SimpliSafe Smart Lock review: The ultra-simple alarm system gets its own companion smart lock

This barebones lock is short on features, but a rock-bottom price tag merits a look by the SimpliSafe set.

simplisafe lock 1
SimpliSafe

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At a Glance

While SimpliSafe prides itself on its ultra-simple setup and alarm management—its alarm system sets up in minutes and doesn’t even require an app—the optimist in me wondered how it would fare after adding a smart lock to its collection. Notoriously unfriendly in both setup and use, the smart lock industry has made only baby steps toward usability since its advent a few years ago. Would SimpliSafe be the company that kickstarts the concept of simplicity in this business?

The answer is a qualified yes, and users who need absolutely basic smart lock features might find value in this affordable but rather stripped-down device.

The SimpliSafe Smart Lock is, like the August Smart Lock, an upgrade product, which means it only replaces the interior escutcheon of your door lock, leaving the exterior untouched (including your existing, keyed lock). This is therefore not an appropriate solution for a new home or an unfinished door. You’ll need to keep your exterior escutcheon and the deadbolt hardware (including the connecting screws) when you install it.

simplisafe lock 2 SimpliSafe

The SimpliSafe Smart Lock comes with a wireless numeric keypad that can be mounted outside your door.

The slim interior escutcheon installs relatively easily, provided you follow the well-written instructions closely. Again like August, SimpliSafe provides a collection of adapters that let the lock work with the wide variety of tailpiece styles, so you’ll need to take care to pick the right one. Another interesting wrinkle: While a small plate attaches to the door directly via your existing screws, the interior escutcheon merely clips on to this plate thanks to two sliding “wings” on either side. It’s an unusual design that makes for a surprisingly sturdy connection that requires no additional screw-work, and removal is a snap with any sort of pry tool (including the one included in the kit).

simplisafe smart lock app 1 Christopher Null / IDG

The SimpliSafe app is available only as part of a subscription for professional monitoring, but it adds very little in the way of smart lock features.

I’m less sold on the overall look of the device, which is thin but quite tall; the alabaster white design option that I received will likely clash with many exterior doors, which often are finished with wood stain, not white paint. The lock is also available in black, or white with a nickel-finished interior knob. The plastic cover over the battery compartment (4 AAs come already installed) also feels a bit chintzy.

Because SimpliSafe does not require the use of a mobile app, the kit also includes a weatherproof numeric keypad to allow for entry from the outside. This small black device, about the size of a typical garage door opener, stands completely alone from the lock and is designed to stick to the exterior wall via adhesive tape. Presumably you could even take the keypad with you if really wanted to keep your home secure from intruders, though this is not officially prescribed. (Ed. note: Simplisafe describes this device as a "PIN pad," to differentiate it from the interior keypad that's used to arm and disarm its alarm system.)

SimpliSafe’s selling point has always been simplicity—it’s right there in the name—and while my hardware install was fairly smooth, I had quite a few hang-ups getting the system activated and getting the lock connected to the SimpliSafe base station. Don’t read too much into this: Some of these problems were due to the lock being so new that my SimpliSafe hub hadn’t received a software update to work with it; other bugs were potentially due to a prior version of the SimpliSafe hub still being attached to my account. Either way, I spent a day playing phone tag with SimpliSafe tech support before I finally got things up and running. With all that said, I doubt most users will experience any of this trouble.

Other than this hiccup, the software setup could not have been simpler, although that is primarily because there is so little to do. You don’t (and can’t) even assign a PIN to the lock: It uses the PINs you already have set up to disarm the SimpliSafe alarm. You can drill down into the SimpliSafe settings system or use the web portal to change the automatic relocking system and change how the two alarm modes interact with the lock, but that’s it. There is literally a total of four options of any substance for the user to manage.

simplisafe smart lock app 2 Christopher Null / IDG

Lock activity is logged in the SimpliSafe alarm system app, so you know when the door was unlocked and who unlocked it (based on PINs). It will also inform you when the door was locked, but not by whom.

And that, of course, is on purpose. SimpliSafe is designed to minimize confusion and, as a side effect of that, it minimizes configurability. While the system does integrate lock activity into the SimpliSafe master logs, you won’t find much in the way of power-user options here. Namely, PINs either open the lock or they don’t. There’s no way to make temporary PINs or time-restricted PINs. You can delete a PIN easily enough (obviously), but you can't create PINs that automatically expire. This isn’t the type of lock you’d want to use on an Airbnb property.

The SimpliSafe lock does work with its mobile app, but said app is only available to those who purchase the higher-tier, $25-per-month monitoring plan. If you’re not already using the monitoring plan, there’s no real sense in shelling out for this just for mobile app access to the lock. The app can only lock or unlock the door manually and it adds no additional features; it’s much faster to just use the keypad when you need to get in.

The SimpliSafe Smart Lock costs all of $99, which makes it a pretty low-risk endeavor if you want to give it a try. On the whole, the lock does succeed at targeting the same users as its alarm system: Those who want the basics and have zero technical ability to deal with any problems that might arise. As such, it’s not the most flexible, efficient, or even attractive smart lock on the market, but at this rock-bottom price it’s hard to complain too much.

Updated October 21, 2019 to add Simplisafe's characterization of the lock's numeric keypad as a "PIN pad," and to add a sentence about the option to delete PINs at any time.

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At a Glance
  • Smart locks aren’t the most user-friendly smart home product, but SimpliSafe makes some strides with this entry-level offering for SimpliSafe users.

    Pros

    • Surprisingly easy install for a retrofit lock
    • Extremely affordable
    • No-nonsense operation

    Cons

    • Lack of advanced features will make this a non-starter for some SimpliSafe users
    • Design aesthetics aren’t the best
    • Mobile app adds nothing to the experience
  
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