I am going to be perfectly honest upfront, I was expecting the worst when I received the HiTechouse Smart Fingerprint Padlock. The padlock, which has been available on Amazon for a while, has little to no exposure in the HomeKit scene, and does not have a manufacturer’s website that I could find. Reviews on Amazon even stated that the lock was installing malware on people’s phones, and when coupled with the fact that it uses fingerprint scanning for authentication, I dismissed the product when I first came across it. It wasn’t until recently, when one of my outdoor padlocks kicked the bucket (it was just a plain old dumb lock) that I researched the HiTechouse lock again, and I am glad that I did. After wading through the reviews, I found that the listing actually incorporated some other smart locks that are compatible with Android, and were not for this lock at all, leading me to believe that the device may just be worth checking out. I also noticed that the device was now listed on Apple’s list of HomeKit devices, although it is marked as “Coming Soon”. All of this lead me to eventually taking a chance on the mysterious padlock. So was it worth the risk? Let’s find out.
Since the Amazon listing was somewhat unclear as to what brand the padlock was from, I didn’t know what I was going to receive after ordering. When the lock arrived, the clean white box was labeled HiTechouse Smart Locks, and stated “12 years dedicated to smart locks”. This was somewhat reassuring, so I continued with unboxing it. Inside the box was the lock itself, a flat but short micro-USB cable, a reset tool which is pretty much an exact clone of an Apple sim eject tool, and the associated manuals. Attached to the top half of the box, a HomeKit pairing code sticker was found, and it utilized the new format with a QR code in addition to numbers, which again, eased my fears about the device. The padlock itself is slightly larger and heavier than a standard “dumb” lock, but the heft certainly made it feel premium. The housing of the lock is made of metal (called out as zinc alloy on the packaging) and sports the traditional padlock chrome look, along with what appears to be a black plastic insert in the center where the fingerprint sensor is located. Also on the front of the device is a small LED light, which blends in extremely well with the black plastic, and it flashes according to any change in status. Around the back of the lock is another HomeKit paring code, and on the underside of the device is a micro-USB charging port and spot to insert the aforementioned reset tool, all covered by a rubber flap for weatherproofing.
According to the Amazon listing, the lock is weatherproof, and has a rating of IP64, which fits my needs perfectly, but time will tell on how well it holds up to mother nature, as I have gone through a few “weatherproof” padlocks before. For what it is worth, there has been a few instances of rain since I have put the lock outdoors, but it is still somewhat early to determine whether or not it lives up to its claims. Another thing to note on durability is that during my unboxing of the lock, I immediately dropped it from about a height of 4 foot or so directly on to a hard surface, and I found no visible damage at all to the housing, so that is definitely a plus. As mentioned, the device does have a charging port as there is a built in rechargeable battery and the listing states that it can be used “30 times a day, for 30 days” for its expected battery life. From my experience, it seems that each unlock/lock action consumes around 1% of the battery, and the lock takes around an hour to fully charge.
Now with the lock fully unboxed, it was time to the moment of truth, pairing the device to HomeKit. I was fully expecting this to be the downfall of the lock as I assumed that it had some obscure App, and a weird pairing process. I also assumed that the device was not truly HomeKit “certified”, and expected some potential privacy or security issues. Well, I am glad to report that this was not the case at all, and in-fact, the manufacturer of the lock does not have an App for the device. To pair the device, I only had to scan the provided HomeKit code, and after a few moments, the device was added to my Home. This simple pairing process is thanks to the usage of Bluetooth for connectivity, and it pairs directly to HomeKit, with no additional information, such as an account, or sharing Wi-Fi details to be seen, which is a huge plus in my book. This also eased my fears about actually using the fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device, as with this method, at least from my understanding which could be completely wrong, there is no way for the device to send any stored data to a random server in the cloud.
Once paired to HomeKit, the padlock appears just like a standard smart door lock. 3D touching/Haptic Touch on the lock’s device tile brings up a slider to lock and unlock the door, and an option for settings. Inside the settings pane, the battery status of the lock is displayed in percentages, and will even display whether or not it is currently charging. The only other thing worth noting in the device settings is that the manufacturer of the device is listed as TF Tech, which is not a brand that I am familiar with at all, but the model does match the name of the Amazon listing, which is HTH-DB (HiTechouse Diamond Black). By default, the lock is set up to provide status notifications for any event, which is great, however, receiving the notifications from the Home App varies based on connectivity and I did see some instances where I did not get a notification if the lock was outside of Bluetooth range after initially setting it up. Since I have my lock located outdoors, I expected to see some issues with connectivity, and I was able to solve my issues by forcing the Apple TV that was closest to the lock to be the HomeKit hub. Of course, Bluetooth connectivity also affects the responsiveness of the padlock itself, and unlocking/locking the device via the Home App did take a few seconds. I say a “few” as I can’t quite pinpoint exactly how long it takes as it varies, but I would estimate that it falls within the 5-10 second range. Just like with any other Bluetooth based device, once the lock is “woken” up by a command, subsequent commands happen much faster, in some cases instantly. Again, this will vary based on your use case, but this is something to definitely keep in mind, as having it too far away from your HomeKit hub could basically make this smart lock nothing more than a traditional “dumb” lock.
Speaking of reliability, I have seen some instances where the device will show “No Response” in the Home App. Just like with reaction time when commands are sent, this is seemingly random, and usually corrects itself within a few minutes. Again, this is more than likely due to the lock being located outdoors, and the distance that it is from my hub, but it can be somewhat annoying. One final thing to note is that the lock has an auto-lock function which means that the lock will automatically re-lock after a short period, which is around 30 seconds according to a variable exposed via the Controller for HomeKit App. This is a nice safety feature to have, but with no manufacturer’s App, there is no current way to change this setting, and since the Home App cannot serve firmware updates, this is pretty much going to be how it stays for quite a while. Having this auto lock mechanic also helps to re-assure that the lock will be locked even when it does go into the “No Response” state.
Even though I had some initial privacy concerns regarding the fingerprint scanning portion of the lock, I essentially had to go through with this process due to one pretty big flaw, at least in my eyes. In the lock’s default state, ANY fingerprint can unlock the lock, which is crazy to say the least, and this is only changed once the first fingerprint is added (up to 50 can be stored). Since the device does not have an App, registering a fingerprint consisted of inserting the provided reset tool into the port at the bottom of the lock and holding it for about 3 seconds. This prompted a green confirmation light on the lock to flash, and it was now time to scan my finger, which was fast and simple as it just required touching and removing my finger 3 times. Once registered, all it takes to unlock the lock is a quick touch and hold of my scanned finger, and an audible click can be heard. The lock itself does not pop open when unlocked, and if it was not for the click noise, there would be no way to determine if anything actually happened, which is strange, but not a deal breaker. Once unlocked, you have to physically pull up on the “shackle” to open it up, which again is different from what I am used to, but I actually see this as a benefit as it could serve as a potential deterrent for those trying to open the lock as we have been trained by other locks that it would spring open when successfully unlocked.
After it is all said and done, the HiTechouse Smart Padlock actually worked as advertised. While the truly utility of a smart padlock will vary from person to person, I actually really like being able to unlock my gate without having a key using my Apple Watch, iPhone or just using the fingerprint sensor. For those of us in the HomeKit world, this is the only game in the padlock town as of right now, so if a lock is something that you are in the market for, you don’t really have any other options. Thankfully, the price, which is right around $70 on Amazon, is not terribly high considering that it is there is no competition, and the device does have a solid, substantial feel to it, which has weatherproofing and survived an inadvertent “drop test”. Even though it has surpassed my expectations, I still have a feeling that I am missing something due to the lack of coverage surrounding the item and I will certainly report back with how the device holds up after some more time has passed. But for now, I can recommend HiTechouse’s offering for anyone who just has to have everything HomeKit enabled.
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