Photo of a shiny new Yale deadbolt keypad installed in a old and somewhat shabby-looking door.
A featureless black lozenge jammed into a century-old door is a very Upper West Side look.

We bought a Yale Assure Lock SL deadbolt a few months ago, replacing the keypad lock that our apartment’s previous owner had installed into its single exit door. The old lock worked fine, but I really wanted something that could tie into HomeKit. The Yale is the only model the Apple Store sold at the time, and the internet seemed to think it was okay, and that was that.

I’m happy to report that it does feel like a solid little upgrade to our tiny urban apartment. Amy and I came to fully appreciate the new lock within hours of installing it, setting a code for a catsitting friend to use, letting us leave on vacation without needing to perform a physical key-trading dance. We’ve used it for this precise purpose with multiple catsitters and housecleaners since, and it works splendidly. It feels wonderful to have one fewer key in my life, and no need to ever duplicate it.

(The old lock had both a keypad and a keyhole, but we never learned its codes. By the time I realized I could reset them, I had already made up my mind to replace the lock entirely.)

Controlling the lock with our phones took us a little getting used to. You can code yourself in, of course, but unlocking via iPhone becomes a breeze once you get the hang of it. Putting the Home app on the first page of your phone’s home screen helps, but setting up a detect-when-I-come-near-my-home-again automation is the real key step. This sends a notification to your phone—and your watch, and your AirPods, if you have those—prompting you to pull out your phone, find the “Run the coming-home automation?” notification, and tap “Run”. It feels a bit stilted at first, but Apple is very interested in not unlocking your home without your highly specific consent.

If you have AirPods in, your phone phrases it as a question for you to verbally answer, but it does not actually listen for a reply—because, again, Apple does not want the responsibility of accidentally unlocking your home after your phone thought you might have said something like “Yup”. You gotta pull the phone out and tap. You get used to it, anyway, and it still feels nice to just march on in.

If you have an Apple Watch, the notification sometimes comes up there as well, letting you unlock with a wrist-tap. Sometimes it does not. As with all undependable Watch notifications, I have no idea what criteria the system uses to decide whether to display it or not, and treat it as a coin-flip in my favor when it does happen.

Since the lock is just another HomeKit accessory, you can add your door to other automations—our “Good night” one now turns off the lights, turns on the white noise machine, and locks the door—and you can ask Siri to lock and unlock the door.

Let this amuse you: I actually have no idea if you can verbally ask Siri to unlock your door when you’re not home. I’m going to run down the block right now and try it. Okay, turns out you can! How about that. If you don’t seem to be home when you ask, Siri follows up with “Just to make sure: You want me to unlock your door?” And for this it listens for your “Yes”, since you’re the one who presumably started the conversation.

Installation was a bit of a bear, but much of that leaned on the particulars of our situation—which is to say, our door. Disassembling the old lock revealed that it had been seated in a very roughly-hewn hole, too small to fit the new lock. I had to hire a locksmith to smooth out and enlarge the bore. To Apple’s backhanded credit, the locksmith was quite familiar with this particular model of Yale lock—it being, again, the only flavor that New York’s many Apple Stores sell—and knew exactly how to fit it into the door snugly.

After that, getting the thing to start talking to HomeKit took some further wrestling. I accomplished this within an afternoon using my laptop and a willingness to try that Google Search trick where you begin your query with the word reddit. Regretfully, I don’t seem to have written down my notes. I can report that I did get the lock onto my HomeKit network after taking its inside plate apart, removing its batteries, and starting over from the top with the correct Reddit thread in hand. It has stayed connected since, with no hiccups. Siri and the Home app take it from there, though I have had to use Yale’s official app to add and remove codes.

An unexpected nit, more amusing than annoying: because its keypad presents itself as a featureless black lozenge until you touch it, people visiting us for the first time often have no idea what this thing is, and experimentally poke at it, wondering whether it’s some kind of chunky doorbell. This triggers its “one-touch lock” feature, intended as an easy way to lock up behind you as you leave. So, a new visitor will announce themselves with a knock, followed immediately by the sound of the door locking. It’s no bother now, but those first few visits were a little confusing to both of us, when it seemed like the person living in the apartment immediately locked the door on the knocking visitor, and then tried unsuccessfully to open the door anyway.

If your home is as awash with HomeKit as ours, and you want this monopolistic magic to extend to your doors, then this is a fine way to get there. Otherwise, if you just want the joy of keyless entry and shared codes without need to tie into an an Apple-based home-device network, then I imagine you’d do just as well with a less expensive solution—such as the Kwikset-branded deadbolt that our predecessor had installed.

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