You wait for ages for a Matter-compatible smart lock, and then three come along at once. Aqara’s $189.99 Smart Lock U100, which was announced at CES, is available starting today. It’s compatible with Apple Home Key through HomeKit and has beta support for Matter through an Aqara hub. SwitchBot is updating its SwitchBot 2 Hub this month to add Matter support to its smart lock, and just last month, Yale added a Matter module to its $229.99 Assure SL smart lock.
Plus, Apple announced on Monday that Home Key is coming to Matter locks on its platform with iOS 17, meaning they won’t need HomeKit certification to use the feature.
Matter is a new smart home standard designed to make it easier to buy smart devices and have them work with everything in your home. Smart locks were among the first device types supported when Matter launched last November, but it took until now for Matter smart locks to actually appear.
Matter-compatible locks will soon support Apple Home Key
With Matter, a smart lock should easily connect to one or more smart home platforms that support it, including Apple Home, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings. Amazon Alexa only supports a few Matter device types right now; smart locks and bridges aren’t included but should be soon.
Matter also means you can share the lock across platforms without needing to download additional apps, set up accounts, or link services through the cloud. This lets you use the same lock in Apple Home and Google Home, should you want, as well as control it with both voice assistants.
Aqara’s U100 is the first smart lock to work with Matter and Home Key
Aqara’s new smart lock is a full replacement battery-powered deadbolt lock that works over Bluetooth out of the box and can be unlocked with a fingerprint, keypad code, regular key, or NFC tag. It’s one of only three locks that work with Apple Home Key, which puts your door key into your Apple Wallet so you can unlock it the same way you use Apple Pay, by just tapping your iPhone or Apple Watch on it.
At $189.99, the U100 is by far the least expensive Apple HomeKey lock; the Schlage Encode Plus is $320, and the Level Lock Plus is $329.
The lock needs a Bluetooth connection to an Apple Home Hub or a Zigbee connection to an Aqara hub for out-of-home control and to connect to other smart home platforms, including Google Home and Alexa. With a Matter capable hub — such as the Aqara M2 hub — the lock can connect with those platforms and will be able to connect with SmartThings and Alexa when those platforms support bridges in Matter (Aqara says currently SmartThings does not support locks through a Matter bridge). You can also connect it to Apple Home through Matter, but as the U100 is HomeKit compatible and works with Home Key, you would lose functionality through Matter. (Matter doesn’t support touch-to-unlock).
Home Key will come to Matter locks in iOS17
Apple’s announcement that it will support touch-to-unlock for Matter locks in iOS17 wouldn’t affect the Aqara lock, as it already works through HomeKit. But it does mean that any locks that are Home Key hardware compatible will be able to use Home Key in Apple Home through Matter without HomeKit certification.
One such lock this could apply to in the future is the SwitchBot Lock. According to SwitchBot’s PR manager, Sean Tan, the SwitchBot app is being updated this month to bring Matter support to the SwitchBot Lock, enabled through its new hub SwitchBot Hub 2. The lock already works with Alexa and Google Home through the hub; the Matter update brings support for Apple Home and another way to connect to Google Home, plus support for SmartThings, when Matter locks are supported through bridges in SmartThings. Tan says the company is working to support Home Key, which would likely be enabled through its Bluetooth keypad, which has NFC capability.
Level’s Plus lock already supports Home Key, but it’s feasible that its non-Plus, NFC-capable versions, which start at $249, could work with Home Key through Matter at some point. However, it’s not clear if this would require an additional hardware update or not. Level has said its locks are Thread and Matter capable but has yet to announce when it plans to upgrade them to Matter.
The other Matter lock you can now buy is the Yale Assure Lock SL, which comes with the new Matter Smart Module for $229.99. You have to buy the module and the lock together; you can’t just get the module and add it to your existing Assure SL, although Yale says that will be an option at some point.
The Assure SL with Matter is a Thread lock that only works with Matter, which means it needs a Matter controller from your ecosystem of choice and a Thread border router to work. For example, an Apple HomePod for Apple Home or a Google Home Mini and an Eero mesh Wi-Fi router for Google Home.
“Based on where the Matter standard is today, it is a more limited experience.”
However, the Yale lock can only be controlled through a Matter-compatible app — it won’t work with Yale’s app as it doesn’t have Bluetooth. It’s also Yale’s older model — not its new sleeker, slimmer Assure Lock 2. Yale says it still plans to release the Assure Lock 2 with Matter, and that model will work with the Yale app and Matter controller apps. Neither Yale lock has Home Key support currently.
Why the wait?
Smart locks were among the first devices to be announced as part of Matter, so why are we only now getting a trickle of options? Yale says it’s due to shifting goalposts. “We’ve been working on Matter for our original Assure and Assure Lock 2 lines simultaneously, but due to the standard’s increased complexity, we found that we can implement Matter faster with Assure Lock SL,” Garrett Lovejoy of Yale told The Verge. “Based on where the Matter standard is today, it is a more limited experience. … Knowing the Matter experience will evolve over time, we decided to release this initial offering at this time to serve Matter early adopters.”
Yale isn’t the only lock manufacturer to cite issues with Matter as a reason for the slower-than-expected rollout of Matter products. When it released its Thread-enabled Schlage Encode Plus with Home Key, Schlage said it had the hardware on board to support Matter. However, it later reversed course, saying it would not upgrade the lock due to changes in the Matter spec and the slow adoption by the platforms (as noted, Alexa still doesn’t support smart locks). Instead, Schlage said it would release a new product line to support Matter, but we’ve seen no indication of that.
This makes Yale’s Assure SL the first Matter smart lock to work exclusively over the Thread protocol. Thread should address one of the biggest issues with smart door locks; replacing the batteries every three to six months. Thread is designed to drain less power than Wi-Fi, be more responsive, and work further away from a Wi-Fi router thanks to Thread’s meshing capability.
While it took half a year, we now have options for Matter smart locks and, along with lighting, sensors, plugs, and thermostats, are beginning to see a more fully featured Matter smart home arrive.
Updated Friday, June 9, 10:50 AM: Updated details on the SwitchBot Matter update, which has been pushed from June 8th to June 28th. Added information from Aqara on its Matter / SmartThings integration and from SwitchBot regarding its Apple Home Key plans.
Source: The Verge