SwitchBot Lock review: A smart lock with seven ways to unlock your door

The $99 SwitchBot Lock is the first smart door lock I’ve tested that doesn’t replace any part of your existing lock. Instead, it attaches to the back of your door above the thumb loop. This removes a major problem of smart locks: complicated installation. But the SwitchBot Lock is really weird – my husband literally stopped dead and said, “What is this?” I had a similar reaction when I first saw it and was completely unconvinced that this big black piece of plastic would have the power to unlock my deadbolt.

I was surprised to find that the SwitchBot Lock moves that thumbturn as well as possible, and it stayed firmly in place during my two weeks of testing, despite being attached only by double-sided tape. (No word yet on long-term durability, but it looks promising so far).

The downsides are that it’s not very smart and lacks a few key features (haha). You also need about $70 accessories to add smart home control and a keypad. That brings it closer to the price of more elegant solutions, such as the $230 August Wi-Fi Smart Lockwhich takes a bit more work to install but doesn’t leave you with a big chunk of honking plastic on your door.

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The SwitchBot Lock is a Bluetooth powered smart door lock that can lock and unlock your door using the SwitchBot app on a smartphone or Apple Watch. (It’s not Home key compatible). It attaches to your door using 3M VHB tape and uses a small plastic clip to hold and turn the thumbturn of the lock.

This grappling hook can turn anything. Videos in Amazon Reviews even show it off with the turn of a key, making it a great solution for people with non-traditional door locks and multi-point locks that can’t operate any other smart lock (see a list here). It is smartly designed with movable base plates that prevent the lock from unscrewing while turning the lock.

That’s SwitchBot’s thing: making ordinary devices smart. They have one little robot that flips your switch for you and a robot that crawls along your curtain rod to open and close the curtains. This one is a robot hand for your door lock. It comes with three adapters of different sizes, so you can find the one that best suits your setup. The SwitchBot Lock doesn’t remove any functions β€” you can still use your key, and you can still turn the deadbolt manually; it just adds the ability to use your phone or watch as a key.

The Keypad Touch adds a fingerprint reader for another way to unlock your door.

There are a total of seven ways to control the door lock: your key, the smartphone/Apple Watch app, NFC tags using your phone, a key code using a keypad, a fingerprint reader, an NFC key card and smart home/voice control. . That’s a lot of options – although only the first three work out of the box.

The keypad and the door lock.

For key card, keypad or fingerprint entry you will need one of the SwitchBot’s two Bluetooth keyboards. These attach with double sided tape (or screws if you prefer). I tested the fingerprint version, which costs $60, and it worked quickly and reliably.

The non-fingerprint version is only $30, but fingerprint access is my favorite way to use a smart door lock. The keypads also work with NFC key cards. (One is provided and you can purchase a three-pack for $15.) Although, if you have a keypad, I don’t see the need for a keycard, as you can distribute permanent, temporary, and one-time codes to anyone who needs access. Unfortunately, six digits is the minimum here, which is a lot of digits.

If you don’t opt ​​for the additional keypads, another unlocking option is to use the two NFC tags that come with the lock. You can pair them to your phone to lock or unlock the door with just a tap on your phone. But you need to use two tags: one to lock and one to unlock. Sticking two pieces of white plastic to your door doesn’t improve the overall look here, and if you’ve already pulled out your phone, using the iOS or Android lock screen widget is almost as quick.

The SwitchBot works with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Siri Shortcuts (but not HomeKit), so you can use voice commands to lock and unlock the door and add the lock into smart home routines (Alexa and Google only).

But you need one $40 SwitchBot mini hub connect the lock to Wi-Fi and perform these integrations; the lock itself communicates via Bluetooth. You also need the hub to control the lock or check its status when you’re away from home using the SwitchBot app. The hub works with all SwitchBot gadgets but must be installed near the lock.

Using the SwitchBot with an Apple Watch via Bluetooth.

I installed the SwitchBot Lock on my back door, which is the main entrance to our house. It leads to our mudroom from our garage and gets a lot of foot traffic. The fingerprint reader and keypad made it easy for my kids to use the lock – no need to download an app. Without these, however, there is no easy way for a child without a smartphone to get to the door.

I was also disappointed that the notifications when the door is unlocked didn’t indicate what code or fingerprint was used. This is a common feature on other smart locks and one I personally use to help keep track of my older children’s whereabouts when I’m at work. I could check the log in the app to see who unlocked it, though.

Locking and unlocking is quick when you control it with the keypad, but the phone app takes over five seconds to connect, which is very irritating if you’re standing in the rain. The Apple Watch connects faster, and if you didn’t have a keypad, it’s the easiest way to control the lock. All of these interactions are via Bluetooth, so you need to be near the lock. To control it remotely with the app or voice command, you need the hub.

The top of the lock comes off for battery replacement and to fit the lock to your door.

Setup and installation was quick, less than 5 minutes in total. It’s one of the key selling points of the lock, but it wasn’t entirely straightforward either. There is a bit of alignment to do to make sure the lock will turn before gluing it to the door, and you need to use a small screwdriver (supplied) to adjust the lock spacing. Cleverly, it attaches in any direction, vertically or horizontally, so you can fit it around your doorknob. It also comes with a magnet to detect when the door is open or closed, although I could still remotely lock it while it was wide open without any alerts or notifications.

The SwitchBot app is basic. There’s no way to create schedules to lock or unlock the door at a set time of day, and the auto-lock feature was very spotty. This only worked with the “Lock after a set period of time” and “Re-lock if the door was unlocked but not opened” toggles, and even then it was unreliable. It looks like a software bug that can be fixed. But that meant I had to pull out my phone to lock the door (there are iOS and Android lock screen widgets to speed things up), use the Apple Watch app, or use my key. When I added the keyboard, however, I could press a button to lock it.

There are useful notification options including when the door is locked, if the door was left unlocked, and if it was left ajar after a while. Notifications require the hub to work, and really, they should just sell that with the hub. This definitely makes it a better smart lock. With the hub I could connect to Alexa and add the lock to an Alexa Routine which automatically closed it every evening at sunset.

It works, but it doesn’t look like it should work.

The SwitchBot lock is a good option for tenants who can’t change their door lock at all or for those who can’t or won’t remove any part of their existing deadbolt. It should stick to the doorframe with a strong adhesive, which will likely take some paint with it if you ever remove it. Similar retrofit options from August, Wyze, and Bosma require removing the rear deadbolt, and they all cost over $100.

But its smart features are limited to local control of the lock with your phone, Apple Watch or an existing key. When you add the Wi-Fi hub, you get out-of-home control and more useful smart home integrations, but only with Google Home and Alexa; there’s no HomeKit support and limited IFTTT integration. (The lock is just a trigger, not an action.)

If you also add the keyboard – especially the fingerprint one – it becomes a much more useful proposition, but then you hit $170, closer to the price of less ugly options with better smarts that don’t require all that extra gear ( but requires removing part or all of your door lock). These include the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock plus Keypad and the Eufy Smart Lock Touch with Wi-Fi (fingerprint reader and keypad in one but a complete lock replacement).

The biggest advantage of this lock is its versatility. You can even use two on one door to cope with multipoint locking. Its ability to grab just about any type of locking mechanism, including a key, means it may be the only smart solution that works for your door.

Photography by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy/The Verge

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