The smartest smart lock money can buy

Depending upon your perspective, smart locks are either an innovative way to control access to your home electronically while dispensing with archaic keys, or a high-tech solution in search of a nonexistent problem.

If you aren't persuaded that the ability to secure your home with a smartphone is a better option than carrying a ring of keys around, then the August Smart Lock won't appeal to you. For everyone else, August is the smartest, most practical smart lock money can (currently) buy.

Unlike competing products such as Kevo, August doesn't replace your entire locking assembly. You get to keep the exterior lock and deadbolt. You simply replace the thumbturn mechanism that sits on the inside of the door.

In theory, the installation is a 10-minute affair: Remove a couple of screws, swap the thumbturn for a backplate, replace the screws and affix the August mechanism to the backplate via a pair of "wings" that clamp down to hold it to the plate. Your mileage may vary, though.

August works with most deadbolts, but it's always possible you own an oddball lock. And in one of our test installations, the front door had fancy molding that was too close to the lock, prohibiting one of the wings from opening far enough to securely bite into the backplate.

That said, this approach has some pluses: You get to keep most of your existing hardware, your old key still works, no one can tell you have a pricey smart lock from the outside of your home and setup is lightning fast.

Using the August is equally straightforward. After installing the app on an iOS or Android device, you can lock or unlock the door with just a tap. You can also grant permission to other people to access the house, either as a guest (able to visit on certain days or times of day) or permanently. An activity log also optionally tracks every time the door opens or closes.

Because August is a Bluetooth-only device, it draws very little power, and its batteries promise to last about a year (you also get an in-app warning when it's time to change them). That means you aren't dependent on house power, Wi-Fi or the Internet to unlock the door. As long as you have your phone, you should be able to get in your front door.

And since it doesn't depend on Wi-Fi (or even have a Wi-Fi radio), it can't be hacked. On the downside, that also means you can't remotely lock or unlock the door, nor can you check the status of the front door from 10 miles away. Did August really lock behind me? There's no way to know without going home and trying the knob.

August distinguishes itself with two additional features -- and these elevate it to the status of best-of-breed. August's Everlock feature locks the door behind you 30 seconds after it's unlocked. That means the door locks itself automatically.

Then there's Auto-Unlock, currently available in iOS and coming soon for Android. August uses your phone's location services and Bluetooth to automatically unlock your door as you approach. As long as you return to your home from more than 100 yards away, the door unlocks for you.

Not only does that prevent accidental unlocks (unless you own a mansion that's more than 100 yards long), but most of the time, your door unlocks with a musical chime just as you get near it. That's magical, and makes the August in a whole different class of convenience.

Everlock and Auto-Unlock, working together, mean you generally never have to take your phone out of your pocket, launch the app, wait for the Bluetooth connection to complete and then tap to unlock. In our testing, it just happened every time, without fail.

Unfortunately, August isn't cheap. It retails for $250, and since it has just started shipping, it's initially backordered as production capacity catches up with demand.

That said, the demand is warranted. August is currently the best smart lock money can buy. If the long-delayed Goji ever ships (the company has been distressingly quiet when pressed for updates), it would be the only other smart lock that might give August a run for its money.