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

SwitchBot Lock review: a smart lock with seven ways to unlock your door
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$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 at the top of the thumb loop. This eliminates the main pain point of smart locks: no installation required. But the SwitchBot Lock looks really weird – my husband literally stopped in his tracks and said, “What’s that?” I had a similar reaction when I first saw it and wasn’t quite sure if this big black piece of plastic would have the power to open my latch.

I was surprised to find that the SwitchBot Lock moved as well as I could with my thumb, and despite only being attached with double-sided tape, it held up well during two weeks of testing. (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 basic features (haha). You also need your surroundings $70 worth of accessories to add smart home control and keyboard. That puts it closer to more elegant-looking solutions like $230 August Wi-Fi SmartLockit takes a little more work to install, but doesn’t leave you with a great piece of plastic at your door.

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The SwitchBot Lock is an advanced Bluetooth-enabled smart door lock that can lock and unlock your door using the SwitchBot app on your smartphone or Apple Watch. (It’s not Home Key matches). It attaches to your door using 3M VHB tape and uses a small plastic retainer to catch and turn the thumb turn of the lock.

This thug can turn things around. Videos on Amazon reviews show it even when you turn the key, it’s a great solution for people who have non-traditional door locks and multi-point locks and can’t get another smart lock to work (see the list here). It is cleverly designed with variable base plates that prevent the lock from twisting on itself when turning the lock.

That’s what SwitchBot is all about: making ordinary smart devices. Their a a little bot that flips your light switch for you and a robot that crawls along your curtain rod to open and close the curtains. This is a robotic hand for your door lock. It comes with three different size adapters so you can find the right one for your setup. The SwitchBot Lock doesn’t eliminate any functionality — you can still use your switch, and you can still turn the lock manually; it just lets you use your phone or watch as a key.

A touch of the keyboard 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, smartphone / Apple Watch app, NFC tags using your phone, key code using the keypad, fingerprint reader, NFC keypad and smart home / voice control. That’s a lot of options – although only the first three come out of the box.

Keypad and door lock.

You’ll need one of these for keyboard, keypad, or fingerprint access SwitchBot’s two Bluetooth keyboards. These are attached with double sided tape (or screws if you prefer). I tested the $60 fingerprint version 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 keyboards also work with NFC key cards. (One is given and you can buy Three packs for $15.) Although if you have a keyboard I don’t see the need for a keycard as you can give permanent, temporary and one-time codes to anyone who wants access. Worryingly, six figures is the minimum here, which is a lot.

If you don’t go for extra keyboards, another unlocking option is to use the two NFC tags that come with the lock. You can connect them to your phone to lock or unlock the door by touching your phone. But you need to use two tags: one to lock, one to unlock. Sticking two pieces of white plastic to your door doesn’t improve the overall look here, and if you already have a phone, using an iOS or Android lock screen widget is almost as fast.

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 locks to smart home Modes (Alexa and Google only).

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

Control SwitchBot with Apple Watch over Bluetooth.

I installed a SwitchBot Lock on my back door, which is the main entrance to our house. Our garage leads to our mud room 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, there is no easy way for a child without a smartphone to get in the door.

I was also disappointed that the notifications didn’t show what code or fingerprint was used when the door was unlocked. This is a common feature on other smart locks, and one that I personally use to monitor the comings and goings of my older children while I’m at work. Although I could check the log in the app to see who unlocked it.

Locking and unlocking is quick when operating with the keypad, but it takes more than five seconds to connect to the phone app – very annoying when you’re standing in the rain. Apple Watch connects faster, and if you don’t have a keyboard, it’s the easiest way to control the lock. All this interaction is over Bluetooth, so you have to stand next to the lock. You need a hub to control it remotely via app or voice control.

The top of the lock opens to change the battery and adjust the lock to fit your door.

Setup and installation was quick, just under 5 minutes. This is one of the lock’s biggest selling points, but it wasn’t entirely straightforward either. Before you attach it to the door, you need to do a little bit of work to make sure the lock will turn, and use a small screwdriver (supplied) to adjust the lock’s clearance. Cleverly attaches in any direction, vertically or horizontally, so you can fit it around a door handle. It also comes with a magnet to sense when the door is open or closed, although I was still able to close it remotely when it was open without any warning or notification.

The SwitchBot software is basic. There’s no way to create schedules to lock or unlock the door at a specific time of day, and the auto-lock feature was very spotty. It only worked with both “Lock after specified time” and “Relock if door opened but not” switches, and even then it was unreliable. This appears to be 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 make it quicker), use the Apple Watch app, or use my key. When I attached the keyboard I was able to press the button to lock it.

There are some useful notification options, including when the door is locked, when the door remains unlocked, and when the door remains open after a certain period of time. Notifications require the hub to work and really, they should just sell it with the hub. This definitely makes it a better smart lock. With the hub I was able to connect to Alexa and add the lock Alexa Routine it automatically locked at sunset every night.

It works, but it doesn’t seem like it should.

The SwitchBot Lock is a good option for renters who cannot change the door lock at all, or those who cannot or cannot remove any part of the existing lock. It should be attached to the door frame using a heavy duty adhesive so that if you ever remove it, it will likely take some paint with it. Similar upgrade options from August, Wyze, and Bosma require the rear lock to be removed and all cost more than $100.

But its smart features are limited to controlling the lock locally with your phone, Apple Watch, or your existing key. When you add it to a Wi-Fi hub, you get remote control and more useful smart home integration, but only with Google Home and Alexa; No HomeKit support and limited IFTTT integration. (A lock is only a trigger, not an action.)

If you add in the keyboard, especially the fingerprint, it becomes a more useful proposition, but then you’re hitting $170, which is closer to the price of less ugly options with better smarts that don’t require all that extra hardware. (but ask to remove part or all of your door lock). These include August Wi-Fi Smart Lock plus Keyboard and Eufy Smart Lock Touch with Wi-Fi (fingerprint reader and keyboard in one, but full lock replacement).

The biggest advantage of this lock is its versatility. You can even use two on one door to handle multi-point locking. Its ability to hold almost any locking mechanism, including a key, means it may be the only smart solution that works for your door.

Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

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