There are a handful of smart locks to choose from, but not all are created equal. Here’s what you should know about the different kinds of smart locks and which ones you should consider buying.

Full Replacements vs. Conversion Kits

The main thing you’ll need to decide when buying a smart lock is whether you want a full replacement smart lock or just a conversion kit. The former replaces your entire deadbolt, while the latter just replaces the interior thumb turn portion, leaving your existing deadbolt mechanism and exterior portion alone.

This is really just a matter of preference, but you do get different features with one or the other. For example, most full replacements give you a nice keypad or some unique way to unlock your door from the outside (like touching the lock to unlock your door with the Kwikset Kevo), but conversion kits leave the exterior portion of your deadbolt the same. So from the outside, you still have your existing deadbolt, but you have the added benefit of being able to unlock it with your phone and such.

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Conversion kits are usually cheaper as well, since all they include is a thumb turn mechanism with the circuitry needed to provide the smart features and the mechanics to operate the lock. Whereas, full replacements include a completely new deadbolt mechanism, which raises the cost.

You’ll have fewer choices when it come to conversion kits, though, as most smart locks on the market are full replacements, but the few options you do have are decent—the August Smart Lock is a popular option, as is the Kevo Convert from Kwikset.

Wireless Connection Type

Most smart locks either connect to your network using Z-Wave or ZigBee via a smarthome hub, or using Wi-Fi via the smart lock’s companion hub that you can buy separately.

Again, there are pros and cons to each option here. The two conversion smart locks discussed above connect directly to your phone via Bluetooth out of the box, which means your phone has to be nearby in order to control the lock “remotely”—you’ll need to get the respective hubs (August and Kwikset each offer their own) in order to add in remote control over the internet. The same goes for locks like the flagship Kevo and the Schlage Sense. Otherwise, you can only control and manage the lock when your phone is within Bluetooth range.

A large portion of smart locks use Z-Wave, though. It’s a reliable standard that has good range and draws very little power, making it great for applications like this. The only downside is that you need some kind of smarthome hub, like SmartThings or Wink, in order to control and manage the lock from your phone at all. Otherwise, it acts just like a regular lock.

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The good news is that you have a lot of options to choose from if you decide to go with Z-Wave. Schlage makes the Connect model in several forms, as does Kwikset with their SmartCode lineup. Yale also has the Assure smart lock, which also comes in a ZigBee flavor.

Keypad or No Keypad?

Smart locks (or any lock, for that matter) fall under two categories: those that have a keypad, and those that do not.

If you plan on using a smart lock to its fullest potential, you technically don’t need a keypad, as you’ll use your phone’s proximity instead to determine when your door should lock and unlock. Thus, you’ll never even have to touch your smart lock in the first place.

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However, if you still want to stick with manual unlocking from time to time, or maybe you just want to quickly create and share a key code with a friend without having them download the proper app first, a keypad can be a great supplement to a smart lock. And luckily, you don’t really have to pay extra for that kind of feature.

The previously-mentioned Schlage Connect is a good Z-Wave smart lock that comes with a nice keypad. Kwikset’s SmartCode line all come with keypads of varying designs. The August Smart Lock—while just a conversion kit—can also be used with a keypad that’s sold separately as an accessory of sorts, and if you’re a Nest user, they have their own smart lock made by Yale that has a keypad and integrates nicely with all of your Nest products.

So Which Smart Lock Should You Buy?

There’s really no one single smart lock that stands above everything else, as it really comes down to what you want out of a smart lock. However, here are some recommendations based on certain common scenarios.

Again, keep in mind that all of these smart locks need to be connected to some kind of hub, whether it’s a general smarthome hub or a proprietary bridge from the smart lock company.

Profile Photo for Craig Lloyd Craig Lloyd
Craig Lloyd is a smarthome expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and GottaBeMobile.
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