Kevo Bluetooth Smartlock Review

2014-07-23 21.07.17

Back in 2013, Kwikset released Kevo ($219), a deadbolt created by Unikey that let users lock and unlock their doors with just their phone. This process utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE 4.0) to determine the location of your phone or a keyfob and whether or not it’s inside or outside the door. So far, the release of Kevo has only been compatible with the iPhone 4s and later because of the BTLE requirement. But according to their support page, Android development is currently underway.

Now connected door locks have been around for a while in one form or another, but Kevo was the first to incorporate Bluetooth into a standard looking door lock. There have been others such as Lockitron and Jawbone’s August, but these are still not fully released. I had originally backed Lockitron, but after waiting a year and a half for the thing to ship, I cancelled my order. The August lock is set to ship later this year.

As for Kevo, they have just released a substantial update. These new features include:

  • New Guest and Scheduled eKeys
  • Faster Lock / Unlock Speeds
  • Improved User Interface

Let’s take a look at the Kevo itself, then go into each feature listed above.

Installation and Calibration

When you receive the Kevo, it will come with the lock, 4 AA batteries, two physical keys, and a key fob. The package does come with detailed information regarding installation and the proper hardware if you are installing into a brand new door. Luckily, I already had a Kwikset lock installed on our door, so swapping out for the Kevo was completed within 10 mins – including a re-keying to use our existing keys as backup.

[kevo hardware gallery]

After you’ve installed the lock, you would download the Kevo iOS app. Upon launching the app, Kevo reminds you to enable Bluetooth, Location, and Notification settings before continuing. You must then sign up for a Kevo account. Once the account has been created, you are then able to add a new lock via the app.

[kevo app setup gallery]

When you create your initial eKey, it will be tied to your account and make your account the “owner”. Creating the owner eKey is as easy as popping off the back panel, pressing the program button, and gently touching your phone to the back. Once the lock recognizes you’re device over Bluetooth, it will create the eKey and you will be able to name your lock. You always activate locking by a touch. The outside lock is capacitive, so anytime it touches your skin, it will try to verify if you are able to lock/unlock the Kevo.

[kevo app calibration gallery]

Account created, eKey created, it’s now time for calibration. Calibration is an important part of the initial setup process. By calibrating your phone, the Kevo can determine if you are inside or outside of the lock plane. The app will walk you through the process of calibration and once completed, you will be given a success screen. I used the calibration process a few times to make sure that the lock knew when I was on one side or the other of the lock.

I tested the calibration by leaving my phone inside the house and attempting to open the lock. The Kevo recognized that my iPhone was not in the correct side, and would not open the lock. I proceeded to move my iPhone around to different location inside the house, and the Kevo always responded properly by not opening the lock.

Daily Usage and New Features

So how has the Kevo fared since installation? From day to day, I’ve found the Kevo to be very convenient.  You realize this once you put it to use in different situations. Walking up to the door with a handful of groceries now only requires a touch of the lock to being the unlock process.  The same for when my wife and I go out for evening walks. We no longer need to worry about having to bring our keys with us, and just use our phones. This means one less thing to carry.

You are able to give out up to 5 additional keys besides the owner key. You do this simply by emailing the person you would like to give an eKey.  After the inital 5, Kevo requires you to purchase additional eKeys. The person must download the Kevo app and then create an account just as I did for my initial setup. Once the account has been verified, the person is then able to lock/unlock the Kevo.

[kevo app key gallery 1]

Within the Kevo app, there are a few settings that can be changed (and should). You’ll first want to disable the sounds/vibration which is turned on by default.  Every time you lock/unlock your door, the Kevo app will make a sound like an email just arrived and your phone will buzz.   After a the first few locks/unlocks, I scoured the app looking for this setting and eventually found it. Not that it’s a bad thing, just a little annoying, at least to me.  With the preferences and security settings, you also have the ability to set a passcode for the Kevo app itself. This just adds another layer of security so that  a person can’t just grab your phone, open the Kevo app, and start causing havoc. With a passcode, the Kevo will still activate the lock without having to enter it each time as the app runs in the background.

Where the Kevo really starts to shine is with the new features available today, specifically scheduled keys and guest keys. Scheduled keys give you the ability to send specific eKeys to a person for certain times of day. Have a cat sitter when you go on vacation? Don’t laugh, we do. :-)  You would be able to send that person a scheduled key, say Monday thru Friday from 8am to 5pm. That person would only be able to access the lock during these times. Guest keys are similar, but only allow for 24 hour access. The process is the same as sending an eKey for an anytime key, a scheduled key, or guest key.

[kevo app key gallery 2]

Overall, the Kevo performed as designed. There were a few times where the lock didn’t initially connect to my iPhone via Bluetooth and the unlock/lock failed. A second tap always activated the lock. These instances were a very small number of times, compared to how many times we used it and I consider these failures a non-issue.

Conclusion and looking forward

In the end, you must ask yourself if the convenience of having having a Kevo lock outweighs the initial price of $200.  I have found over the past few weeks that this convenience and additional information of who is locking/unlocking our door valuable. The Kevo took the unique approach of using Bluetooth 4.0 as the wireless technology instead of Z-wave or other protocols. Bluetooth gives Kevo the ability of proximity compared to other standards, and this allows the lock to look just like a lock instead of having a number pad on the front. Really the only way you can tell the lock is different is when you actually touch the lock to have it light up searching for a key.

Looking ahead, Kwikset is set to release the Kevo Gateway. The Gateway will essentially allow you to control the Kevo from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. The Gateway will provide that bridge between WiFi and Bluetooth allowing for the additional features. I’m definitely looking forward to that!

12 thoughts on “Kevo Bluetooth Smartlock Review”

  1. “You are able to give out up to 5 additional keys besides the owner key. You do this simply by emailing the person you would like to give an eKey. After the inital 5, Kevo requires you to purchase additional eKeys.”

    Does this mean those 5 keys are like trial keys that once they’re used they’re gone or does this mean you have 5 keys to cycle among different people? For example, the cat sitter. Once the cat sitter’s job is done, can I take that key back and add it back to the bucket of 5 additional keys or have I burnt that key and it’s gone?

  2. 5 keys is a promo, normally it’s 2 “eKeys” that come with the unit. These are more or less permanent keys and they can be reassigned, are not lost – you’d delete a user and add another to re-purpose that eKey. Additional eKeys can be purchased at $1.99.

    The new “guest” ekeys are unlimited in count, but each expire after 24 hours. This is for the rare occasion my sister-in-law would leave her van at my place when flying out of Dulles (instead of Baltimore) or the random friend of your son who’s swinging by to drop something off.

  3. I have a keypad lock currently. It’s been the best solution of everything I’ve looked at. No apps, no phone, no key. Just a number I tell people. If they could add remote locking/unlocking and code enabling/disabling, I’d be all set.

  4. Elan,

    Kwikset and Schlage both offer a lock with keypad entry, along with Z-wave compatibility. With Z-wave, you could add these locks to a Staples Connect, SmartThings, or Wink hub for remote locking capability.

  5. My HOA wouldn’t allow me to put a keypad on the door, even if I wanted to… (but my neighbors have like a 12′ tall bird house, eesh).

  6. “A second tap always activated the lock.”

    A second tap on the door knob? Not sure what you’re referring to here.

    BTW, sounds great. Might pick one up. Nice job!

  7. The way it works is that you touch the ring of the deadbolt when you want to unlock or lock the door and, assuming your iPhone is outside the door with you, it’ll take action.

  8. I’ve looked at the zwave stuff, but I’d need a hub at least, too. Gets pricey. I do like the Lockitron. If that worked with my existing keypad deadbolt, I could be happy.

  9. I recently bought one, it only give you two ekey, you must buy extra at $1.99 but the guest key is free for 24 hours and I found it on clearance on lowes I paid 170.00 bargain shopper I am looking forward for locking and unlocking remotley.

  10. Interesting review for an interesting product. I still feel rather apprehensive at the fact that wireless devices could eventually malfunction, plus the fact that these gadgets are rather new, that’s another hesitation right there.

    But this post shows me that there’s promise for these devices. Who knows? Maybe in the future I’d find myself installing one for my door.

    Meanwhile, I stick to the traditional locks and doorknobs for now. :D

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