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Review: August Smart Lock provides smart home security features for your front door (Video)

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I’m always in the market for new smart home stuff. Just about every room in my house has some gadget or accessory to make things a bit easier. Recently, I moved this smart home mission outside with the addition of Ring Video Doorbell, but now I’m tackling the front door with the August Smart Lock

I’ve always been interested in smart locks, but there was something about August that caught my eye from the moment it was announced. This lock pairs up with your iPhone via Bluetooth and can unlock the door with the tap of the screen or by utilizing its location-based feature, but more on that later. I’m a big fan of the industrial design and it also leaves the front side of the door untouched. The only thing required is that you replace the thumb latch on the inside with the August Smart Lock. August Connect expands on the basic functionality by giving you remote access from anywhere, which will allow you to unlock the door for someone without actually being there.

Inside of August’s box you’ll find everything needed to get August installed and running (even the batteries). Some standard documentation (quick start guide), the August Smart Lock unit, and three mounting plates with adapters for installation are all included. With the August Connect, you’ll just find a small box with a square plug inside.

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I was able to get everything put together and installed in about 10 minutes using the short installation guide provided, but August also has an official installation video that you can check out as well. Installation involves removing the old thumb latch on the inside and replacing it with one of the included mounting plates and color coded adapters which are specific to your current lock’s brand. Different manufacturers correspond to the different numbered plates and color adapters, which are all listed in the installation guide. From there, you just mount the August Smart Lock on the inside of the door and secure it with the latches on each of its sides.

Check out our August Smart Lock + Connect video below:

August is powered by four included AA batteries which are rated to last up to a year. When the batteries are running low, the August app will notify you within enough time to replace them. By itself, August pairs with your iPhone via Bluetooth, but the optional Connect accessory will communicate with August while connected to your Wi-Fi network to receive remote commands from your phone as mentioned.

Because nothing changes on the outside of your door, you’ll still be able to use your existing keys in case you’d like to ever use them. August can also be used in manual mode by simply twisting it to the left or right (kind of like a giant door knob) to lock or unlock the door. That’s not exactly the point though. Once August is installed, you can download the free app, create an account, and get everything calibrated to take advantage of its core features.

The lock’s status is shown with a red circle (locked) or a green circle (unlocked). Tapping on this circle will perform either a lock or unlock action. Swiping to the left panel within the app will reveal the lock’s activity log and guest book for comments, while the right panel will show the existing users/guests of the lock. You can add as many guests or owners as needed by inviting them within the app and filling out a few simple details.

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For each guest you can specify a permanent, reoccurring, or temporary key. August also has the ability to send you notifications (per user) when someone enters the house. This feature can be enabled/disabled in the guest/owner settings. Any owner will have full control of the settings for the lock. The only downside is that guests will not be able to take advantage of August’s Auto Lock feature (explained below), so they will need to launch the app in order to unlock the door. Owners have full access to everything, but I wish there was a middle point between guest and owner that would allow use of certain features without access to all the device’s settings.

One interesting feature is called Auto Unlock. This will utilize a geofence and use your iPhone’s location to detect your proximity to the lock. When you’re arriving home, August will unlock the door as you approach it. After some extensive testing, I only found that this feature worked roughly 6 out of 10 times. Ideally, this should work 100 percent of the time. Hopefully future software updates will fix this, but for now I was a bit disappointed.

Ever Lock is another smart feature within the app that will automatically lock the door after a specified amount of time has passed. I found this feature to be extremely helpful and never had a problem with it. I understand that it takes a great amount of confidence in a product like this to just leave your house without locking it. I’m still a little skeptical, but for now, I have the ability to remotely check the lock’s status within the app using August Connect. Either way, any smart home system like this is hard to trust initially.

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The Connect accessory is an add-on (purchased separately) that connects to your Wi-Fi network and talks to the Smart Lock via Bluetooth. While it does take a little while longer to operate the lock remotely, August Connect worked reliably in my testing. One benefit here is being able to unlock the door for someone without inviting them to be a guest, which admittedly is a lengthy process overall for a small temporary situation. If they create an account for temporary use it will remain active, but the key will expire. This makes it easier for the second time around, but I’d rather use the Connect module any day rather than going through the invite process for my guest’s temporary entry needs.

August also features integration with the Nest Learning Thermostat. If you have one, you can connect a Nest account and each time you leave August will ask if you’d like to set the thermostat to away in order to save energy. The notification each time is kind of annoying and I wish there was a default option that could be specified, but I appreciate the cross platform/product integration. Hopefully, future software updates will improve on this as well.

Overall, August and its Connect accessory is great as a pair. With August alone, you shouldn’t experience any issues aside from the few mentioned above, but I prefer the ability to check in on things remotely. I guess we can thank my smart home trust issues for that. At the same time, can we ever fully trust something like this to perform with 100 percent accuracy?

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Computers/electronics/software fail over time. I’m not saying that a smart lock is a bad idea because I’ve been enjoying my time with August, but your security is always at the hands of the product’s reliability and the software developers behind it. I will continue to use August, but I’m not sure it’s something that I can just install and forget about. A smart lock’s functionality and reliability will always be in the back of my mind.

If you’d like to find out more about August or the Connect accessory, you can visit the product’s website. August Smart Lock is available for $249.99, while the optional Connect accessory can be had for $49.99. Definitely not the cheapest smart home accessory out there, but its convenience may make up for that.

I’m a fan of smart home technology and August provides an easy way to lock/unlock your door without keys. Free guest/owner keys are definitely a plus side and there were only a few occasions where it was necessary to pull out my phone and use the app to unlock the door. It has officially replaced my traditional house key, but that key isn’t leaving my key chain just yet.


Filed under: Reviews Tagged: August, August Smart Lock, connect, review, smart home, Smart lock, video

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Review: Filters, a new photo editor for iPhone with over 800 image effects and a stunning design

Mike Rundle, an independent designer and developer, is today releasing Filters for iPhone ($0.99), a visual effects photo editor. Rundle’s integrated development workflow, both writing the code and designing the interface, shows through in his work. This is how Filters describes itself.

You don’t take photos with Filters. You transform them. Filters has over 800 ways to transform your photographs including fully adjustable authentic vintage film recreations, hand-painted textures, vibrant colored gel overlays, special multi-effect adjustments (Shine, Luna, Color Boost, Intimidate and Smart Fade) as well as standard image adjustment tools like brightness, contrast, color temperature, exposure and more. All features are included with nothing extra to purchase.
The app features over 800 different image effects presented with some of the best UI design I’ve seen. However there’s no getting away from the fact Filters enters a crowded market with stiff competition. It’s interesting to see how Rundle has tried to differentiate his app from the rest. Read on for our full review of the iPhone’s newest image app.

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Filters boils down to one canvas view. Along the top row of buttons are import and export actions. Share is probably a better description than ‘export’ — you don’t save anything in Filters itself. There’s no album complexity to worry about. The workflow is very straightforward — import from Photo Library, edit using Filters, share back out again. There are also the other miscellaneous help and undo buttons. To signify their relative insignificance, these four buttons are colored in a dull gray.

Meanwhile, the rainbow themed icons are where the interesting stuff happens. The four icons represent filters, overlays, effects and favorites. These are the things that actually change the image which sits in between the two toolbars. On first launch, these buttons slide into place with a nice spring — Rundle’s experience as both designer and engineer starts to show through.

When you select an image, the background changes to a dynamically blurred version of the same photo. This is pure eye-candy but it does look good. A clever touch is Filters never has a blank canvas. If you don’t load an image yourself, Filters opens with one of a few preloaded images. You can start fiddling about with the app’s features without worrying about which image to pick. It takes the pressure off.

Clicking on an effect button opens a popover tray with subcategories to select from. I was happy to see that Rundle coded his own popover views, as I personally think native popovers are atrociously designed. The ones used in Filters are nicely color-matched with the icon color and are, of course, accompanied by a spring transition.

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The popovers are essentially used to create an icon based menu. Clicking on one of these icons opens up the options for the corresponding filter. For example, clicking on the snow-flake opens up a selection of Cool Filters.

‘A selection of filters’ is a bit of an understatement. There are loads of different variants in every category (over 800 in total), maybe too many that it becomes overwhelming. The wide range of offers does mean that you can produce a lot of different end-results though. Most of the options are different enough to warrant having their own option. Every filter is numbered so you can find it again later or you can explicitly favorite it as a bookmark.

When you pick a particular filter, the ‘intensity’ screen opens which features a single slider. Dragging the slider changes how much the effect is applied to the picture. At any time, you can long-press on the canvas to compare with what the image looked like before. Press the green tick to confirm and you are done. The second button, Overlays, work in the same way except it lets you add things like light leaks and superimposed textures.

Personally, I found the app works best when you combine filters with overlays to create the final image. Unlike apps like Pixelmator though, you can’t rotate overlays to position them how you want. In fact, you can’t crop or rotate your image at all. For version 1.0, Rundle expects those transformations to happen in other apps.

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The third set of features, represented by a magic wand, is labelled ‘Effects’. This contains typical image adjustments like brightness and contrast but also mixes in some ‘smarter’ effects that use image analysis to dynamically apply them.

These special effects look cool but they are hard to describe. I don’t think the iconography Rundle chose for this works great either — I was really lost about when and how I use these options mainly because I don’t really know what they do. I open the Effects toolbox as a bit of a gamble to try the advanced effects. Sometimes, it works and the resultant photo looks good. It’s a bit of a shot in the dark.

However, even if you don’t take advantage of these special effects, you still get a lot of mileage out of the first two categories by themselves: filters and overlays. I find it really fun to quickly flick the list of filters, pick one that I like from the preview, add an overlay and post. It isn’t just a gimmick either. Rundle has some examples on his website of professional photos being enhanced by his app.

Once you are done, there are direct menu options to share back to your Photo Library, send to Instagram, as well as a way to get to the system Share Sheet so you can use any third-party sharing extensions.

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Filters also looks good on your Home Screen.

For future updates, Rundle has announced that he is working on landscape mode, realtime intensity adjustments and more settings for previews. Landscape support is particularly important to me for a photo app and was the thing I particularly missed during my time testing Filters.

You can get Filters from the App Store for just $0.99. There are no in-app purchases or upsells: you get all 800 effects bundled into a really pretty interface. Check out more information at Rundle’s website.


Filed under: Apps, iOS, Reviews Tagged: Apps, filters, Image, iPhone, photo, video

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