June 24, 2024

MyDesignDept

Carefully Crafted Home

iPhone users, this smart lock was literally made for you

Level Lock+ installed on a door

The Level Lock+ discreetly conceals its smart module in a sleek deadbolt.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

I’ve had the fortune of testing several smart lock brands and models and, through all the ups and downs of that process, have finally found the one for me. 

Also: Is your iPhone overheating since the latest update? Here’s what to do

The Level Lock+ is one of only two smart locks in the US market that supports Apple Home Key. This makes the Level Lock+ an absolutely seamless fit for a HomeKit smart home, like mine, and the single most convenient smart lock I’ve tested to date.

Smarts aside, a lot of the beauty in the Level Lock+ lies beneath the surface. This is one of the most compact smart locks available, with no built-in keypad or visible indication of it being a smart device; all you see is a deadbolt from the outside and a thumb-turn from inside your home.

Level Lock Plus

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Level Lock+

A discrete-looking smart lock that can be unlocked with the tap of a supported iPhone or Apple Watch.

What lies within the Level Lock+?

The Level Lock+ is an impressive piece of engineering given its small size. Many consumer-grade, smart home locks are bulky and imposing, while the Level Lock condenses its entire apparatus, including its CR2 battery, into the cam slot mechanism of your door’s borehole.

Also: Putting off installing smart locks? Here’s why I’m glad I finally did

Still, installing locks is not always a one-size-fits-all experience. The Level Lock+ wasn’t the easiest smart lock I’ve ever installed. I had a few issues making sure the deadbolt assembly was aligned correctly and with the Level Lock’s thick strike plate after removing my existing lock, and I had to chisel out a few extra millimeters in my door and door frame to get the right fit. After installing the new smart lock and adding the included battery, however, setting up the Level Home app was a breeze. 

Parts included in the box with the Level Lock+.

Everything that comes in the box with the Level Lock+.

Level

The Level Lock+ uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to connect to your phone and comes in two finishes: Satin Nickel and Matte Black. It also includes two physical keys and two key cards, just in case your phone dies. The latter must be set up in the Level Home app and also use NFC technology, so anyone that uses a key card can hold it up to the smart lock and wait for it to unlock.

What is Apple Home Key?

Home Key allows iPhone users to unlock their door using near-field communication (NFC) technology, so simply holding your iPhone or Apple Watch up to your Level Lock+ will unlock it; no passcode, physical key, or touching is required. This is much like using Apple Pay, as your virtual house key is saved in your Wallet, like your debit and credit cards, government IDs in some states, loyalty cards, and, if Apple has its way, eventually your Car Key.  

Using Apple HomeKey to unlock door

Apple Home Key unlocks your door for you.

Level

After adding your Home Key-supported smart lock to HomeKit, you can choose from two options: Express mode to unlock the door without unlocking your device; or Require Face ID or Passcode, which have you to unlock your iPhone to undo your lock after holding it close to it. 

Apple Home Key works with iPhone XS or newer (with iOS 15 or later), and the Apple Watch Series 4 or newer (with WatchOS 8 or later).

Also: Your HomePod can now alert you if your smoke alarm is going off

Express mode has been my favorite of the unlock features supported by Apple Home Key. I don’t always like having my door automatically unlock when I arrive home because I don’t always go through my front door when I get home — most of the time I come in through the garage. 

Having the option of quickly unlocking my front door using my Apple Watch, without entering a code or using a key, has been superb, especially when my hands are full of grocery bags or kids’ backpacks.

Apple Watch in front of Level Lock+

Level Lock+ being unlocked with an Apple Watch.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

It’s a big deal finding a great smart lock that works natively with Apple HomeKit, which is the tech company’s notoriously exclusive home automation system. HomeKit behaves like a walled garden in the smart home world, as Apple is restrictive with which products are able to meet its privacy and security standards. Protecting customers’ data is laudable, but this results in few smart devices available on the market that work with HomeKit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always used my Yale Assure locks with HomeKit and loved them, but I just hadn’t taken the leap to get a smart lock with Home Key support. 

Review: Yale Assure Lock 2: A genius lock… once you get it installed

There are only two other smart locks that currently support HomeKey: The Schlage Encode Plus and the Aqara A100, which isn’t available within the US. 

Level app or Apple Home?

Level Lock+ on a white door

The Level Lock+ as it sits on my old door.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

After installing the Level Lock+, you can use it either with the Level app or your Apple Home app. Personally, I’ve enjoyed how intuitive the Level app is to navigate and have found the Home app to be slower to refresh and discover devices (in general, not just with this smart lock), so I mostly use the former.

Like most smart locks, you can set up and customize different auto lock and auto unlock features, Apple Home automations, and different settings for manually locking and unlocking the Level Lock. Because there is no keypad to unlock the door, the Level Lock features touch-to-unlock or lock settings. Once you customize and enable these in the Level app, you can touch the front of the door lock to either lock it or unlock it in just a few seconds.

Key card in front of Level Lock+

Using a key card to unlock the Level Lock+.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The touch-to-unlock and lock feature only works within a set timeframe of engaging the lock, to prevent unlawful entry or break-ins. This means you set a timeframe of a few minutes in which your Level Lock+ will lock or unlock when you touch it. 

Also: Yes, you can auto-unlock your smart lock with HomeKit. Here’s the workaround

There’s also the option of buying a Level keypad, which is sold separately, to add to your Level Lock.

Bottom line

The Level Lock+ is a remarkable piece of technology for Apple users. I’ve found it to be unwaveringly reliable when used with Apple Home Key, the Level app, or on its own. The only two drawbacks I’ve encountered are my strike plate and fit woes and, in everyday use, trying to lock and unlock it from within the Apple Home app. Having been a consistent HomeKit user for over a year, though, I can assure you this is the case with many devices in the Home app, so I can’t fault Level for it. 

Level Lock Plus on a door

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The two largest advantages the Level Lock+ has over other smart locks are the Home Key support in the Wallet app and the fact that it’s compact and discreet enough to pass for a standard deadbolt — which is a plus for anyone looking to maintain a certain aesthetic or a renter. 

Also: SwitchBot Lock: A potential smart lock solution for renters and HOA residents

Obviously, if you’re looking for a lock with a compatible smart home platform other than Apple HomeKit, this Level Lock+, at $329, is probably not the one for you.