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