Why this deal is ZDNET-recommended
The Aqara U100 Smart Lock It’s probably the most versatile smart lock on the market and it’s available on Amazon for just $190. Akara recently launched its first Apple Home Key smart lock in the US. The launch comes after Akara already sells many Home Key-compatible smart locks outside of the US market, so it’s not new to the smart home world. But was it worth the wait? I tested it for six weeks, and the short answer is: absolutely.
Recommended by ZDNET
Aqara U100 Smart Lock
The Aqara U100 Smart Lock is the first in the US to combine the Apple Home Key, keypad, fingerprint, NFC tag and a physical key for unlocking options — all for $190.
Getting the Akara U100 to my front door was reasonably easy, although my particular review unit didn’t come with instructions. It took a few minutes to figure out which part went before the other, but a deadbolt is a pretty simple process, so it was easy. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes.
Also: iPhone users, this smart lock is literally made for you
Once the U100 Smart Lock was on the door, I set it up with the Aqara app on my iPhone and used a Akara M2 Hub to connect it
Although an Akara Hub is not required to use the basic features of Smart Lock, you do need one to perform remote lock and unlock actions, view current lock status and configure password settings from your phone, and create automations with other Akara devices.
Without a hub, the U100 Smart Lock can only connect to your phone via Bluetooth and be controlled as long as you are within Bluetooth range.
The Aqara U100 Smart Lock is unique in the US as it is the only one on the market that offers the following unlocking options in one:
- Passcode Unlock: The U100 features a keypad for entering 6-10 digit passcodes to open the lock, and users can add one-time passcodes or ones that only work during a predetermined time, such as for a babysitter to have the lock on every weekday from 3-6pm. Set up 75 passwords in the app.
- Fingerprint Unlock: After setting up my U100 to unlock with my fingerprint, I’ve never had a problem with it not recognizing it or failing to respond to it. Users can add up to 50 fingerprints to the app, and Akara says its fingerprint reader has a 98.6% recognition rate.
- Apple Home Key: I set up the U100 lock to unlock with my iPhone using the NFC-enabled Apple Home Key. It adds a virtual key to your iPhone wallet and you can open your smart lock just by bringing your iPhone or Apple Watch close to it.
- NFC Tag: You can also program NFC tags to unlock the Aqara U100, perfect for non-Apple users or house guests to use as keycards.
- Mechanical Key: The U100 comes with two physical keys to use the Smart Lock, and the keyhole is hidden behind a sliding panel on the face of the wave.
While I didn’t find the Akara mobile app very intuitive, I do like the variety of features available for the U100 lock. You can add other users and give each of them a unique unlocking method. For example, I always give myself a passcode and a fingerprint to know who got in and how when checking the lock’s event history.
The app allows you to customize alert settings and choose the voice volume and language for any voice alerts during locking operations. Thanks to a built-in gyroscope for motion detection, you can set the device to auto-lock when the door is closed (no additional modules required).
That being said, it wasn’t all sunshine and the doors locked automatically. I struggled at times with the app’s beta features, especially when it came to locking the U100 behind me or when I swiped it, and at one point I had to go back inside to find the mechanical key because it wasn’t working for me.
While my experience was mostly positive, I found the app very slow and unreliable in providing lock status even when my phone was in Bluetooth range. Sometimes it would give me the wrong status and say the door was locked when I could clearly see it wasn’t.
I still liked the Aqara U100 for two things: the pros outweigh the cons, and it’s a new product with incoming firmware upgrades constantly improving its performance.
Considering how elaborate smart locks can get, I went into this review biased toward the simplicity of the Level Lock+ and the sleek design of the Yale Assure Lock SL. But all make additional unlocking features Akara U100 Unique turned me on.
Being able to consistently (and flexibly) unlock my door with my fingerprint or the Apple Watch, and not one or the other, has added just the right amount of convenience to my life that I look for in all smart home devices.