The SwitchBot Lock for $99 is the first smart door lock I’ve tested that won’t replace any part of your existing lock. Instead, it attaches to the back of your door over the top of the knob. This eliminates a major pain point of smart locks: complicated installation. But the SwitchBot lock looks really weird – my husband literally stopped and said, “What is that thing?” I had a similar reaction when I first saw it and was absolutely underwhelmed that this big one piece of black plastic would have the power to unlatch my latch.
I was surprised to discover that the SwitchBot Lock moves that thumb twist as well as I can, and it stayed firmly in place throughout my two-week testing despite only being held in place with double-sided tape. (No word on long-term durability yet, but looks promising so far).
The downsides are that it’s not very smart and it’s missing some key features (haha). You also need around $70 worth of accessories to add a smart home controller and keyboard. This puts it closer in price to sleek-looking solutions like the $230 model Aug Wi-Fi Smart Lockwhich requires a little more work to install but doesn’t leave a honking piece of plastic on your door.
The SwitchBot Lock is an aftermarket Bluetooth powered smart door lock that can lock and unlock your door using the SwitchBot app on a smartphone or Apple Watch. (It is not Home Key compatible). It attaches to your door with 3M VHB tape and uses a small plastic gripper to hold and turn the lock’s rotary knob.
This gripper can rotate anything. Videos in Amazon reviews Even show it when turning a key, making it an excellent solution for people with unconventional door locks and multipoint locks who can’t get any other smart lock to work (see list here). It is cleverly designed with sliding base plates that prevent the lock from turning itself off when the lock is turned.
That’s SwitchBot’s thing: making ordinary devices smart. You have a little bot that pushes your light switch for you and A robot that crawls along your curtain rod to open and close the curtains. This is a robotic hand for your door lock. It comes with three different sized adapters so you can find the right fit for your setup. The SwitchBot lock doesn’t remove a feature – you can still use your key and turn the latch manually. It just adds the ability to use your phone or watch as a key.
There are a total of seven ways to control the door lock: your key, the smartphone/apple watch app, NFC tags with your phone, a key code with a keypad, a fingerprint reader, an NFC key card, and smart home/voice control. That’s a lot of options – although only the first three are out of the box.
For key card, keyboard, or fingerprint input, you need one of the following SwitchBot’s two Bluetooth keyboards. These are attached with double sided tape (or screws if you prefer). I tested the fingerprint version, which costs $60, and it worked quickly and reliably.
The non-fingerprint version is only $30, but fingerprint access is my favorite way to use a smart door lock. The keypads also work with NFC keycards. (One is included and you can buy one Three pack for $15.) However, if you have a keyboard, I don’t see the need for a keycard, as you can issue permanent, temporary, and one-time codes to anyone who needs access. Annoyingly, six digits is the minimum here, which is a lot of digits.
If you don’t opt for the additional keyboards, another unlocking option is to use the two NFC tags that come with the lock. You can pair these with your phone to lock or unlock the door with a tap of your phone. But you must use two tags: one to lock and one to unlock. Sticking two pieces of white plastic to your door doesn’t improve the overall look here, and if you already have your phone outside, using the iOS or Android lock screen widget is almost as quick.
The SwitchBot works with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Siri Shortcuts (but not HomeKit), so you can use voice commands to lock and unlock the door and add the lock to smart home routines (Alexa and Google only).
But you need one $40 SwitchBot Hub Mini to connect the lock to Wi-Fi and make these integrations; the lock itself communicates via Bluetooth. You’ll also need the hub to control the lock or check its status when you’re away from home using the SwitchBot app. The hub works with all SwitchBot gadgets but needs to be installed near the lock.
Operating the SwitchBot with an Apple Watch via Bluetooth.
I installed the SwitchBot Lock on my back door which is a main entrance to our house. It leads from our garage into our mudroom and gets a lot of traffic. The fingerprint reader and keyboard made it easy for my kids to use the lock – there was no need to download an app. However, without these, there is no easy way for a child without a smartphone to access the door.
I was also disappointed that the notifications when unlocking the door didn’t show what code or fingerprint was used. This is a common feature on other smart locks and one I personally use to keep track of my older children’s comings and goings when I’m at work. However, I could check the log in the app to see who unlocked it.
Locking and unlocking is quick when using the keyboard, but the phone app takes over five seconds to connect – very irritating when standing in the rain. The Apple Watch connects faster, and if you don’t have a keyboard, this is the easiest way to control the lock. All of these interactions are via Bluetooth, so you’ll have to stick to the lock. To control it remotely with the app or voice control, you need the hub.
Setup and installation was quick, less than 5 minutes total. This is one of the castle’s biggest selling points, but it wasn’t exactly easy either. You will need to queue a little to make sure the lock turns before sticking it to the door and you will need to use a small screwdriver (included) to adjust the lock’s clearance. Cleverly, it can be attached in any direction, vertically or horizontally, so you can fit it around your door handle. It also comes with a magnet to sense when the door is open or closed, although I could still remotely lock it while it was wide open with no warning or notification.
The SwitchBot app is simple. There’s no way to schedule the door to lock or unlock at a set time of day, and the auto-lock feature was very patchy. It only worked with the “lock after a period of time” and “relock if door was unlocked but not opened” toggles, and even then it was unreliable. This appears to be a software bug that can be fixed. But it meant I had to take out my phone to lock the door (there are iOS and Android lock screen widgets to make this faster), use the Apple Watch app, or use my key. However, when I added the keyboard, I was able to press a key to lock it.
There are some useful notification options, e.g. B. when the door is locked, when the door has been left unlocked and when it has been left open after a certain period of time. Notifications require the hub to work and they really should only sell this with the hub. It definitely makes it a better smart lock. The hub allowed me to connect to Alexa and add the lock an Alexa routine which it locked automatically every night at sunset.
The SwitchBot Lock is a good option for renters who can’t change their door lock at all, or for those who can’t or don’t want to remove part of their existing deadbolt. It needs to be adhered to the door frame with a heavy duty adhesive that will likely take some of the paint with it if you ever remove it. Similar retrofit options from the August, Wyze, and Bosma require rear latch removal and all cost over $100.
However, the smart features are limited to controlling the lock locally with your phone, Apple Watch or an existing key. Add the Wi-Fi hub and you get remote control and more useful smart home integrations, but only with Google Home and Alexa. There’s no HomeKit support and limited IFTTT integration. (The lock is just a trigger, not an action.)
If you also add the keyboard – particularly the fingerprint one – it becomes a much more useful proposition, but then you’re knocking on $170, closer to the price of less ugly options with better intelligence that don’t require all that extra gear (you have to however remove some or all door locks). This includes the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock plus Keypad and the Eufy Smart Lock Touch with WiFi (Fingerprint reader and keyboard in one, but a complete lock replacement).
The biggest advantage of this lock is its versatility. You can even use two on a door to handle multi-point locking. Its ability to grab pretty much any type of locking mechanism, including a key, means it may be the only smart solution that will work for your door.
Photography by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge