What you need to know when considering a smart lock for your home

There are some incredible benefits to home automation, but when it comes to securing your home, it's important to not simply buy the cheapest thing on the shelf. There's a lot to these "smart" locks, and not all of them live up to the promises in the packaging.

Here's a quick look at what you can do to make sure your smart lock is both convenient and safe.

Understand how the lock you want works

Smart locks come in several different flavors. Some add a Wi-Fi connection to your lock and let you control the ability to lock and unlock from wherever you are. Some rely on Bluetooth and only give you the ability to automatically unlock when your phone is close by. Some rely on touch to unlock, while others offer a keypad for a security pin.

The point is, there isn't one kind of smart lock. It's important to understand how the lock you install works and understand how it keeps you safe when locked.

Make sure the lock itself is safe

Just because your smart lock is shinier and more expensive than a normal door lock does not mean it is more safe or secure. Many first-generation smart locks offered compromised, less expensive locks with all of the smart trimmings around it.

It's also important to make sure the smart tech you are buying actually works as advertised. That's not always the case, which is dangerous. Some early locks using Bluetooth Beacons couldn't actually tell which side of the door you were on, meaning if your phone was inside the house and near the door it could still be unlocked. Obviously, that's not great.

Beware of misbehaving apps

Assuming you have found a lock that is safe and works the way you want it to, it's important to keep an eye on how the app behaves on your phone. Early versions of the Kwikset Kevo app, for example, kept the phone awake when nearby a lock and constantly draining the power from your phone while doing largely nothing.

This isn't easy to test before bringing the lock home, so it's important to rely on hands-on reviews with testing on battery life over time. App power problems are less common now, especially with changes Google has made to recent versions of Android, but it's still something to keep an eye out for.

The good ones really are worth it

As disheartening as it can be to see stories about connected home tech going wrong and leaving people vulnerable when they think they are more secure, there's a lot to like about the good smart locks.

Being able to remotely lock your home if you forget, or being able to give someone a temporary virtual key if they're house sitting while you're away, or even using the locked state of the door to control the away modes of other connected home tech are all important. These features save you money over time by conserving energy, keep your home safe by using smart lights to make it look like people are here when you're away, and are generally more convenient than digging around for your keys.

The most important first step is making sure you're buying a quality lock from a reputable company with features you actually want. When that happens, you'll be much happier with how you use your front door.

Do you have a smart lock?

Which one? Has it worked out well for you? Share your success or horror story in the comments below!

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter