Review: Level Lock Plus with Apple Home Key

The Level Lock Plus (branded Level Lock+) is a new smart lock from Level Home that’s exclusively available on Apple’s online and physical stores. Like previous Level products, the Level Lock Plus is all about minimalism and does its best to avoid drawing attention to itself.

The Level Lock Plus looks very similar to other products in the company’s portfolio, but this particular smart lock works with Apple’s home key feature that it first introduced in iOS 15. Home keys let you unlock your Level Lock via the NFC radio in your iPhone or Apple Watch. This feature, as I’ve stated many times before, is a downright game-changer for smart locks, and instantly makes the Level Lock Plus worthy of your consideration.

Video walkthrough

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Design and build quality

Level was founded by two ex-Apple employees — John Martin, a former VP of the company’s apps division, and Ken Goto, a former senior director of engineering. The Apple design DNA is readily apparent in all of Level’s products, including the Level Lock Plus, which is an improved version of the Level Lock – Touch Edition.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not surprising that design is a priority for Level given the company’s DNA.

Not only is the Level Lock Plus physically small, but it’s also low-key and inconspicuous. Most people, even those steeped in tech, would be hard-pressed to recognize they were looking at a smart lock at first glance, and this is clearly by design.

There are no gaudy keypads (although it’s an option if you want one), no wild designs just for the sake of being different, and perhaps most notably, virtually no branding that the user can see. It’s a high quality device that looks like any normal lock, but it’s deceivingly smart at the same time. With the added convenience of Apple home keys support to unlock doors via NFC using iPhone or Apple Watch, it’s an even more compelling option.


Unlike some of the other smart locks that I’ve tried in the past, installing the Level Lock Plus could not be any easier. The packaging is laid out clearly, and the instructions are direct and straightforward.

As long as your current deadbolt has a smooth throw without needing to push or pull on the door to lock it, installation should be a breeze. If you find that you need to push or pull on your door to lock your existing lock, that could indicate that the door or the jam may have swelled or warped. An automatic smart lock will lack the needed torque to work past this issue. This applies to any smart lock, not just the Level Lock. Fix your door first!

Step 1: Disassemble your current lock, removing the lock housing, deadbolt, and strike plate.

Step 2: Install the Level Lock bolt into your door with words TOP facing upwards. Use a Philips screwdriver to secure the bolt to your door with the bolt plate screws. Slide on the motor and secure it with the connecting screw, and then fasten the strike plate to your door jam with the strike plate screws.

Step 3: On the entry side of the door, with the bolt retracted, thread the tailpiece of the key housing through the center hole in the motor along with each of the mounting stalks. Secure the opposite side of the housing with the included security bolts, then snap on the interior magnetic paddle.

Step 4: Unscrew the bolt cap and insert the CR2 battery with the flat end towards the cap. You should hear a welcome chime indicating that the connections and battery were installed properly.

Using the Level Lock Plus

Download the Level Home app on your iPhone, create an account, and connect your Level Lock. After doing so, you’ll be prompted to configure your Level Lock Plus using the Home app.

There are a lots of ways to unlock your door using the Level Lock Plus. These methods include the following:

  • Hardware keys
  • Level Home app via Bluetooth
  • NFC-enabled key cards
  • People invites
  • Guest passes
  • Touch to Unlock / Auto Unlock
  • Home app tiles, and automation
  • Siri
  • Apple home key
  • Keypad (sold separately)

In my video walkthrough above, I demonstrate many of the methods for unlocking and locking your door using Level Lock Plus. Of course the normal Siri/Home app control is present, alongside lock controls baked into the company’s own Level Home app. But I also appreciate having the ability to use regular old hardware keys. This is great for household members that aren’t able (or willing) to adapt to new technology. Watch the video to hear my commentary on each unlocking method.

Level recently noted to the Verge that a firmware update is in the works to add Matter support over Thread, and that’s big news. This will open up the Level Lock Plus to more ecosystems outside of the current HomeKit and Amazon Sidewalk platforms:

Today, the Lock Plus (like all of Level’s locks) only works with Apple Home and Ring, but Level confirmed to The Verge that all its locks will be updated to support Matter-over-Thread, which will throw open the gates to any compatible smart home platform, including Google Home and Samsung SmartThings.

The Verge

Level Lock Plus Apple Home Key support

Indeed, there are many ways to unlock the Level Lock Plus, but one of the primary reasons why you’d consider this lock over most other smart locks on the market is because it supports NFC-enabled Apple home key. With home key, all you need to do is tap to unlock your Level Lock Plus with your iPhone or Apple Watch.

Apple home key is the same technology that I raved about in my previous review of the Schlage Encode Plus. Schlage’s offering is the only other smart lock that I’ve been able to test with home key support, and I was blown away by how well it worked.

I have the similar feelings about using home keys with the Level Lock Plus. Just tap the lock with your iPhone or Apple Watch, and your door is unlocked in just a few seconds. Home key, by default, requires users to identify using Face ID or passcode, but enabling Express Mode lets home keys work faster without authenticating.

Another feature that Express Mode enables is the ability to use home key even when your iPhone needs to be charged. Thanks to a battery reserve that keeps the NFC radio available, you won’t be locked out of your house just because you forgot to charge you iPhone.

Security concerns

In a recent video, YouTuber LockPickingLawyer showed that the Level Lock Plus is extremely easy to pick using a rake tool or access via a simple bump key and hammer method. While this is somewhat concerning given the $329 price point of this lock, I have a slightly more measured take when it comes to lock security.

In my opinion, locks are primarily there to give homeowners peace of mind, and prevent someone from simply opening your door and walking inside. If someone really wants inside, they could simply break a window. That’s not to ignore the fact that Level did not include a more robust cylinder inside its flagship product, but, as shown by LockPickingLawyer, many consumer grade locks can be picked with the right tools. That being said, as Level notes in its FAQ, a user could have the Level Lock Plus rekeyed by a locksmith with a more robust cylinder if they wanted to, but it would have been nice if it shipped with a more fortified cylinder to begin with.


After using Apple home key, I’d never recommend a smart lock again that didn’t support the feature — it’s just that good. That leaves few options, as of now, for home key-enabled smart locks.

The aforementioned Schlage Encode Plus (if you can find it) is a great option, although its design is the polar opposite of what Level is doing. With Schlage’s offering, it includes a keypad along with a design that makes it clear that it’s a smart lock. There’s not anything wrong with that design route, but it’s anything but inconspicuous.

Home Key is simply a must-have for today’s smart locks, I wouldn’t buy one without it.

With the Level Lock Plus, you get the most important home key feature, but you also get a design that’s decidedly minimalistic and normal looking. It gives you the latest and greatest smart lock technology in Apple home key support, while looking like a regular lock that you might scoop up from a spur-of-the-moment weekend visit to Home Depot.

If Schlage’s Lock were readily available and I could pick between the two, I’d probably learn more towards Schlage’s offering due to its built-in keypad and stronger reputation as far as security is concerned. The Level Lock Plus is, in my opinion, the better looking lock, but after using both I’d say that the Schlage Encode Plus just edges out the Level Lock Plus.

At any rate, if you prefer the look and design of the Level Lock Plus, I don’t think you can go wrong with it. It’s a solid lock option right now for those in the Apple ecosystem, and it will get better as future firmware updates are released.

DesignExtremely low key and unassuming design, looks like a normal lock.Battery level – More granular battery level readings would be helpful.
Installation – Full install can be finished in just minutes.Sound – Could benefit from even quieter lock/unlock confirmation sound options.
Hardware key – Non-techies will appreciate having a simple hardware key.Security – Easily picked, according to some sources, but lock can be rekeyed for enhanced security.
Home Key – A game-changing technology that is a must-have for modern smart locks.
Thread/Matter support – Level will update the Lock Plus to support Matter over Thread.

Jeff’s score

Rating: 4 out of 5.


Transparency: Level Home sent me this lock for review, but I retain full editorial independence to report my findings and opinions.

Nomad launches Super Slim Case for iPhone 14

Nomad just launched its newest case for the iPhone 14, the low profile and ultra-thin Super Slim Case. Available in two colors — Carbide Gray and Frost — this case provides iPhone 14 users with a way to protect their phones while maintaining the phone’s form factor.


  • 50% recycled materials
  • Premium & grippy matte finish
  • 360º coverage with chamfered cutouts for buttons and ports
  • Raised camera bump for added protection
  • Wireless charging compatible
  • Two color options: Carbide or Frost
  • For every iPhone 14 model
  • MSRP: $29.95
  • Available starting today

I recently got my hands on both the Carbide Gray and Frost Super Slim cases and I shot a video which I will post later this week on Cellular’s YouTube channel. In the meantime, I took a few vanity photos to show off the case when mated with my Space Black iPhone 14 Pro.

Both cases look good, and to be honest, I’m not sure which color I prefer most. I like the Frost Gray colorway primarily because it’s translucent. This design allows you to see the Apple logo, with the Space Black iPhone combining to provide an almost metallic look. The Carbide Gray colorway also looks good and pairs nicely with the Space Black camera housing and black bezels.

I found the Super Slim case to be fairly grippy, as Nomad states, although it’s not as grippy as the stainless steel band on the iPhone 14 Pro models. I was impressed by the accuracy of the button and port cutouts, as they feature a chamfered design for an even more precise fit.

There’s only so much you can say about a case, but for those of you that desire a measure of protection without the bulk, then the Super Slim Case is a good minimalistic option. It’ll protect your iPhone’s camera housing, protect the rear of the device from scratches, and provide a measure of protection from drops and dings on the corners. Obviously you won’t get the same amount of protection that you’ll get from more fortified options, but you’ll need to make that tradeoff if you want one of the most low profile case options for the iPhone 14.

Again, be sure to subscribe to Cellular on YouTube, as I’ll be posting a brief video walkthrough of the Super Slim case in both colors.

Nomad cases for iPhone 14 lineup

Nomad has been one of my favorite Apple accessory companies for quite some time now. The company made a name for itself by producing cases utilizing high end Chicago-based Horween Leather, and has continue to broaden its reach over the years to other areas like wireless chargers, watch bands, and even ink pens.1

But Nomad hasn’t forgot the very thing that got them in the game, case (ahem) and point — a brand new series of cases to coincide with the recent launch of the iPhone 14 lineup.

Nomad is also a big supporter of independent creators, which is something I’ve grown to appreciate even more as of late with the launch of Cellular. The company sent over several of its iPhone 14 Pro cases for me to test out, and I happily obliged.

Video walkthrough

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All of the cases I tested are MagSafe & wireless charging compatible, although you won’t receive the cool MagSafe animation and sound like you do on Apple’s first-party cases. I should also note that each case also features two handy attachment points for lanyards, if that’s your thing.

Something that you’ll notice about all of Nomad’s cases is the amount of emphasis that’s been placed on protecting the cameras. Each cases features a raised camera ring, and this area is now even more pronounced since the cameras protrude even further than they do on previous iPhones.

Nomad Sport Case

The Sport Case features a high-gloss, premium scratch-resistant finish, anodized metal buttons, and a grippy TPE bumper. Nomad says that the design of the minimalistic Sport Case enables 6ft drop protection. I tested out the Marine Blue and Lunar Gray colorways, but there are Black and Ash Green color options as well.

Nomad Rugged Case

If you’re someone who plans on pushing the new Apple Watch Ultra to its limits, then it makes sense to go with a more rugged case option for your iPhone as well. Although lightweight, the Rugged Case is able to withstand more extreme environments. Nomad’s most fortified case option features 15ft drop protection thanks to its TPU bumper and polycarbonate frame.

Nomad sent over the Rugged Case in Ash Green, but if you’re going to buy this case there is only one right choice — Ultra Orange. Not only does this color complement the orange accents on the Apple Watch Ultra, but it also matches Nomad’s new limited edition Ultra Orange Sport Band, which I’ve pre-ordered and am anxiously awaiting its December arrival.

Nomad Modern Leather Case

The Modern Leather Case makes for a good alternative to Apple’s own leather case lineup, which is $10 more expensive. I tested the Brown, English Tan, and Natural colors, but Nomad also makes the Modern Leather Case in Black.

The Modern Leather case features full grain leather, and an integrated air bumper with up to 10ft of drop protection. The cool thing about these leather cases is that they get better with age. Over time the leather develops a patina that gives the cases a signature “worn” look.

Nomad Modern Leather Folio

My favorite case of the ones that Nomad sent over is the Modern Leather Folio. A book-style case with a front and back cover, it affords extra space for storing multiple credit cards, and even has a place to hideaway cash. The case includes a removable magnetic clasp for extra security.

Like Nomad’s other leather offerings, the Leather Folio is available in both standard and more lustrous hand-made Horween Leather.

With the advent of AppleCare+ I’ve argued that for some folks, it might make sense to go caseless, but the vast majority of people probably disagree with my sentiments.

If you’re going to use a case, you should definitely check out what are, in my opinion, some of the best case options available.

  1. Nomad sent over its titanium ink pen along with these cases, and I’ve probably spent more time with the pen than anything, it’s just that good. It actually makes me want to start writing again by hand. It’s pricey, but it’s perfectly weighted and is machined from a solid titanium body. []

Curve Flex review: a new adjustable MacBook stand from Twelve South

The Twelve South Curve Flex is a brand new stand for your MacBook that builds on the concept of the company’s original Curve stand. Whereas the original Curve provided a solid metal one-piece design, Curve Flex features two adjustable dual hinges that allow users to elevate their MacBook screen while simultaneously adjusting the angle of the keyboard.

I recently went hands-on with the Curve Flex, which launches today, and paired it with my silver M2 MacBook Air. If you’re a MacBook owner, Should you consider adding the Curve Flex to your desktop setup? Watch my hands-on video review for the details.

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Why Curve Flex?

Twelve South marketed the original Curve stand as a beautifully curved one-piece design with no extra parts or moving pieces. While such a design has its advantages, it also brings forth some limitations. For example, the original Curve provides a single keyboard angle and features a static 6.5 inches of height off of the desktop.

The Charleston, South Carolina-based company introduced the Curve Flex to afford users more flexibility to dial in the ideal display height and keyboard angle for their desktop setup. The Curve Flex features the height-adjustability of Twelve South’s HiRise for MacBook, while also letting users configure the best angle for typing on the MacBook’s keyboard.

The Curve Flex is ideal for those who wish to align their MacBooks next to an external display for a more ergonomic desktop workspace. Users can then user their MacBook to control input, or more ideally, pair a trackpad/mouse and keyboard for a more comfortable setup.

Curve Flex design and build quality

The original Curve, which Twelve South still sells, is comprised of a solid piece of aluminum in either matte black or matte white colors. Because of the one-piece design with no moving parts, its the more solid of the two when compared to the dual-hinge Curve Flex.

Despite the nature of the design, this adjustable stand feels very well built. Although it somewhat encroaches on the elegance of the original Curve design, Twelve South employed the use of a cross bar to assist with stability on the Curve Flex. And like its forebear, it features a non-slip surface on the bottom that ensures firm footing while on the desktop.

The Curve Flex is available in matte black or matte white colorways. I imagine most will opt for the matte black by default, but I went for the matte white. I think matte white looks nice on a white or natural wood desktop surface.

Strengths and weaknesses

This product’s main strength is in its name: Flex. Thanks to the hinge design, the unit can elevate your MacBook’s display anywhere between 2 and 22-inches and adjust the angle of the MacBook’s keyboard up to 45 degrees. Not only that, but the unit can fold flat when not in use, making it an ideal travel companion. Twelve South even includes a handy travel sleeve inside the box.

Unlike the Curve Flex, the original Curve featured no moving parts, so it provides a more surefooted desktop presence than the Uber-adjustable Flex. If stability and permanence are the most desirable qualities you’re looking for in a stand, then check out the original Curve instead.

Should you buy?

If you’re looking for an adjustable and travel-friendly stand for your MacBook, then the Curve Flex, available starting today for $79.99, is well worth considering.

I’m including this stand in my upcoming roundup of my favorite MacBook Air accessories. Be sure to Subscribe to Cellular on YouTube for more hands-on coverage with the M2 MacBook Air.

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Nomad launches Base One MagSafe chargers in new gold colorway

Nomad, one of my favorite companies producing Apple-centric accessories, has launched a new version of its Base One and Base One Max MagSafe chargers in a beautiful gold colorway. These high quality official MagSafe chargers were initially available in both carbide and silver color options.

The Base One is a solo MagSafe charger that provides charging speeds up to 15W (you’ll need to provide your own 30W or higher USB-C power adapter). Of course, it’s also Qi-enabled, so it will work with any Qi-device, not just iPhones. The unit features a beautiful weighted metal & elevated glass design, and is a definite step up from Apple’s standard MagSafe charger, or even the Apple MagSafe Duo, which is prone to yellowing over time.

If you’re interested in charging both your Apple Watch and your iPhone simultaneously, the Base One Max features the same MagSafe charger with weighted metal body and elevated glass panel alongside a soft-touch Apple Watch charging base.

Base One is available for $99.95 and Base One Max is available for $149.95. The prices are higher than some third-party MagSafe options, but the build quality and design of Nomad’s options are second-to-none.

As I noted at the outset, I’ve been a fan of Nomad gear since it was primarily known for its Horween leather cases. Even though it has expanded its portfolio to other areas, design has remained a top priority. I’ll try to get a hands-on video of the Base One or Base One Max if I get the opportunity.

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