Created by smart lock maker Level, the Level Lock+ is the one of the first Home Key-compatible smart locks on the market, designed to unlock a door automatically when a Home Key-enabled iPhone or Apple Watch is held near it.
The Level Lock+ replaces the prior-generation Level Lock, and it uses that same unassuming design. Many smart locks are immediately recognizable as smart locks, but the Level Lock+ looks like any standard deadbolt with all of the smart capabilities hidden away inside the door, with no bulky components inside or out.
There are limited color options with the Level Lock+, but it does come in satin nickel and matte black. It’s not going to match well with bronze, gold, or similar door hardware, so I do wish that it came in additional color options. The Level Lock+ is sleek looking and I am a fan of the simplicity. It’s unassuming on the door, and it looks like nothing special, so it doesn’t draw attention.
The Level Lock+ replaces an existing deadbolt, and installation is fairly straightforward. I had a setup that had included a keypad, so I needed to paint the door and do a bit of repair before I could get it installed. I have never installed a door lock before, but the Level Lock+ instructions were simple enough to follow.
The bolt is adjustable and there are two sizes. The end of the bolt basically needs to stick out of the borehole, and if it doesn’t on the smaller size, it needs to be adjusted to the larger size. For my door, the larger size was too long and the smaller size was not quite right either, so I did have to do some sanding and tweaking of the deadbolt cutout to get things to fit right.
After about five minutes of sanding, I was able to get the bolt in the right position, and from there, the Level Lock+ hardware fit right into the deadbolt cutout and snapped into the end of the bolt, which is where the battery is housed. It’s a clever setup because you can change the battery just by popping the end of the deadbolt.
Once I managed to get everything aligned correctly, it was just a matter of screwing everything together. I did run into another problem with the strike plate, as it was smaller than my existing strike plate. I had to drill new holes, which wasn’t a big deal. In the end, everything lined up properly and I had the lock up and functional within about 20 minutes.
The Level Lock takes a CR2 battery, and I’m not sure how long the battery lasts before it needs to be replaced. The CR2 batteries are about $4 each, and the amount of battery life you get will likely vary based on how often you’re unlocking your door. There is a physical key, so access is available if the battery dies and you’re not home.
After setup, I was able to add the lock to the Level app and connect it to HomeKit, making it available for use both in the Home app and the Level app. Once added to HomeKit, the Home app gave me the option to use Home Keys with the Level Lock, and I just needed to tap on the banner in the Home app to add the Level Lock to Wallet.
Home Keys are an iOS 16 feature that let you store your house key in the Wallet app, and from there, unlock your front door with your iPhone using NFC. Home Keys did not initially work for me, but I re-added the lock to HomeKit and then it worked well.
With Home Keys, you can enable “Express Mode” in the Wallet app to unlock the door without needing Face ID or a passcode, which is convenient. You just tap the top of the lock with your iPhone and it unlocks with no other authentication and even when the phone is locked. It also can continue to unlock the door for a few hours after the iPhone battery has died thanks to NFC.
There are a lot of ways to unlock the Level Lock. In addition to Home Keys, you can use the Level app, the Home app, ask Siri, use a key, or set up a key card. With a Home hub, you can open the lock remotely for guests or provide them with a pass so they can use their own smartphone to unlock your door as needed.
You can set it up so each person in your home can access the Level Lock, and the Level app has a list of every time the lock was locked or unlocked. You’ll also get Home app notifications when the Level Lock is accessed. The Home app supports automations, so you can set up functions to lock the Level Lock when the last person in the home leaves, lock it at night, and unlock it when you arrive home, if you want.
Since I was able to get Home Keys set up, I haven’t had an issue accessing the Level Lock with any of the available methods, and it is convenient to be able to open my lock in a multitude of ways, and to have the option to open it for a guest if I’m not home. The Level Lock takes just a few seconds to unlock when directed to do so, and you can hear the mechanism inside working.
I do want to touch on the physical security of the Level Lock as there is a popular video from Lockpicking Lawyer that shows him accessing the Level Lock in just seconds with a simple rake tool. The Level Lock is not a hard lock to pick, and anyone who has a small amount of lockpicking knowledge and common tools can likely get into it. My partner, for example, does lockpicking as a hobby and was able to pick the Level Lock in less than 30 seconds.
There are a lot of deadbolts and door locks that are simple to pick and take little effort to access, so this is not a major surprise, but Level could have ramped up the security here. Some easily acquirable deadbolts from companies like Schlage are more secure, which makes them pickable, but with more of a time investment and more specialized tools.
A door lock is more of a social contract than anything else, serving as a signal that your house is locked up and should not be accessed. Someone who really wants to get into a locked house likely has many alternative means to do so beyond lockpicking, such as breaking a window. Still, I think the pickability is something that any potential buyer should be aware of.
Level says that its lock has a BHMA AAA rating, but this rating is based on weight, withstanding a sledgehammer, and withstanding an attempt to pull the door open. It also takes into account durability, such as smooth functionality and resistance to dents, but it is in no way a measure of security from lockpicking. If security is a top priority, you’d be better off with specialized high security locks than the Level Lock+ or anything that can be bought off the shelf at a big box store.
The Level Lock+ is super convenient, plus it’s sleek and looks unassuming. It’s so nice to be able to tap my iPhone on my lock and open the door, and I have found it handy to be able to unlock the door for guests from another room, as well as letting in workers when I am not home.
That said, this is a pricey lock at $329, and I would have liked to see a more robust, secure product at that price point. Level has pointed out that the Level Lock+ has a typical C lock cylinder used by hundreds of lock brands on the market, and that many consumer grade locks can be easily picked, but that doesn’t seem like a great excuse for a lock that’s over $300. Most locks that Level is talking about are around $30 at Home Depot, and that’s a major price difference.
Hopefully the next iteration of the Level Lock will include some additional security features. It doesn’t need to be unpickable because that’s not the main way criminals are breaking into houses, but just an extra layer of security would have been nice to keep it from popping open with basic tools in 30 seconds.
How to Buy
The Level Lock+ can be purchased from the Apple Store for $329.95
This article, “Review: The Level Lock+ Makes Unlocking Your Home Easy, But It Isn’t the Most Secure” first appeared on MacRumors.com
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