Should I buy a smart lock?

Installing a smart lock can open up a world of possibilities

Until fairly recently, it never occurred to us that the simple process of locking and unlocking your front door could be made any easier. After all, the lock and key concept has remained pretty much unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

With the arrival of smartphones and wireless network technology, however, your humble door lock has joined the front line of the smart home revolution.

A hand opening a white door fitted with the Ultion Nuki smart lockCredit: Ultion
The Ultion Nuki smart lock

With a simple tap of your smartphone you can lock or unlock your door remotely, and sometimes you don’t even need to do that.

But would buying a smart lock be the right choice for you? How complicated is it to set up, and how much money are you looking at spending for a decent one? That’s what we’re here to figure out.

Quick look

A range of options for easy access

A smart lock is a device that either works with, or replaces your existing door lock to enable easy entry using a digital key of some sort.

Using modern wireless network technology like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a smart lock will enable you to unlock your door using your smartphone, whether manually through an app or automatically when your phone is detected in close proximity.

Many smart locks will enable you to use contactless key fobs or fingerprint sensors to gain access too.

Smart lock specs

  • Connectivity options: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC
  • Sizes: from slightly thicker regular door handles to fist-sized boxes
  • Keys: smartphone, fingerprint sensor, NFC fob, regular keys
  • Locks: regular lock types for multipoint and deadlock systems
  • Power: typically AA batteries

Pros

  • Hands-free entry
  • Peace of mind when away
  • Grant conditional access to tenants and tradespeople

Cons

  • UK’s unusual approach to door locks narrows options
  • Smart lock mechanisms can be noisy
  • Most systems rely on AA batteries

Cost

Pricing and availability

It’s worth mentioning at the outset that the UK smart lock market is very different to that of the rest of the world, which can lead to some confusion.

Unlike our European neighbours and our cousins across the pond, who tend to separate the door handle from the lock (a so-called ‘deadbolt’ system), we in the UK tend to favour more complex and tightly integrated multipoint locks.

Thankfully, there are a number of high quality smart locks that cater specifically to this country’s ‘lift-to-lock’ approach, including the Yale Conexis L1 (from £199), the Ultion Nuki (from £239), and the Blusafe Origin (from £275), all of which we’ll discuss in greater detail a little later.

Right now, we’ll summarise by saying that a basic UK-ready smart lock set-up will cost you in the region of £200 to £300.

Besides the cost of the hardware, you might also need to factor in the cost of installation. All good smart locks should be relatively simple to fit for a competent DIYer.

If you’ve fitted a regular door lock before and are comfortable doing things like pairing Bluetooth speakers or headphones with your smartphone, you should be fine.

Blusafe Origin Smart lock fitted to a black front doorCredit: Blusafe
The Blusafe Origin Smart lock

Alternatively, you can pay a qualified lock-fitter to come and do the job for you for around £100. There should be guidance on this from wherever you buy your chosen smart lock system, whilst some manufacturers (such as Yale) will offer ‘with installation’ bundles for your convenience.

You can buy smart locks directly from the manufacturer’s website, through online retailers like Amazon, or through popular high street stores (and their websites) such as Currys and Argos.

Just like any other smart devices, you’ll often find smart locks included in popular sales events such as Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day, so it’s worth keeping an eye out around such times.

Yale, for example, offered a healthy 25% discount on its Conexis L1 Smart Lock for Black Friday 2022.

Reasons to buy

Why you might want to buy a smart lock

I want to make it easy to get in when my hands are full

We’ve all been left fumbling for our keys outside our front door, arms laden with shopping, while the rain pours down. Modern smart lock systems will address this all-too-common frustration in a variety of ways.

Reaching for your phone isn’t much more convenient than reaching for your keys, of course, but many smart locks will be on the lookout for your phone’s close proximity (using GPS and Bluetooth technology), and will automatically unlock your door when you’re close.

Others will supply a dedicated key fob that acts like a supermarket tap-to-pay system, or a keyring button that works like your car remote. And a few supply an integrated fingerprint sensor like the one on your phone.

I worry I haven’t locked the door when I go on holiday

Ever gone on holiday and wondered if you locked the front door behind you? It’s a truly gut-wrenching feeling that can be filed alongside ‘did I leave the iron on?’ and ‘did I feed the cat?’.

Opt for a Wi-Fi-connected smart lock system (which most either are, or can be), and all it takes is a simple check of the related smartphone app for you to know for sure that your front door is locked. In the unlikely event that you didn’t lock your door, you can just hit a button in said app and lock it remotely, from the other side of the world if necessary.

Besides this remote monitoring peace of mind, many smart lock systems will offer an optional auto-lock facility that will automatically lock your door after a brief period of being left unlocked.

A smartphone being held up to a smart lock on a doorCredit: Shutterstock / RossHelen

I don’t want to hand out keys for my short term rental property

Smart locks have become very popular with those who rent their properties out on short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb.

With a decent smart lock system installed, you can grant temporary or conditional entry rights to customers, or perhaps offer a highly desirable 24/7 check-in window.

You can often add optional keypads to your smart lock set-up after the initial purchase, then simply change your code whenever there’s a changeover.

Indeed, some smart lock systems specifically let you connect your smart lock to your Airbnb account. This way, as soon as a guest is booked in, they’ll automatically receive an email with a unique access code covering the duration of their stay.

I want to grant limited access to a tradeperson

Perhaps you want to let your regular cleaner in at a set time each week. Or maybe you’ve finally pinned that in-demand tradesperson down to a specific date, but it’s while you’re away.

This is where a good smart lock system can help. It will let you grant conditional entry rights to your property for a specific time – a two hour window every Wednesday afternoon, say.

Smart lock systems will also log who has accessed your door and when, so you’ll always be aware of who is in your home.

Lock options

Three smart locks worth considering

While we haven’t tested any of these smart locks, we are confident the following trio come from reputable brands with a history of high quality products. They have also been well reviewed by peers we trust and respect.

Our smart lock picks

The Ultion Nuki is one prominent example of an integrated smart lock system that fits the vast majority of UK front doors.

For an up-front price of £309 it’ll supply you with an ultra-secure replacement for your existing cylinder lock, retain your outside handle, and replace your inside handle with one that mounts a small smart lock box underneath it.

It’ll also supply you with the Wi-Fi Bridge necessary to access your door lock remotely.

The Blusafe Origin Smart lock is another integrated smart lock system aimed at the UK market. It costs around £275, but it replaces both the inside and outside handles on your front door.

The outside handle is the key feature here, as it contains an integrated fingerprint sensor, which means that you don’t even need to worry about using your phone to gain entry – just press your finger or thumb against the sensor.

The Yale Conexis L1 has the benefit of brand familiarity – everyone knows and trusts Yale – and it has been on the market for a couple of years now.

This is the cheapest example of the three, and it’s also notable for offering both an NFC key fob and a key card as part of the package, which often require separate purchases. These extras let you gain entry to your home by tapping a keyring or a card against the outside handle.

Should you buy?

Should you buy a smart lock?

A smart lock is an excellent buy if you often find yourself struggling with full hands to get through your door. It’s also an excellent option if you often find yourself needing to grant access to your home when you’re not around, and would like some measure of control over the process.

Airbnbers should also seriously consider investing in a smart lock system, as they enable you to automatically provide digital key entry to your property for the length of the stay, and you’ll never have to worry about losing keys or replacing locks again.

If you don’t find yourself contending with any of these issues, then spending the hundreds of pounds necessary to buy a smart lock may not be worthwhile.

A key fob being held to a Yale Conexis L1 smart lockCredit: Yale
The Yale Conexis L1 smart lock

It should also be noted that it doesn’t really provide any particular security benefits over a decent physical lock, unless you happen to receive a superior physical lock as part of the package.

For sheer convenience and peace of mind, however, a smart lock is a domestic upgrade that’s hard to beat and unlikely to disappoint.

If this article has helped you decide that you want the convenience of a smart lock and its many keyless door access options, the Ultion Nuki (from £239) will get you the most secure lock and the least disruptive installation process.

Alternatively, the Blusafe Origin Smart (from £275) will get you built-in fingerprint access, while the Yale Conexis L1 (from £199) is the cheapest system and offers lots of access options out of the box.

Jon Mundy

Written by Jon Mundy

Updated:

Jon is an experienced freelance writer who has covered consumer technology for some of the biggest tech websites since the beginning of the iPhone era. He’s never happier than when he’s ‘testing’ a new smartphone camera in a nice restaurant or cosy pub.

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