Are Smart Locks Secure? We Put Dog & Bones Padlocks to the Test
While a padlock may not seem that interesting, it’s an important tool everyone’s used at some point in their life. Whether you wanted to keep your locker secure at school, lock up your luggage, or keep your home safe, this unassuming object can mean the difference between a restful night’s sleep and a home invasion. With so much on the line, we wanted to try out something new to keep our property safe.
Dog & Bone has created a line of keyless Bluetooth padlocks that promises to provide homeowners with an easy to use, secure solution that is accessible to a wide variety of needs. We put two padlocks in their Locksmart line, the original and the mini, to the test.
The original Locksmart is a hefty lock. Its weighty design feels solid with a stainless steel, 8mm shackle and die-cast Zamak-3 zinc alloy body. This gives the lock a high tensile and impact strength so it won’t break easily. There’s also a ring of silicon on the front and back, to protect the surface of whatever you’re locking from scratches and scuffs. The “smart” part comes into play with a covered USB recharge port and small LED indicator on the front. The lock is completely weather-proof so it will function just fine no matter the weather, and the recharge port is sealed. It should function in rain, hail, snow, and heat from -4 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit. The design otherwise is very minimalistic. Since there is no keyhole, the only other thing present is the Dog & Bone logo on the front.
This is a smart security device, and of course, we’re all familiar with the ability for devices to be hacked. Dog & Bone has taken every precaution to ensure this lock keeps intruders, physical and cyber, out. The padlock features 128-bit advanced encryption and a 256-bit cloud generated private key. Homeowners can rest at ease knowing that just because this lock is keyless, it’s not any less secure than a traditional padlock.
To get started, we downloaded the LockSmart app (available for both iOS and Android devices). The set up was pretty straightforward: create an account so we could use multiple devices to access our lock, and then pair the device by setting a phone close by and pressing the On button on the bottom near the recharge port. Our lock was found almost instantly, and we were prompted to send a Bluetooth pairing request.
Once paired, all our locks were accessible via a single menu where we could give them specific names and images to differentiate them from one another. We were also prompted to update the firmware of the lock. This was actually a really great moment since it gave us peace of mind that this product is still supported by the company even after purchase. Even though our update specified it was only for an improvement to power save mode, it did make us feel like any issues uncovered could be fixed in the future.
We creatively named our lock “Big Padlock” and set its photo to an image of itself. If you’re being more practical than us, this is a great opportunity to name the lock after its location, function, or anything else you can think of while taking a picture of its location to help you find it later if it’s attached to something not used often.
We were also given the option to unlock our padlock in one of three ways: tap to unlock, Touch ID (we’re using an iPhone), and passcode. The lock can also send push notifications to your devices when its battery level is low, if it’s unlocked by a shared user, and if a shared user invite is accepted. We were given the option to enable more features as well. The Power Save Mode has the lock turn completely off after 20 seconds, requiring users to push the physical button to turn it back on again. This keeps your battery going as long as possible, up to two years! Your lock’s battery level is also visible from the app every time you connect so you can keep track if you don’t want to rely on notifications. The lock charged quickly and we’ve been at 100 percent from weeks of testing to writing our review, so Dog & Bone’s battery claim seems extremely feasible.
Location Mode lets you track your lock’s location when in Bluetooth range, but uses additional battery power since it has to wake the lock every 30 seconds. Tracking Mode is similar to Location, but it will send a notification every time the lock is moved outside of your phone’s Bluetooth range. Both Location and Tracking enables the Find tab, where you can see your lock’s last known physical location on a map and be notified if the lock is found (assuming it’s gone missing).
We chose Touch ID for our security and were prompted to give our fingerprint when accessing the unlock tab, the invite shared user section, and settings. Since we chose Battery Saver Mode, we also had to press the small button on the device each time we wanted to unlock it. It connected instantly to our phone and we tapped the large button on our app to authenticate and then touched our Touch ID sensor. The lock opened immediately, which was actually a bit surprising as it forcefully released the shackle and made a clamor as it sat on a table during testing.
Initial shock aside, the movement is very precise. It releases and lifts the shackle just enough to open the lock, but not enough that it will fall off whatever you’ve connected it to. Securing the lock was just as simple as any other padlock, with a tight and secure fit. The shackle does not jiggle around even a smidge, something those of us who have purchased quick and cheap padlocks will be thankful to be rid of.
Inviting shared users was easy, too; it just pulled up our contacts list, auto-filled in the user’s form, and then sent a text with a link asking them to download the app and accept the invite. Our favorite part was the option to give users unlimited, limited, scheduled, or single-unlock access. This is perfect for giving backyard access to your gardener, letting in a weekend house sitter, or even giving short term access to a contractor. You can invite up to 50 people and revoke your digital keys at any time. There’s also an activity log for every lock on the app so you can see any time it has been accessed by a shared user.
The only hitch in the shared user system was that when another user connected to our lock, we were disconnected. This was a little confusing at first since the app didn’t specify we were disconnected because another user had access; it just said we weren’t connected and suggested turning the lock on.
Another feature worth mentioning is buried in your personal account settings: crowd-sourced location. If enabled, users can receive anonymous reports about their locks from other users’ phones. So, if it goes out of range, it can still have a chance to show up on your map if it happens to ping another phone with the app. And vice versa, your phone can help someone else find their lock. Everything is privacy protected, but this function does require that you let your app access your location at all times, which can hurt your battery consumption in the long run.
The LockSmart Mini padlock is slimmer and lighter than the original, but equally as strong with a hardened steel shackle and a die-cast alloy body. While a step down from its bulkier cousin, this is still an extremely solid build that won’t be easy to break. They’re equals in weatherproofing, and the Mini also features the same encryption and generated private key security so even though it’s a smaller model, digitally it packs the same punch. All app features we previously detailed are also accessible with this model.
Appearance-wise the Mini has a more fun and casual vibe. Its silicon casing comes in three colors: black, red, and light blue and is extremely soft to the touch. The shackle’s spacing is the same as the original, so you can realistically secure anything the original can.
We saw the same performance as the first lock. It paired up easily and opening from the app was instantaneous. The only difference we could see was the hardware’s material strength, a slightly slimmed down frame, and the weight. If you’re looking for a more budget item, securing something where weight is a factor, or simply want something more portable, consider opting for the Mini.
Both locks are professionally made, feature solid hardware, and are very responsive. While we’ve never tried a smart padlock before, we have a lot of experience with different brands of smart door locks. In all cases, we grew frustrated with slow connectivity and cumbersome processes that made keeping a key on hand the quicker option. However, we were pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case with the Dog & Bone LockSmart padlocks. Every test was quick and easy, and the app was stylish and user-friendly. Additionally, the ease of sharing the lock has eliminated the risk involved with cutting spare keys or sharing a code with a stranger. The features and construction gave us confidence in using a smart lock over a keyed option.
As of writing, both options are on the higher end budget-wise. On their website, the original LockSmart is currently $90 while the Mini is $70. However, lower prices are listed through other stores, many with prices comparable to non-smart padlocks of the same strength. If you’re looking for a well-made padlock that will last a long time and provide extra security and convenience, the LockSmart line is a solid choice.