August Smart Lock and View doorbell review: Unlocking potential (and your house)
My house is a busy place. Even with Covid-19 restricting many activities, my family finds a way to keep the comings and goings frequent and, often, unscheduled. Thatâ€™s why easy access to the door and thus the house is essential. The August Smart Lock, a mobile-friendly security solution, smoothes over the rough spots when it comes time to unlock the door and grant someone entry.
Similarly, the August View video doorbell joins a slew of competitors in the market. It lets you see whoâ€™s at your door so you can confirm itâ€™s just the petsitter before allowing them access into your home.
Find out what we like and donâ€™t like about these particular products in the Android Authority August Smart Lock review.
I was an â€™80s latchkey kid. After the school day, I often returned home to an empty house. I let myself in with a key that I nearly always carried â€” but every so often forgot. Days that I forgot that key were bad ones, particularly during winter (I grew up in snowy upstate New York.) Iâ€™d have to wait outside for my mother to return, which was typically one to two hours.
As a parent myself, one of the best investments Iâ€™ve made was in a smart lock. My kids can use a four-digit pin to unlock the front door and enter the house after school. No key required. Itâ€™s been a great solution, but itâ€™s not perfect. There are times you want or need to grant someone whoâ€™s not a member of your family access to the house, and offering up that code is a real matter of trust.
The August Smart Lock solves this problem.
See also: Smart home devices: The best ones to buy
What is the August Smart Lock?
The August Smart Lock is an accessory for your existing deadbolt lock. Think about it as a tiny motor that turns the lock for you. It slips over the inside portion of the deadbolt and includes its own dial for manually locking and unlocking the door.
It is limited in compatibility. It can go over a single cylinder deadbolt. If you have a fancy or integrated lock/door handle, the August will not work. As it happens, the August Smart Lock was not compatible with my front door thanks to the pin-based lock I already have there. I had to install the review unit on my side door instead. As long as your deadbolt is a simple one, the August lock will most likely fit.
The lock connects to your phone via Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. It is driven by two CR123 batteries inside and includes an LED light to let you see the status of the door as it looks and unlocks. The dial itself is made of sturdy materials and is a cinch to rotate left or right for manual locking. Itâ€™s beefy, but looks good.
See also: What is a smart home?
What is it like to install?
It took me maybe 15 minutes max to install the August Smart Lock over my existing deadbolt. The August Home application walks you all the way through the process, which is as simple as you can imagine. Unscrew the existing indoor-facing plate, use the existing screws on a new, supplied plate and piece it all together. The kit comes with several adapters for different types of internal bolt mechanisms. Pop the proper one on and then the lock itself fits right over it.
You may optionally install DoorSense, a little sensor that detects when the door is open or closed. Itâ€™s not necessary, but does provide some extra and welcome data about the status of your door.
Then thereâ€™s the software.
The software itself is dead simple to use. Mostly. I ran into a snag hooking the doorbell up to my Wi-Fi network that required a total reset to surmount. This really sucked, as it easily tripled the amount of time necessary to get my phone talking to the doorbell. In the end, I was forced to set up the lock using an iPhone; my Samsung phone did not work. August says thereâ€™s a known issue with particular Samsung models, such as my Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
Between the hardware and software, it took me more than an hour to go from no August Smart Lock to fully functional August Smart Lock.
See also: Best HomeKit devices for your smart home
What can you do with the August Smart Lock?
Well, itâ€™s a pretty straightforward product. It locks and unlocks the door. You can do this manually from the inside, or with the press of a button from just about anywhere. The advanced features are what make it useful.
First, geo-fencing. As long as youâ€™re cool with sharing your location info with August, the Smart Lock will know when you are nearby home and automatically unlock when you arrive. This could be viewed as a safety feature. Consider scenarios in which you arrive home late at night and might not want to futz with keys to get inside. The lock can automatically lock again once youâ€™re inside. Thankfully this relies on Bluetooth Low Energy, which has a short range, and not Wi-Fi, which has a longer range. In other words, you donâ€™t need to worry about your door automatically unlocking when youâ€™re still a block from home.
You can provide family and friends with a secure, virtual key that allows them to access the lock.
Second, key-sharing. You can provide family and friends with a secure, virtual key that allows them to access the lock. This is clutch if you have a cleaning service, or a petsitter that needs access to the house. You can let them in from afar without providing a physical key. Itâ€™s also a boon for Airbnb owners, who can make your entry to a rental a snap.
Third, voice assistant. Hey Google, unlock the side door. Whether your smart home is built around Google Assistant, Apple Siri, or Amazon Alexa, you can interact with the August Smart Lock via voice. I found the lock worked with Google Assistant just fine.
We assessed the lock for several days, so we cannot attest to battery life. Suffice it to say the two included batteries are widely available and are a cinch to replace when needed.
See also: Coronavirus boosts smart home sales
Should you buy the August Smart Lock?
The August Smart Lock transforms a simple deadbolt into a smart home appliance. It negates the absolute need for physical keys, which typically require a trip to the local hardware store to have made. The one drawback is that you have to have an existing single-cylinder deadbolt in order to use the August Smart Lock; it wonâ€™t replace your lock entirely.
Who is it for? Many rentals rely on deadbolts as the method of securing the front door, making the August a logical choice for renters who want to upgrade their experience or rental home owners who want it for the convenience.
Pet owners also make a logical set of potential owners. When it comes time for the petsitter to enter the house to feed the cats, dogs, or fish, you can grant them access from your vacation or work trip without giving them a physical key. This offers some peace of mind.
In all, the August Smart Lock makes a basic bolt a little more intelligent â€” and thatâ€™s a good thing.
What is the August View video doorbell?
Similar to competing products, the View sits outside your door and covers most of the entryway with a video camera. It allows for two-way audio calls and one-way video calls. It competes with models from Arlo, Eufy, and Ring.
The kit includes the doorbell, an indoor chime, a mounting bracket, an angled wedge for customizing the angle, and a handful of screws. Youâ€™ll first need to charge the removable battery pack before proceeding with the installation process. Speaking of which, physically adding the video doorbell to your entryway is a breeze. Because this is a battery-powered product, youâ€™re not beholden to putting it where your existing doorbell sits. Getting the hardware set up took just a few moments.
As it did with the Smart Lock, the August app walks you entirely through the process of connecting the View to your Wi-Fi and setting some parameters, such as motion zones and sensitivity. Plug in the chime, and youâ€™re ready to go.
See also: Eufy video doorbell review
What I like about the August View
The View covers the core video doorbell functions. It responds to bell presses by calling your phone and offering either an audio or video call. It keeps an activity log of all your interactions with the bell so you can check back to see what happened at a later date.
It will provide notifications when it senses motion outside your door. I found I had to dial the sensitivity way back for two reasons. First, my front door is close to the street and passing cars often triggered an alert. Second, the flag hanging next to my front door often blows in the wind. The View is sensitive enough to notice when the flag waved about. I was able to fine-tune it just enough to keep notifications to a minimum.
As always, thereâ€™s an on-demand live view. This lets you see a live video feed from the bell whenever you want.
I like that recordings are always available for 24 hours. If you want to see recordings from as much as the last 30 days, youâ€™ll need to sign up for a monthly plan. The Premium Plus plan costs $4.99 per month and the Premium Plan, which includes 15 days of storage, costs $2.99 per month.
Last, the View works hand in hand with the Smart Lock. Because both are controlled in the same application, itâ€™s easy to answer a video call, see that itâ€™s someone you trust, and then remotely open the door.
See also: Arlo video doorbell review
What I dislike about the August View
Connectivity just isnâ€™t good enough. I had lots of cut-outs during live view playback, and video often froze or looked low resolution. Quite often, the bell would disconnect from my home Wi-Fi.
Battery life is a major bummer. Even with motion settings tamed, the battery lasted on average about seven days. This is weeks less than competing models, which tend to deliver a month or more per charge. August seriously needs to work on its power consumption.
Battery life is a major bummer.
The included chime can be hard to hear. My house isnâ€™t that large and I often missed calls to the door. I can only imagine the trouble those who live in larger houses may encounter. Moreover, notifications sent to my phone were often delayed by as much as 30 seconds, meaning I could easily miss FedEx when I need to sign for a package.
Last, itâ€™s a chunky device thatâ€™s not as secure as some competing models. A simple turn of a flat-head screw on the bottom releases the bell from the mounting plate, meaning anyone can walk off with the bell should they wish. (Most competing models use torx screws, which are a bit less common.)
See also: Ring video doorbell review
Should you buy the August View video doorbell?
Based on my experience, no. The battery life alone takes it out of the running. Toss in the connectivity woes, chime, and insecure mounting, and Iâ€™d suggest you spend your video doorbell dollar elsewhere. Stick with the August smart lock.
If youâ€™re still interested, you can see the August View doorbell at Amazon.
Here are more video doorbells we checked out: