Review: Kwikset Kevo Bluetooth Deadbolt

Smart home automation has become more and more common, with vendors offering tons of different automated and connected parts to augment your home life and make daily tasks easier than ever.  We've explored many facets of home automation, including robotic vacuums from iRobot and Neato Robotics, to hubs and lights to make things a little more awesome for those occasional parties and get-togethers.  But what about just getting into your house and keeping it secure?  Kwikset's Kevo Bluetooth Deadbolt is one piece of the puzzle that might have you interested if you're tired of fumbling around with those old toothy metal keys and would rather just use the power of Bluetooth to control the lock on your door instead.

In the Box

For $200 MSRP the Kwikset Kevo comes with just about everything you'll need to get this installed in your door in about 30 minutes time.  Aside from the actual installation hardware to get the deadbolt into your door, the Kevo box includes a key fob and a pair of keys for backup locking and unlocking of the deadbolt itself.  The lock's housing comes in three different colors to match the decor of your home too: Venetian Bronze, Polished Brass and the Satin Nickel model that we have for review.  If you wish to have additional features you can order the Kwikset Kevo Plus package for $99, which includes a smart gateway and access to more features for the Kevo as well.

Hardware and Design

Kwikset's Kevo goes out of its way to be incredibly normal looking, and to be completely honest that's a really good thing.  When it comes to home automation and smart devices it's usually better to have a device that looks more like a traditional one than some fancy new high tech gadget.  That doesn't mean the Kevo is some overly ornate looking lock that would look like an augmented object from King Henry VIII's chamber, it just means it isn't going to be an obvious target for robbers or would be hackers to break into your home.  The only part of the Kevo's simple round outward-facing exterior that looks any different from any regular Kwikset deadbolt is the ring around the keyhole that lights up when the outside of the deadbolt casing is touched.

This capacitive section of the Kevo activates the Bluetooth component of the lock, which then searches for any authorized Bluetooth devices to lock or unlock the door.  The ring lights up blue, flashing and rotating around the bezel as it seeks for an authorized Bluetooth device, and then flashes a number of other colors to denote status of an action.  Red for error depending on a number of parameters, amber for when the door locks successfully, and green for when it unlocks successfully.  These colors are vibrant, bright and bold and will never be mistaken for one another unless you have a color blindness impairment, in which case the ensuing series of beeps will let you know for sure if the Kevo succeeded or failed its last status change.

The inside-facing part of the Kevo is a completely different story in the looks department though, and obviously looks quite a bit different from your usual round deadbolt with a simple locking handle piece.  This tall, metal and plastic clad exterior houses the circuitry to make the technology for the Kevo possible, as well as those all-important AA batteries.  You'll need 4 AA batteries to power the unit, a solution that keeps you from having to either plug the unit in permanently or attach a weird charging cable to it every now and then to juice it up.  Battery life won't be a worry either, as we've been running the unit for 2 solid months and have yet to change the batteries out or be warned that the batteries are getting low.

Underneath this plating you'll also find a series of four dip-switches that control various parameters of the unit.  The first switch controls whether or not the status LED on the inside of the unit blinks every 6 seconds, which is set to on by default, and notifies you that the lock still has adequate battery power.  The second switch, which is off by default, will enable the triple touch lock functionality of the unit.  This allows you to lock the Kevo via a series of three touches and doesn't need to be authorized in order to do it.  This triple touch will not unlock the unit, only lock it, and is most useful in a situation where you need someone to lock the deadbolt behind you who would not have your keys or ability to get an eKey from the Kevo app.

Switch number 3, which is on by default, gives a series of audible beeps when the Kevo is locked or unlocked, letting you know from anywhere in or outside of the house that the unit has just performed a command.  This is enabled by default for security reasons but can be disabled in case it becomes annoying.  Switch number 4 has no current function but is reserved for a "future function," showing that Kwikset has plans for this unit beyond today's connected home devices.  Next to the dip-switches you'll also find the reset and calibrate buttons, which will enable you to pair your Kevo's fob with the unit as well as get any new eKeys that have to be retrieved.  Check out our installation video above for all the steps to install and setup your Kevo.

App and Usage

Instead of going the route of trying to do everything and anything for you, Kwikset's Kevo app is a fairly simple app that does only what it's supposed to do.  After the initial setup process is completed, the home screen of the Kevo app displays any locks that are paired with your Kevo account and not a whole lot else.  You'll find a Floating Action Button on the bottom right for adding Gateways or additional locks, and a small set of icons on the top right for settings, help and an upgrade to Kevo Plus if you're just a standard member.  Once you click on the name of your lock itself you'll be given a splash screen with the current lock status and available eKeys.

This lock status will depend on a few things; if you're a standard member and only have the Kevo deadbolt, you'll only be able to see the status if the lock is within Bluetooth range, typically about 30 feet or 9 meters.  Folks with Kevo Plus will be able to access the lock status no matter where they are in the world thanks to the connected Gateway that Kwikset provides you, but since that's a separate product we won't be covering that in this review.  In addition to current lock information, you'll be able to see all the historical data of when the lock status changes, who changed it, and an included time and date stamp.  This gives you a good idea of who's been in your dwelling and when, if any nefarious deeds happen to take place, and the information is needed of course.

From this section you'll also be able to manage available eKeys including sharing or deleting them if need be.  Sharing is likely one of the absolute coolest features of the Kevo, and works unbelievably well.  Let's pull up a little scenario for you that would put this into context.  Say you've gone on vacation and you've left one of your pets back at home for a sitter to watch.  Instead of having to hide your physical key under a mat or some other incredibly obvious place for a shady individual to nab and enter your home, you can actually share an eKey with the sitter via the Kevo app.  All they have to do is install the app, create an account and activate the key temporarily on their account.  All the sharing is handled through the Kevo app and you'll never have to exchange a physical key again because of it.

Just be sure this person's phone is on the supported list of devices before getting out of Dodge though, as I've run into a number of situations where the Kevo flat out didn't like the phone I was using, or a limitation of the phone itself came into play.  For instance a number of review devices I've had including some from smaller Chinese manufacturers either only sporadically work or just won't open the app at all.  Others still didn't seem to want to transfer the Bluetooth signal to the lock, and other phones like the OnePlus X have strange Bluetooth limitations that keep it from properly using Bluetooth Smart from working properly with the Kevo.  Because of this your mileage might vary if your phone isn't on the official list of supported devices, so again please check with that before you invest in a lock.

There's little need to worry about security when it comes to the Kwikset Kevo.  While I was a bit nervous about using my phone to unlock my house at first, the fact that Kwikset uses what's considered to be military grade PKI Bluetooth encryption for the wireless transmission put my mind to ease.  Also worth noting are the physical protections against lock picking and bumping, as the Kevo has been tested to withstand lock-picking standard, UL 437, par. 11.6 according to Kwikset.  UL 437 is a security rating from Underwriters Laboratories, which is an American worldwide safety consulting and certification company that specifically comes up with standards for these types of devices.

What's particularly amazing as of firmware update 1.2.3, is that the Kevo can detect whether or not you're inside or outside your home.  This is done during the calibration process and lets your Kevo know whether or not you're actually standing at the outside of the door waiting to get in or just lock the unit, and when the key is inside your home.  This gives the Kevo a massive security bonus, as it means you can essentially hang your keys and Bluetooth fob next to your door inside the house, and the unit will never lock or unlock based on the fact that the keys are inside rather than outside.  That also means that someone can't just get into your home simply because the keys are in Bluetooth range, an effective way to keep people out that don't need to be in or just keeping the lock from unlocking accidentally when touched if you're inside the home.  You still should exercise caution when placing fobs and smartphones close to the lock, though, as tempting fate is never a good idea.

What's also really nice is that you never have to take your phone out of your pocket or bag to unlock the Kevo.  So long as you're outside and within an acceptable range of a few feet (usually less than 3ft/1 meter), the phone will be able to change the status of the lock by simply pressing on the outer ring of the lock itself.  If you'd rather not have the phone always waiting to send the Kevo code you can disable this behavior in the app, but by default it's always running in the background on your device.  I never once saw the Bluetooth service or the Kevo app appear on my battery stats either, meaning it's drawing an incredibly tiny amount of power even though it has been running all day.  Of course, the same formula applies to the key fob, which doesn't need to leave the keyring on your pocket or bag to talk to the deadbolt either.  Those needing a physical key can of course, use one of the two included (or get copies if you need more) too, which might be smart to carry around as a backup just in case those batteries die.

Interconnection and Smart Home Compatibility

Android Wear functionality is built in to the Kevo app as of a few updates ago, but it's been a mostly miss effort for me rather than anything worthwhile.  Functionally it's pretty cool and will allow you to remotely unlock the Kevo within Bluetooth range if you've just got the deadbolt by itself, or of course from anywhere using the Kevo Plus service.  Unfortunately no matter what watch I used, be it the Samsung Gear Live, Moto 360 or Huawei Watch, the app pretty consistently crashed at random times during the day.  It doesn't always happen, and it didn't happen every day either, but I would randomly look at my wrist to be greeted with that nice white screen that read "Unfortunately Kevo stopped" instead of my watch face.  It was annoying as all get up and I wished I could turn it off.

What I wasn't able to test, thanks to simply not having compatible products, was the ability to integrate with Nest and Honeywell smart thermostats.  The Kevo app allows you to pair your Kevo with compatible Nest and Honeywell thermostats, which in turn would adjust your thermostat to the "away" mode as soon as you lock the door on your way out.  Subsequently unlocking your Kevo from the outside would place it in the "returned home" mode to readjust your home's temperature to more suitable living levels.  It's a brilliant bit of integration that helps flesh out the smart home functionality that's part of such smart appliances and gadgets.

Final Thoughts

Kiwkset's Kevo is an amazing product that works exactly like you think it would.  It's incredibly convenient to no longer have to pull the keys out of my pocket to unlock my front door, especially when my hands are full.  Let's not forget all the useful ways to let others in your house from afar without needing keys, the fact that you don't have to remember more than your phone when venturing forth from your adobe, and the countless many other scenarios that the Kevo really makes life just a little bit easier.   Recent firmware updates have not only added some much needed functionality and security features to the Kevo, but stability as well.  For $200 you're getting one incredible piece of hardware that's going to help you out in a way you will likely not want to part with any time soon, and gets a huge recommendation from us as an addition to your smart home.

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About the Author
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Nick Sutrich

Event / Reviews Editor
Nick has written for Androidheadlines since 2013, is Review Editor for the site, and has traveled to many tech events across the world. His background is as Systems Administrator and overall technology enthusiast. Nick loves to review all kind of different devices but specializes in Android smartphones, smartphone camera reviews, and all things VR, both here on the site and on our YouTube channel. He is very passionate about smartphones and the continued improvement they can bring into people’s lives and is an expert on many different types of technologies, including mobile devices, VR, and cameras. Contact him at [email protected]
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