Best HomeKit Smart Lock: Level Lock+ (Home Key) vs. Yale Assure 2 (August)
As a long-time user of August locks, I was pumped to test the latest addition to the lineup: the Yale Assure 2. With the ability to use either the August app or the Yale app, and important features like door sensing and auto-unlock, the Assure 2 has proved to be a more refined version of my former favorite lock, the Yale Assure SL.
However, the Yale Assure 2 lacks the Apple Home Key feature. Currently, only a few locks support this feature, which lets you unlock your door with a simple tap of your iPhone or Apple Watch. That's why I jumped at the opportunity to try the Level Lock Plus when it became available on Apple.com.
And after a few months of testing the Level Lock Plus, it’s clear that Home Key is a game-changing feature and outweighs the shortcomings that this lock has.
In this post, I'll go over the similarities between Yale Assure 2 and the Level Lock Plus, then evaluate the differences across four categories to determine if the Level Lock Plus has what it takes to become the new top dog in smart locks. Then finally, I’ll provide a breakdown of which one I’m keeping and explain why my decision isn't necessarily a rational one.
Both the Level Lock Plus and Yale Assure 2 have apps that provide lock and unlock access, a log of who opened the door and when, and the ability to schedule access for guests.
As an Apple user, you shouldn't need to touch the Level or Yale apps after the setup often because they both operate in the Apple Home app where you can set up automations and scenes. Out of the box, they both operate using Bluetooth, so if you want to control your lock while away from home, you'll need a HomeKit hub like an iPad, HomePod, or Apple TV.
Both of these locks have auto-unlock, which is a feature that I've been touting as a must-have feature on a smart lock for years.
Here's how it works:
Your lock goes into "away mode" when you leave the perimeter of your house with your phone. When you return, your phone connects to your home WiFi, and your lock searches for your phone via Bluetooth. Once your phone and lock connect, it triggers your lock to automatically unlock. When auto-unlock works, it's pure magic. It makes it feel like you don't have a lock on your door.
In my experience, both of these locks auto-unlock with the same efficiency and work around 95% of the time. The drawback is that it's fully dependent on Bluetooth’s capabilities, which can be shaky.
When auto-unlock doesn’t work, I stand at the door and contemplate whether I should take action or just be patient. Usually, the best approach is to be patient, but sometimes it never unlocks at all, which means you’ll have to resort to a different unlock method. It's worth noting that the auto-unlock feature is less reliable for my wife, which highlights the fact that households with multiple family members using different types of phones may experience more difficulties with auto-unlock.
Another downside to auto-unlock is privacy. For it to work properly, you need to grant the Level, Yale, or August app permission to constantly track your location. Additionally, if you force quit the app or don't allow the app to run in the background, the auto-unlock feature won’t work.
Thankfully, both locks offer many other methods of unlocking for those who prefer not to use auto-unlock, which we’ll delve into in the next section.
Over the years, smart lock manufacturers have experimented with tons of different unlock methods, like fobs, cards, touch, fingerprints, and keypads.
The Level Lock Plus is one of the first locks to feature Apple Home Key, which operates via NFC. To unlock the door using the Apple Home Key, just hold an iPhone or Apple Watch near the lock, similar to how Apple Pay functions, and it’ll securely unlock (after Face ID on the iPhone).
Lock passes get automatically added to the Apple Wallet app for each member of your Apple household. When unlocking with Home Key, there’s no need to open an app on your device – just point your device at the lock.
In my experience, Home Key fails about 10% of the time on the first attempt. Or displays that it failed to unlock, even when it actually worked. But it never failed me after the second attempt. Home Key lives up to the hype and is a more secure version of a fingerprint reader. Rather than rely on random lock companies with your fingerprint, you're reliant on your Apple devices to handle the authentication.
For members outside of your Apple household, you have a few options. For Android household members, you can grant them access to the Level app, and/or give them one of the two NFC key cards. When a key card is assigned to one person, and you’ll be able to see who unlocked the door. The cards work by placing them near the lock, just like Apple Home Key. You can give out a card to non-household members too and just limit the times of day that they’re allowed in the house.
You can also text guests an access pass via Apple Home Key that provides access to your lock during certain hours, but this feature still isn’t fully live yet.
The Yale Assure 2 takes a more conventional approach with a number keypad or a touchscreen. The touchscreen version is one of the best touchscreens I've tested, with great sensitivity and satisfying click sounds that resemble the Nintendo Switch.
To unlock the Assure 2, either tap near the Yale logo or place a few fingers on the keypad, then type in your four-digit code, followed by the check mark.
Once you teach family members how to use it, no one should struggle with it. Each household member gets a unique code and these can be managed inside the Yale or August app. The keypad is great for giving guests, dog walkers, maids, and Airbnb guests, access to your lock. And with the Yale WiFi module, the codes can be programed to work only during specific hours.
Which unlocking method is better?
There’s no doubt that the Level Lock Plus with Apple Home Key is more impressive technically. It’s just a cool experience! If you have a family of Apple nerds who all have Apple Watches, it’s the easiest way to consistently unlock the door.
While Level Lock Plus obviously isn't fit for a family with lots of Android users, I'm not convinced it's great for people without the Apple Watch for the same reason I don't find Apple Pay appealing with an iPhone. By the time you take your phone out of your pocket, and unlock your phone Face ID, it's probably just as easy to pull out a set of keys or punch in your code. With the Apple Watch, the story is different because it doesn't require any biometrics or passwords, and it's always one motion of the wrist away.
You can put your Level Lock in "Express Mode," which bypasses the need for Face ID on your iPhone, but it's less secure and will still require you to take your phone out of your pocket or purse.
The bottom line? The more Android users in your house or outside guests that’ll need access to the lock, the more convenient Yale with the universal keypad will be.
Both locks have auto-lock timers that can be set at different time intervals after the lock has been unlocked.
The Yale lock does better in this respect, thanks to its DoorSense feature that utilizes a magnet positioned in the doorframe to detect whether the door is completely shut. Consequently, the lock will delay locking until it senses that the door has been fully closed.
The DoorSense gives you an extra piece of mind too because theoretically, the Level Lock can show that your door is locked, while the door is not fully shut.
Other locking methods
The Yale lock can be locked as you’re leaving the house by touching near the Yale logo, but you may sometimes inadvertently tap the screen as you’re leaving. The other option is to require your full passcode to lock, but this extra work.
The Level Lock Plus has the smoothest lock method because you can just use Apple Home Key by placing your Apple Watch or iPhone near the lock, no authentication needed.
Build Quality & Design
Level Lock Plus looks like a traditional lock from the outside and has no branding anywhere. It even uses a traditional key. From the inside, it's the smoothest and most sleek design that I've ever tested. The deadbolt knob can be detached easily by putting a sim tool in the hole next to it.
Yale Assure 2 has four options for the outside appearance. First, choose if you want a touchscreen or push button keypad, then if you want a keyhole or no keyhole. (For those without the keyhole, if your battery dies, just put a 9-volt battery under the lock and enter your code to unlock it.)
The touchscreen and no keyhole option is the one I prefer because it looks best. The touchscreen is discrete and only lights up when touched.
From the inside, Yale Assure 2 is smaller than the previous generation, but it's not nearly as sleek as the Level Lock Plus. It looks like a smart lock and isn't attractive.
One concern with the Level Lock Plus is that the motor is one of the weakest that I’ve tested. It gets the job done most of the time, but it doesn't have enough power to overcome a door that isn't fully shut because it’ll attempt to lock, then provide an error message on your watch or phone. Yale, on the other hand, feels more solid when locking because it has more power and able to overcome a door that isn't fully in the proper place.
The Yale Assure 2 runs on four AA batteries located under the black case. With other Assure locks, I’ve been able to get six months before replacing the battery, and the Assure 2 seems to be on a similar path.
The Level Lock takes a different approach with the battery. Instead of a battery compartment above the deadbolt knob, a single CR2 battery slides into the lock bolt, which might be the most brilliant thing about this lock. I was initially skeptical about the bolt's hollow body because it doesn't seem like it’d be strong enough intuitively, but it has an ANSI Grade 1 rating for strength, which is the strongest rating. And surprisingly it’s even stronger than the Yale Assure 2, which has an ANSI Grade 2 rating.
Level says this battery will last a full year with regular settings. I’ve been using it for three months with the boost range setting enabled, and my battery is rated as "healthy." I’ll be satisfied if I get six months of use out of a single battery.
Both of these locks are susceptible to picking, but that's true for most locks (smart or dumb) on the market. If getting picked is a concern, go with one of the Assure models without the keyhole.
Noise level is something else to consider.
From the inside of my house, I measured the Yale Assure 2 to be 68 decibels when locking and 71 decibels when unlocking. While the Level Lock Plus is noticeably quieter and more pleasant on the ears, measuring at 56 decibels for locking and unlocking.
Cost & Configurations
For Apple households, there’s no need to purchase extra modules or bridges with either lock.
The Yale Assure 2 is $180 with a touchscreen or $160 with a push-button keypad. You can buy a WiFi module for $80 that slides into the lock near the battery compartment, which will let you use your lock inside the Yale app while away from home or with more smart home ecosystems. The WiFi module doesn't make sense for iPhone users because there are no benefits aside from control away from home, but that can already be done inside the Apple Home app with a HomeKit hub.
However, later this year, Yale will release a Matter module that will allow the lock to work with every smart home ecosystem. The Matter module is interesting because it may potentially improve the efficiency of auto-unlock, which would remove its reliance on Bluetooth.
The Level Lock Plus costs almost twice as much as the Yale Assure 2, coming in at $329. To make matters worse, it doesn't come with a keypad. Level has an optional Bluetooth keypad for $79, but based on my experience with other Bluetooth keypad options, I’d probably avoid it. The set would run you more than $400 and be less effective than Yale’s native keypad.
Which is best for you?
Yale Assure 2
Get the Yale Assure 2 if you want the best value lock on the market. For $179, you get HomeKit, auto-unlock, a strong motor, an amazing keypad, and DoorSense. Yale is a trusted name in the lock business and the locks aren’t susceptible to being picked if you get one without the keyhole. It's half the price of the Level Lock Plus and you could argue is the better lock overall. The only major downside is that it's a bit louder and doesn't look great from the inside.
Level Lock Plus
Get the Level Lock Plus if you place an enormous value on aesthetics or you're desperate for Apple Home Key integration. It's the best-looking lock that I've ever tested and the Home Key integration lives up to the hype, making it the easiest and most secure way to lock and unlock the door. I don't love the price and I wish it had a stronger motor, but it's a solid lock.
Which model am I keeping?
Almost everything in my rational brain tells me that Yale Assure 2 is the better lock and the one I should be keeping. And I’ve had a Yale on my door for more than three years and never had an issue. But the irrational side of my brain, won’t let me give up my Level Lock Plus. I’m a sucker for nice design and an Apple fanboy. Not only is Home Key the ultimate party trick, but it’s the most efficient way to lock and unlock a door.
I’m keeping the Level Lock Plus for now with the rationalization is that I’m doing it for further testing purposes, but I'd likely be keeping it even if I wasn’t a reviewer.
As a side note, I finally got my hands on the Schlage Encode Plus (another Home Key lock) after stores struggled to keep them on the shelves. I tested a few Schlage locks in 2018, but they had poorly integrated software and were loud. But the Schlage Encode Plus might be the best of both worlds providing Apple Home Key and a keypad. And I'll write another post documenting my findings sometime over the summer.
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