Review: SimpliciKey exterior home door lock

Is the world ready for keyless home entry? (February 13th, 2014)

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: SimpliciKey

Price: $250

The Good

  • - Little fuss with install

    - Three options for use; keyfob, keypad and key

    - Design doesn't look out of place

The Bad

  • - Install could mean modifications to frame/door

    - Key fob range varies

    - Slow/finicky action

As homes move forward into the future with smart refrigerators and app-controlled overhead lights, the demand for "smart" consumer products is starting to come in all shapes and sizes. While we haven't quite reached the future many people grew up with in Saturday morning cartoons, technology is teasing us, giving us some tantalizing devices along the way -- the SimpliciKey is one of these products. Bringing deadbolt automation, keyless entry and programmable guest codes, the SimpliciKey adds a level of technological refinement to everyday life. But does this new lock actually improve things, or is it just a bump in the road of advancing technology?

SimpliciKey is a deadbolt system for a standard door that brings a touch of convenience to entering and exiting a home. Through the use of a keyfob, a user can unlock and lock a door as needed or use a keypad to punch in a code to quickly unlock a door without having to dig for a set of keys. The door system offers a metal construction that is operated by four AA batteries in one of three finishes.

Installing the SimpliciKey hardware component isn't much different than installing a door knob or deadbolt normally. The bolt itself can be twisted to fit the necessary length for optimum positioning in the door relative to the hole cut in the door and the extension space needed in the door frame. All the screws, plates and templates needed come in the box. The kit includes extra security plates, extra long screws, a stop cap for smooth deadbolt operation, and physical keys for the times they may be needed. The only steps that differ from a typical install are the plumbing of two wires from the front of the SimpliciKey, sandwiching the door between the front piece and a plate, connecting the wires to the back and then screw everything together.

While this sounds straightforward, there were some issues when using the SimpliciKey. The device is quite sensitive to resistance when locking. Since it has an actuation to lock the door, forcing the deadbolt closed when locking could cause damage to the device, door or door frame. In our test setup, the existing hole in the door frame didn't quite line up with the optimum position of the bolt. This led to the bolt dragging on one side of the hole, stopping midway, clicking loudly and then returning.

This occurred about once out of every five tries to lock remotely. Pushing the door in slightly solved the problem. The deadbolt that the SimpliciKey replaced didn't require that finessing. Manually locking the SimpliciKey avoided the problem, making it apparent that the system is very picky in terms of its placement, though using the included smooth stop cap should help this as well. It may mean modifying the existing holes in the door and frame to correct this in long-term use.

Using the device itself is easy. Operating the remotes to operate the lock on the door is done with the press of a button. The door locks, extending the bolt only as far as it needs to, then beeps and flashes an LED at the command. The sounds can be turned off using the keypad, but hearing the beep on top of the very audible working of the system helps users know the door is locked.

The keypad is the best feature of the SimpliciKey, from its use to unlocking the door to the quick press setting to lock the door without having to use a key. We found using it this way preferable to the keyfob at times. A six-digit code is used, which can be programed into the pad itself, to operate the deadbolt from the outside. Remotes and codes can be added and changed. SimpliciKey requires the use of an administrator password to change any of the settings, but does allow for the code to be changed from the one provided at the factory.

The keypad is hidden by a slide-over cover, which hides the pad from the elements. It emits a light blue glow to allow a user to find the keys in the dark as well. The pad is, for lack of a better term, squishy -- making us wonder how it will hold up over time.

The design of the SimpliciKey keeps it from standing out or looking like an obvious security feature. The edges are smooth, and finished in nickel or brass to make it look like it belongs there. The deadbolt itself is of a brass construction, with the exterior appearing to be a plating of another metal. Documentation doesn't reveal which metal, but if the interior plate is any indication it is some variety of steel. The slide-outs for the battery and keypad work well, but the plate on the interior can be a little tough to put back on if it is removed to install batteries. However, there is a slight space on the interior side in order to keep the cover from scraping against the door when putting it back on.

Using the remote varies in its effectiveness, though. The key fob doesn't seem to transmit with every press, causing a user to continue pressing to get it to work. This isn't something that happens every time, but it was frequent enough to mention. While the remote is supposed to work at a distance of 50 feet, it was found that it could only do this with a clear line of sight, with the furthest distance without missed clicks being 30 feet. Ducking around a wall at 15 feet stopped the signal. It also had problems transmitting at a distance of six feet through a glass security door.

Battery life has been an area where the company's claims are questioned by users as well as commercial sources, but no issues were found during the few weeks the SimpliciKey was tested. If the deadbolt itself runs low on batteries, an LED will flash to warn of needed replacements.

The SimpliciKey is a device that tries hard to integrate into everyday use in a way that is unobtrusive and practical. For the most part, the deadbolt achieves that. The problem is that there are still a few quirks in the system. The SimpliciKey does have enough foresight in design that in the case of remote or battery failure, a manual key can still be used. For a system that should be distancing users from the use of physical keys and thrusting them into the future, the advantage starts to disappear when you have to continue carrying a physical key as a "backup." At $200, the question that needs to be asked is if the SimpliciKey is worth the convenience and the cost -- if you still have to carry a key "just in case."

by Jordan Anderson


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