Just a little over a month ago, we posted our review highlighting our experiences with the HiTechouse HomeKit Smart Fingerprint Padlock in our review. During our original review, we noted just how surprised we were that the lock actually existed and worked with HomeKit out of the box. We also were keen on the overall design and the actual hardware felt substantial and well built. In our use case, we installed our lock outdoors, exposing it to the elements of Spring and we were satisfied with how the lock performed and thought that it was going to be a device that we kept for years to come. Unfortunately, due to a recent series of events, this is not going to be the case.
As mentioned, our lock was installed outdoors to secure a gate leading to our backyard. The lock, which survived days of rain during our testing, worked without fail and was responsive within the Home App, and could be locked and unlocked with just a tap, or via Siri. However, last week, our lock suddenly went into the dreaded “No Response” status in the Home App, prompting us to go into troubleshooting mode. At first, we thought it was tied to our HomeKit hub changing randomly from one Apple TV to another, which has been known to happen.
This was not the case, which lead us to believe that the battery may have run out of charge. Since it was almost 30 days since we set up the lock, we chalked it up to the battery being depleted as the manufacturer states that it is rated for “30 days” with actions being performed on the device “30 times a day”. However, we certainly did not toggle the lock 30 times a day over the 30 day period, and in reality, it was more like 15 times total since installation.
So we thought it no big deal, battery life is always a gamble with regards to actual usage, and we went out to take a look at the padlock.
After taking a look at the lock, our first major issue quickly dawned on us. With the HiTechouse lock, there was no backup method to be able to unlock the lock, such as a physical key. While our use case is not critical, we can certainly see this potentially becoming a major issue if important things are secured, or if something that needed to be accessed frequently was kept under this lock. With the lock being stuck in the “locked” position, we found ourselves faced with another issue, the fact that we could not take the lock off to bring it a convenient charging location. Instead we had to track down a powerbank that actually had charge to connect to the lock outdoors. Once the powerbank was connected to the lock, we figured that we could just use the fingerprint reader to unlock the lock, or our phone if needed. Unfortunately this was not the case, as the lock was not responsive at all, with no LED indicators lighting up to tell us that the lock was actually charging. We have seen instances before where a battery powered device would not operate when plugged in so we figured that we just needed to let the internal battery charge up before we could open the lock.
After about 3 hours, we went back to the lock expecting it to be back to working condition. Unfortunately, this again was not the case, and the lock itself did not show any signs of life. Panic quickly set in, and we desperately tried the hardware reset function, which consisted of taking a sim ejection tool and engaging a small button inside of the padlock, but our efforts were fruitless. So needless to say, our shiny one month old smart padlock was now non-functional and even worse, kept us from accessing the one thing that we were hoping to secure with the lock. Luckily in our case, we were able to disassemble the actual hardware restraints that the lock attached to, allowing us to physically remove the lock from our application, however this may not always be an option depending on what the lock is attached to.
As you may have guessed by now, we can no longer recommend the HiTechouse Smart Fingerprint Padlock. In our case, the lock did not last more than a month, which is disheartening considering the price, and even worse, has caused us to reconsider the product category in general. If we ever decide to go the smart padlock route again in the future, we will only being doing so if there is some form of backup included, such as a key or combination that can be entered. However, until then, a “dumb” lock may just be your best bet for peace of mind in not just security, but also in that it will actually work when you need it to.