August Wi-Fi Smart Lock review: Built-in Wi-Fi and 45% smaller


August smart locks are popular, and for good reason. The retrofit design makes them easy to install without replacing your existing deadbolt. It’s smart enough to work with smart home setups for Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa. We gave multiple generations of August locks our Editors’ Choice Award for their easy installation, great app and smart home integration. Now, there’s a new one on the scene. Hello, August Wi-Fi Smart Lock. 

Like

  • Smaller design.
  • Wi-Fi built in.
  • Smoother mechanics.
  • Works with Google, Alexa and Siri.

Don’t Like

  • Still expensive.
  • Shorter battery life.

Slimmed down and further smartened, it’s the best one yet. It comes with built-in Wi-Fi, negating the need for the extra August Connect ($58 at Amazon) plug-in modules. At $250, the new lock is pricey but it’s in the same price range as the previous generation lock, and well worth your money if you’re looking to get your front door online.

I popped it onto the back of my door and lived with it for a week. Here’s what you need to know. 

Smaller smart lock design

August’s unique retrofit design stays true to its roots in this fourth-generation model. What’s remarkably different is the size. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is 45% smaller than its predecessors, measuring 2.83 inches in diameter and just 1.81 inches in depth. While there’s never been anything particularly ugly about the lock, putting a big chunk of metal on the interior of your door isn’t an interior designer’s dream. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

Nearly all smart locks require this aesthetic obstruction, relying on a large battery and thumb latch housings mounted on the interior side of your door. I was delighted with the small scale of this August model. It’s so much less distracting, partly because I’m a bit more accustomed to seeing smart locks on doors by now, but also because it’s really significantly smaller. A smart home should blend in, in my opinion, and August’s design is much improved in that regard. 

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The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock (right) is 45% smaller than the August Smart Lock Pro (left). 


Molly Price/CNET

The design team, which includes renowned designer Yves Béhar, stayed true to the original design, while making small updates. You’ll notice a slightly different ridge pattern around the sides of the lock, designed to improve grip. I can’t discern a huge difference, but I’m not bothered by it, either. Along that ridge is a cleverly placed August logo to help you tell whether your door is locked or not. On the inside, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is powered by two CR123 batteries. I’ll talk more about those later.

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The updated side texture of the lock is designed to provide better grip. 


Molly Price/CNET

Installing the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

As always, installing an August smart lock is a breeze if you have 10 minutes and a screwdriver. You’ll also want to download the August app available on iOS or Android, as there is a helpful guide with animations to walk you through the process. Because it’s retrofit, you won’t need to much at all to your physical deadbolt, beyond removing the thumb latch on the interior side of the door. Next, you’ll fit on the August plate and correct adapter for your lock, and clip on the Wi-Fi Smart Lock with its two locking wings. 

I’ll take a second here to address my standard smart lock tips. 

  1. Be sure your door closes well before you begin this process. Smart locks have trouble calibrating and fully locking doors that need an extra shove to close completely. 
  2. Make sure the deadbolt moves freely and there isn’t any friction in the lock’s mechanics. 
  3. Make sure you have a good Wi-Fi connection. This affects not only the installation, but the lock’s everyday performance, too.
  4. Keep your screws organized. Which screw length goes where can really matter on a smart lock. 

It’s important to do your best to keep the cam bar (see below) centered in the August back plate while you secure the screws. If you find that it’s too far up or down, loosen and readjust the screws while holding a bit of pressure on the plate to keep it in place. It’s difficult to fit the necessary adapter if things aren’t lined up neatly. 

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The green adapter provided fit my Kwikset deadbolt. 


Molly Price/CNET

The August system is the simplest smart lock installation out there, and the guidance in both the app and printed, in-box instructions are easy to follow. No surprise there. If you’re concerned about compatibility with your existing deadbolt, August has a helpful page listing compatible models from most brands. 

A better smart home lock

Let’s start with the obvious. This is the first August lock with Wi-Fi built in. That means you no longer need to buy the $80 August Connect module to control the remotely. While it is the first August lock to include Wi-Fi, it isn’t the only lock on the market with the upgrade. Schlage and Kwikset also have Wi-Fi models (both also priced at $249), and it’s likely the way of the future for most smart locks.

Many smart locks connect via Bluetooth to your phone, which lets you control the lock when you’re in close proximity to it. For control outside of that range, indeed for control from anywhere in the world, you need Wi-Fi. Previously, smart lock makers have relied on a plug-in Wi-Fi adapter, like the August Connect, to integrate Wi-Fi, but the smart lock landscape has changed a lot since the first August lock. Redesigns in Wi-Fi chip technology made it possible for companies like August to work it into lock design more easily. After that, it’s all about fine tuning lock and app performance to get the most battery life possible out while still hanging onto that Wi-Fi signal well. 

As for compatibility, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock works with Alexa, Google and Siri for voice commands as well as routines and automation with your platform of choice. Assigning virtual keys to additional lock users remains free, a highlight of August’s policies, and you’ll also get plenty of options for setting notifications when something happens, or doesn’t, at your door. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock comes with a DoorSense sensor, so you can know if someone leaves the door open or closes it but leaves it unlocked. 

I’ve always been fond of August’s geofencing auto-lock and -unlock capabilities, and that remains true for this model. When your mobile device is 200 meters (656 feet) from your home either leaving or returning, the lock will lock or unlock, if you’ve chosen to turn on that function. It requires that you keep Wi-Fi enabled on your mobile device, and it worked well in my testing. That’s a big help not having to fiddle with keys or an app to open the door. Auto-lock can also be customized for time, so you can set the door to lock anywhere from immediately after it’s unlocked all the way up to 30 minutes later. 

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The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock runs on two CR123 batteries.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Wi-Fi isn’t easy on batteries, and this is the first August model with the CR123 battery. The team at August estimates the lock’s batteries should last three to six months. That’s a shorter suggested lifespan than the six months to a year promised for the older, AA models.

According to August, the number one factor in battery life is the quality of your Wi-Fi connection. If the lock needs to constantly reconnect to an access point or wake up due to polling from the access point, you’ll see a quicker drain. Battery life will also be affected by how often you lock and unlock your door, especially over Wi-Fi or data connections. 

If you don’t like the idea of keeping up with the batteries on a smart lock, obviously this isn’t the product category for you. A two-pack of CR123s at your local big box store should cost around $8 to $10. The good news is, as with previous generation August Smart Locks, even if the batteries are dead you can still use a physical key to unlock your door.

Note: I did encounter a low battery warning just three days into testing the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock. I knew my batteries shouldn’t be low so soon. I was using a beta version of the August app and after talking with the team, they found a bug in the battery prediction algorithm that led to a premature low-battery notification. August engineers resolved the bug on the back end, and I didn’t have any issues after that. The August team assured me that customers will not see this once the smart lock is available for purchase.

When it comes to security, August implements enough features to make me feel good about putting it on my door. It uses two-factor authentication to log into your account or create a new one. It also uses Bluetooth encryption, AES 128-bit and TLS encryption for the mobile app. You can even disable your August app and all virtual keys at any time via a special desktop site if your phone is lost or stolen. Voice unlocking via the various virtual assistants requires a spoken PIN. 

August models compared

Price

Size (in inches)

Wi-Fi

Z-Wave

Google

Alexa

HomeKit

August Smart Lock

$150

2.7 W x 4.8 H x 2.1 D 

Requires August Connect ($199 for bundle)

No

Yes

Yes

No

August Smart Lock Pro

$280

3.4 W x 2.2 D

Requires August Connect (included)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

$250

2.83 W x  1.81 D

Built-in

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Read more: How to use your smart lock safelyWhat to know before buying a smart lock

A reviewer’s anecdote 

Before I tested this lock at my house, I had a smart keypad ($50 at Walmart) on my front door. My husband and I are known to run or walk the dog without our keys and phones, so a keypad is a great way to get in and out of the house without pockets full of hardware and let family and neighbors in with their own codes when needed.

The day after I set up the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock, we walked the dog around the neighborhood without our keys or phones. It’s a  nice, digital detox. In setup, I opted for the lock to relock after five minutes. When we got back after half an hour, I realized I had no way to open the door because my phone and keys were inside.

Luckily, we’d left a side door unlocked, but I had a fun 60 seconds of panic. If you’re switching over from a keypad or some other keyless exterior system, you’ll need to retrain your brain. If you own an Apple Watch ($429 at Apple), you can avoid this problem altogether by installing the August app, which will work via geofencing just like your phone. An add-on August keypad ($60)  is also an option. 

To buy or not to buy?

If you’re interested in a smart lock, but want to keep your exterior hardware traditional, this is the lock for you. It’s not cheap at $249, but keep in mind that you won’t have to spend any extra money on a Connect module to get Wi-Fi remote access benefits. That addition of Wi-Fi makes August feel fresh and updated. The reduction in size is great, too. 

Other locks with Wi-Fi built in cost just as much and require replacing your entire deadbolt. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock turns much more smoothly than previous August models, takes up less space and is just as smart and secure. If you liked previous August smart locks, you’ll love this one. 

For those reasons, we’ve decided to award it our Editors’ Choice for Best Smart Lock, dethroning the August Smart Lock Pro ($195 at Walmart)



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