Level Home, while still relatively new to the smart home world, has made quite an impact on the industry since emerging quietly after years of behind the scenes operation. Comprised of a team of former Apple, Nest, Google, and 3M employees, the company came out swinging late last year with the introduction of the world's first "invisible" smart lock, the Level Lock.
However, for the first few months, the Level Lock was only available through a unique partnership with retail giant, Walmart, and its InHome delivery service. When the general public got its shot at ordering the lock earlier this year, it was only available through a reservation program, making the highly anticipated device seem like it would never make it to our doors.
Thankfully, the wait is finally over, as the company opened up for general orders at the end of last month, and is now shipping. So with Apple in its DNA and with its lofty completely invisible claims, does the Level Lock live up to its expectations? Simply put: Yes, it does! I have been testing the lock for the past two weeks, and I can say that it is the lock that I will recommend to anyone that is looking for a smart solution, and not just because it is truly invisible.
Bottom line: The Level Lock is an absolute game-changer for smart locks with its innovative, completely invisible design. This lock is easy to install, fast, reliable, and supports convenient controls through an app and HomeKit, making it a clear winner.
- Easy installation
- Truly invisible design
- Supports HomeKit
- Quiet operation
- Fast response times
- Level app lacking
- Doesn't support Alexa or Google Assistant
Smart and discreet
Level Lock: The features
Even though it isn't intended to be seen, the Level Lock is a compact, sleek, all-metal smart deadbolt that looks and feels premium or well-built. The lock fits into most residential doors as well as with standard deadbolts, and Level provides a handy list of verified models on its support pages. Level's Lock consists of two pieces that connect together once they are installed, which facilitates an easy DIY installation process. The larger round "body" section turns an existing hardware tailpiece when combined with one of the three included adapters, and a bolt portion extends to secure the door when closed.
Both pieces of the lock fit entirely inside of a door, with no bulky boxes left to hang on the inside, and once installed, it is indeed invisible. The lock is powered by a single three-volt CR2 battery, which is rated for up to one year of "typical" usage. The battery installs directly into the bolt portion of the lock, and requires no tools to swap it in and out.
The lock communicates directly to smart devices over Bluetooth 5.0 LE, and does not require a separate hub for usage. The lock works with the Level app, available on iOS and Android, and it also works with Apple's HomeKit. HomeKit enables remote controls while away from the home in conjunction with a HomeKit hub, such as an Apple TV, HomePod, or iPad.
Through the Level app, quick toggles are available for changing the lock state. The app also allows users to share their lock with others through invitations, and via time-based passes. Other settings found within the app include an auto-lock option with three available intervals, and sound settings for audible confirmations.
HomeKit support allows the lock to work with other accessories, scenes, and automations through the iOS Home app. Siri voice controls for locking, unlocking, and checking status are also available, although some commands are limited based on the device that Siri is handling the request from. For example, Siri on a HomePod cannot fulfill an unlock request without acknowledgment of a confirmation prompt sent to a user's iPhone for obvious security reasons.
Security-wise, Level states that the lock "meets or exceeds" Grade 1/A Standards as set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Level also provides a complete list of metrics it has tested along with results, including bolt strength, impact, load, and slam tests on its support pages for those interested. While less specific, Level mentions that it uses the "most secure encryption standards" when it comes to wireless communication locally, and to the cloud.
Can you even see it?
Level Lock: What I like
As previously mentioned, the Level Lock is indeed truly invisible once installed, and it is just magical to, well, not see, in action. Now, having an invisible smart lock doesn't change its core functionality when compared to others, but as someone who has tested quite a few options over the years, I definitely appreciate the lack of a bulky box. Previous smart locks that I have installed are at minimum, three-times the size of a standard deadbolt latch, easily causing a visual distraction.
Of course, the invisible design can also be a huge benefit for those who rent their homes. Typical smart locks not only add an obvious visual change, but they often require a new key to be used. This is not the case here, as Level's Lock uses your existing keys, and when combined with a simple set up process that doesn't require calling a handyman, it is a win-win for just about everyone.
Speaking of set up, aside from one slight issue (more on that later), I found installation to be a quick and easy affair. Since I was replacing an existing smart lock, my installation took a little longer than it normally would, but I can comfortably estimate it taking 30 minutes or less for most situations. Essentially, all that is needed is a Philips screwdriver to get the job done, although having a roll of painter's tape on-hand will make it a little easier by holding the existing outdoor portion of the hardware in place.
Pairing the Level Lock was equally as easy thanks to its Bluetooth radio. Since the lock communicates via a direct connection to phones, there are no Wi-Fi passwords to enter, and the bulk of the process is registering for an account and scanning the HomeKit setup code. Due to my experiences with other smart locks, I opted to use the Level app for pairing as the category usually requires calibration, but I see no reason why one couldn't just use Apple's Home app instead. The Level app does indeed have a calibration option, but it is not a part of the pairing process and is not required.
After installation, I quickly noticed that the deadbolt is quieter and smoother when turned by hand, and the motor was significantly quieter than others.
Performance of the lock has been outstanding in my week of usage, with remote commands executing on device fast and reliably. Typically commands sent via the Level app or HomeKit take around 3-5 seconds before being carried out. There also may be times where the Home app will show updating for a few seconds before relaying the status, but I have yet to see an issue where it would not respond at all.
One aspect of performance that I was not expecting to be surprised by was noise level. After installation, I quickly noticed that the deadbolt is quieter and smoother when turned by hand, and the motor sound was significantly softer than others. Even the confirmation tones are pleasant, which actually lead me to not instantly turn them off, which I have done with previous locks.
Not quite set
Level Lock: What I don't like
As much as I love the hardware side of the Level Lock, I did run across a slight issue during installation that kept it from being perfect all-around. Unfortunately, when attempting to secure a small set screw that is used to keep the two parts of the Level Lock together, I found that it simply would not tighten down on my lock. While the lock still functioned properly, and it didn't feel any less secure, I was disappointed that my first installation did not quite go as planned. Level was quick to send a replacement lock over and I am happy to report that it did not have the same issue, as installation went smoothly the second time around.
Another complaint that I have with the lock is that the Level iOS app, like most hardware manufacturer's apps, is not the greatest. Immediately after installing the app, I was greeted with a familiar account sign up screen but found my first annoyance rather quickly: a required phone number. Another annoyance is that inviting others to share the lock requires access to the contact list on your phone. If you deny access, you simply cannot use this functionality.
The rest of the app was really basic visually, and surprisingly lacking the same polish as the lock itself. The good thing is that users can completely bypass the Level app and use just Apple's Home app and Siri for controls if desired. Android users will not have the same luxury though, as the lock does not support Amazon's Alexa or the Google Assistant at this time, which is definitely strange.
Level Lock: The Bottom Line
Despite my installation issue with the set screw and the just adequate app experience, the Level Lock is simply one of the best smart locks around. The innovative, invisible design, gives me the same vibes that Apple does when the company releases their take on an entrenched category. You know the story: it may not be the first of its kind, but its design is just so elegant and clever that it will make you wonder, why wasn't this thought of before?
The invisible design not only keeps installations clean, but it also opens the doors to so many who may have always wanted to own a smart lock, but can't because of rental restrictions. Now renters can join in on the convenient lifestyle without their landlords noticing visually, and they can still use their original key if needed.
The fantastic design isn't the only thing going for the Level Lock though. Fast, reliable response times, HomeKit support, and an easy installation process, make it a great fit for just about anyone, at least for those that use iOS. If you are in the market for a smart lock today, you should definitely have the Level Lock on the top of your list, it's dare I say, insanely great.
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