It's cold outside and you're fumbling in your bag, searching with numb fingers for your house key. One hand grips your iPhone while the other rummages fruitlessly. If you had the new Schlage Encode Plus Smart WiFi Deadbolt, though, you could just tap your iPhone on the lock and walk right in.
Introduced last year during Apple's World Wide Developers Conference as part of the iOS 15 update, the home automation technology lets you store digital house keys in your Apple Wallet.
The system is simple. Once the lock is installed (I've installed similar smart locks--set aside an afternoon) and added as a new device in Apple Home (with a code or by using the phone's camera to read a HomeKit QR code) it can be registered as a Home Key. You choose one of two unlocking modes: "Require Face ID or Passcode," or "Express Mode."
While Face ID or Passcode means you must unlock your phone to unlock the door, Express Mode lets you tap or touch your phone to the deadbolt without unlocking the iPhone first. The lock also unlocks with a tap with your Apple Watch or an old-fashioned key.
A Schlage press release notes that even if your iPhone has seemingly run out of juice. the iPhone's Power Reserve feature (only supported on iPhone XS and above) may squirrel away enough power to still let you unlock the door.
The Schlage's new Encode Plus Smart WiFi Deadbolt also supports more standard smart lock features like the ability to unlock your door remotely for guests, or cohabitants who forgot their key.
It also supports access code entry and will let you store and customize (set usage schedules) for up to 100 codes on the app.
Smart locks can be quite a boon to home automation, but not all are alike. Those that support fingerprint recognition can be finicky in inclement (wet or very cold) weather. Others that scramble the numbers on a display can cause confusion when you least need it.
Schlage's approach, with a fixed number pad and a separate device (your phone) that you'll surely have on you, might be the right middle path for smart lock adoption. The only other consideration here is power. Smart locks cannot be wired, which means they use batteries for the sensors and to drive the motor that manually locks and unlocks the door. You will be replacing them on a semi-annual basis.
Still, who doesn't want to tap to unlock?
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.