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It’s probably safe to say, but getting in and out of your home unfettered is probably at the top of your list. However, most of the time we don’t think about it. Why? Because rarely does a key and traditional mechanical lock fail us. Save for losing the key or breaking one off in the lock itself.
However, when considering the best smart lock, such as the Gate smart lock, it warrants some deeper evaluation than a simple key and lock scenario. So keep reading my Gate smart lock review to learn more.
Price: $359 (retail)
Available: Soon (currently via Crowdfunding)
Summary: The Gate is probably the most fully featured smart lock to date, as it includes a video camera, doorbell like functionality, mic, speaker and a keypad all built into one. But with that comes the caveat of WiFi only connectivity, which means a shorter battery life.
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
This is my third smart lock and from where I sit it’s the most evident that it is just that: a smart lock. Why? The keypad. You just can’t miss it – plus the exterior part of the lock is fairly large in size compared to traditional hardware. That said, what I like about the August and the Kevo is that most will be none the wiser that you’ve got a smart lock installed on your home’s front door. And while it’s arguably much tougher to “pick” a smart lock, if you’re averse to unwanted attention (on your front door) this may not be the lock for you. But honestly, that’s hardly a reason to go forgo a smart lock, as they can provide so much versatility and in turn safety that a traditional lock can’t. Interested in a smart key that you can attach to your bag or keys? Click the Elgato smart key review.
At the center of the Gate is a traditional lock and key setup. It ships with its own set of keys (mine came with three), so yes, unlike the August, you’ll have to distribute a new set of keys. And speaking of which, you’ll also have to replace your entire door’s deadbolt with the Gate, where as with the August it retrofits to the interior part of your door’s lock. But, more on the installation a bit later. Adjacent to that is presumably a smaller sensor to detect motion, a speaker and mic, and above that a camera that can record video. My Gate was a prototype, so the mic and speakers didn’t work. And surrounding all of the aforementioned is a keypad that includes a call button. Installing a smart key lock is easy. The Kwikset 909 smartcode electronic deadbolt review will inform you about a smart lock that you can install using just a screwdriver.
What’s particularly impressive, and fairly sleek is the interior part of the lock. Much like the August smart lock, it houses the battery, yet is much slimmer in depth, allowing it to blend in to the door’s interior hardware a bit better. And that battery, well, it’s rechargeable. The battery’s status is displayed via a small LED light. I’m not sure it ever blinks an alternate color when the battery is almost dead and to that end I never received a notification in the app that it was in need of a recharge. Unlike other smart locks, the Gate battery doesn’t cover need to be unlatched; it just slips off with a slight pull, revealing the interior contact point and the microUSB charging point.
For full disclosure, Gate shipped the Gate already installed on a piece of wood, complete with all the deadbolt hardware. Now, I’ve installed a number of locks, so I’m no stranger to the process. So naturally I unscrewed a few screws to see how easy it was to reinstall. How easy? Very easy. All the screws, 3- 4 of them in total, are easy to reach and don’t require a balancing act like some other smart locks. That is until the Gate would no longer turn on. So what did I do wrong? Well, after some trial and error I determined that the shaft, the black long piece that turns the actual lock inside the door, had been rotated an additional 90 degrees. After some back and forth, and as mentioned trial and error, I finally found the right position, and I was off to the proverbial races. Why it’s designed this way, I’m not sure, but I could see this alluding most people, so I hope Gate fixes this before shipping to early backers on Indiegogo. But in short, the Gate is super easy to install, save for this one issue.
Last but not least, the app walks you through the steps to pair the Gate with your home’s WiFi.
It works, but it needs some serious spit and polish to contend with the already existing smart locks on the market. I found the UX a bit confusing and from the standpoint of the hardware, the app is seriously behind and largely feels like an after thought. I’ll check with Gate and see if they have plans to significantly update it before they start shipping units. Worse, it’s also a bit slow loading menus, especially when accessing the “history”. To that end, “the videos” load fairly quickly, but I put heavy emphasis on the quotes (see below). That being said, there is no dedicated section to look at all videos as they can only be accessed from the “history” which is in chronological order with no specific call outs beyond a time stamp and size in KB or MB – it would be nice to see a thumbnail so you can perhaps more quickly identify the video. Here’s hoping. Oh, and Siri, I’m not sure where that stands, and within that HomeKit integration. But that is neither here nor there at the time of this posting.
Before I forget: You can invite others, guests and such, to access the lock by using their telephone number – they receive a text and pretty quickly (within seconds). Within that you can provide a pin to be used with the keypad (although only 4 digits), as well as restrict access based on time and day, though this latter feature didn’t work.
Unlike August, the Gate won’t automatically unlock your door upon approach. But despite that, it does connect via WiFi by default (more on that in a second), so there isn’t any additional hardware for you to buy, which is anything but the case with Kevo or August. In fact, the August requires that you buy the keypad, doorbell and the WiFi-to-Bluetooth dongle separately, costing you an additional $350+ (ouch!!).
In testing, I left the Gate in my kitchen, occasionally limiting its sensor to movement in the hopes of emulating what would otherwise be the same amount of activity from neighbors passing by my door. Now, keep in mind that the Gate connects to your home’s WiFi, relaying captured video, doorbell rings and remote commands through the cloud. Surprisingly, sometimes it can be fairly quick at doing this, though at other times it can take upwards of 20 seconds if not more. Doorbell rings, while I was at home and on my home’s WiFi, took about 5-10 seconds on the speedier side of things, though as just mentioned can take longer to show up as a Push Notification on my phone. Video or movement notification, with recorded video no less, took about the same amount of time.
However, videos, which I alluded to above, aren’t videos. They’re marked as such, but the net result is simply an image, which was disappointing to see. I’m sure Gate can fix this, but as of now it’s not working.
Also not working is the ability to remotely access the lock when outside of my home’s WiFi. When attempting to lock/unlock the Gate it never reflects a change in the lock’s status. Moreover, you can’t access a live stream of the lock from the app, which would be nice, especially if you want to listen and watch at the same time.
Lastly, battery life: it’s good for up to two weeks (give or take). Again, I did this by emulating what I thought would be the average amount of video and use the lock would get. But to be clear, the majority of the battery was consumed by the motion sensor activating the camera and capturing video. I didn’t go as far as to continuously lock/unlock the Gate until it died, but I don’t really see that being the crux of the battery. In fact, it does give me pause that they opted for WiFi only connectivity, as that was the downfall of the Lockitron, which has never been able to recover after their battery issues. I do applaud Gate for including a very sleek and well thought out rechargeable battery. However, they should include two in the box such that the lock is never without power, though with a key it still operates.
On paper the Gate is all that. Included is a smart doorbell for capturing and communicating with those at your door, a keypad to remove the need to pull out your smartphone, and a traditional lock just in case you don’t wanna do the digital dance with an unsuspecting landlord or tech inept person. Be that as it may, what’s on “paper” unfortunately has yet to be reflected in the Gate’s actual execution. So fingers crossed these things get updated.