a silver background, rather than a black one. The buttons still illuminate, and appear slightly brighter than before. But I preferred the old contrasting black-face white-light style, which proved easy to see in direct sunlight. But I will admit that the new silver color/design is a bit classier looking. Another smaller change is on the metal plate that installs on the interior side of the door. Though the shape and size remain unchanged, they’ve now stamped words onto the plate indicating door side, and interior side, making it that much easier to install properly.
To break it down and explain just how simple the process was (at least for me): there are two screws that hold the bolt into the door edge. The touch panel snaps into place from the front of the door, and is then retained with the metal plate and two screws from the back/interior. Then you attach the main brain which is held onto that metal plate with two more screws. Beyond that, you simply slide in and connect the four batteries, and you’re done!
Many folks speak negatively of the overall size of the hardware on the interior side. Though I agree it is larger than a conventional door lock, one must face the fact that the device needs to house batteries for long-lasting electrical operation, plus the smart electronics needed to make all the magic happen. If that doesn’t justify the size enough for you, try and compare this unit to others such as the August Smart Lock. Personally I find the August to be an eye sore, way too big in depth and diameter, and visually too bulky and industrial. My preference is the Schlage Sense which continues to provide a nice mix of contemporary and modern styling, and never looks out of place in any home. But to each their own…
Included with each Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt kit is a key, as well as two initial codes to unlock your door. You’ll use one of them after you power it on, just to make sure things work. From there you can program new codes directly on the unit with a third “master code” provided with your kit. But rather than dealing with manuals, and button presses, and sometimes “hard to follow” instructions, it is far superior a user experience to use your smart phone to control this bolt. So let’s do that!
Software & HomeKit
Schlage offers a companion app for your iOS device (iPhone, etc) to help not just lock & unlock your Schlage Sense deadbolt, but also program user access codes, and set other features or settings. As you can see in the gallery above, setup is a quick and painless operation. The device is automatically found using your phone’s Bluetooth, and in my case both devices ran through a swift Firmware update after my initial sync.
Within the app you can adjust settings for each lock individually, such as Alarm Mode. That feature allows you to configure the lock to beep when the door is open/closed, or sound an alarm during forced entry detection. Other settings include having the door auto lock after a set period of time, or choose if button presses on the outside panel beep or not. Having the ability to control this myriad of settings on your phone with Bluetooth on the Schlage Sense offers a far superior experience versus the old Z-wave device. But it is worth noting that you can still make all those same changes the old-fashioned way on the lock, should you desire to pretend you’re still living in 2009. (Or, gasp, for those people without smart phones!)
Your Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt has the ability to retain up to 30 unique unlock codes, and you have the option of setting them to a varying length of digits (4, 6 or 8), as well as when they can be utilized. This is great for letting your cleaning service, dog walker, or child into the home with simple taps on the outside touch panel. Overall the experience at the door is great, allowing you to use a physical key, or the keypad, for ingress and egress of your home. But where things get even better is when you start to use your voice.
Using Siri you can unlock and lock the door, thanks to Apple HomeKit compatibility being baked right into the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt. As you’ll see in photo captures above, simple ask Siri if the door is locked and she’ll tell you. Or ask to her unlock the door for you, as you’re walking up the driveway, and boom it unlocks! During my testing I tried both my iPhone as well as my Apple Watch, and it worked flawlessly when I was at home and within local Bluetooth range.
Where Siri continues to fall down is when using my Apple TV to remotely access my doors. The sis supposed to work such that I could ask Siri if I forgot to lock the door behind me, and she’d advise me. The only hiccup here remains that for HomeKit devices using Bluetooth rather than Wifi, your Apple TV needs to be within BT range of those devices. This meant that I would often get a reply back from Siri about being unable to perform this task. It is worth nothing this is not a shortcoming of the Schlage Sense, but actually the HomeKit platform itself. For example, I have the same issues with my Elgato Eve HomeKit hardware remotely, as it also uses Bluetooth. However, my wifi HomeKit devices such as the new Philips Hue Bridge, or my Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Bridge, work great away from home, over LTE.
If you’re an Apple user then Siri is no stranger to you. For Android users, or folks just curious, we’ll be talking more in my forthcoming blog post about HomeKit as it stacks up against devices like the Amazon Echo. At that point I’ll spend more time talking about smart home automation in a broader sense. For now I wanted this post to just focus on how the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt works, and what it brings to the table as a stand-alone device.
And in that case, whether you’re just getting started in building your smart home, or you’re a seasoned veteran, the Schlage Sense comes highly recommended. Like most of the battery operated deadbolts on the market it can be a bit noisy when it operates, but I love the ability to bark commands at my iPhone or Apple Watch. I’m a huge fan of the quality of hardware that Schlage brings to the table, where the unit feels safe & secure. And with a variety of styles, you’re sure to find a Schlage Sense that looks great in your home.
As we head into the holidays and the New Year there are sure to be even more Apple HomeKit devices coming out each day. This will allow even deeper integrations and automations, so stay tuned to my blog for more comparisons, reviews, and findings! Happy Holidays!