Easy hardware installation
Supports Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant
Supports Apple Home Keys
No geofencing or fingerprint reader
The Schlage Encode Plus Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt first entered the market in April 2022, but it is nearly always out of stock. Please keep checking back.
About the Schlage Encode Plus
- Backset: Universal Backset Adjusts to 2 3/8-inch or 2 3/4-inch doors
- Door thickness: 1 3/8 inches to 1 3/4 inches
- Certifications: Commercial Standard Certification ANSI/BHMA A156.36 Commercial Grade 3
- Connectivity: 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
- Smart assistant support: Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant
- Code capacity: Up to 100 4-8-digit access codes
- Dimensions: 3-inch x 5-inch x 0.9-inch (exterior portion) and 3-inch x 5.5-inch x 2.2-inch (interior portion)
- Power source: 4 AA batteries
Priced at the higher end of the smart-lock spectrum, the $299 MSRP Schlage Encode Plus is available in Century and Camelot trims, with a choice of satin or matte-black colors for each. This particular Schlage smart lock runs on four AA batteries, which Schlage says will last up to six months, and can withstand temperatures ranging from -31 to 151°F. It doesn’t have an IP rating. Schlage backs the mechanical parts of the lock with an impressive lifetime warranty, the electronics for three years.
What we like
The hardware is a snap to install
Working with a standard door and Schlage’s nicely detailed instruction guide, it took me just 10 minutes to replace my “dumb” deadbolt with the Encode Plus. If you haven’t attempted such an installation before, or your door isn’t deadbolt-ready, obviously this could take a bit longer. But the overall process is simple: Insert the bolt, connect the inside and outside assemblies through the door, then proceed to the app portion of the setup.
If this sounds daunting or you get stuck along the way, you can pull out your phone and scan a QR code for step-by-step video guides. They’re not narrated, but they do provide nicely animated walkthroughs.
The software side of things is a bit more complicated, at least for Apple users, as detailed further below.
There are several ways to use the lock, including Apple Home Key
As you’d expect from a modern smart lock, this one includes a digital keypad with support for up to 100 custom codes, which you can add or remove easily from within the Schlage app. If you have an Amazon, Apple or Google smart device in your home, the lock will respond to voice commands. And of course there’s always the option of a mechanical key.
Most smart locks incorporate one or more proximity features, meaning they can unlock when your phone comes near or unlock if it leaves the area. Typically this is handled via Bluetooth, but the Encode Plus Schlage smart lock leverages Apple’s new Home Key protocol, which adds a digital, NFC-powered “key” to Apple Wallet and Watch. The end result is impressive: Just bring your device within an inch or two of the keypad and it locks or unlocks almost immediately.
What’s more, Schlage promises that Home Key will work even if your iPhone has a dead battery (though only within about five hours of that happening). That’s because NFC, an ultra-low-power technology, can transmit even when there’s not enough juice to power the phone itself. This potentially solves the “phone-dead-now-what” problem, though obviously you could just use the lock’s keypad if needed.
As for automation, Apple’s HomeKit handles that: You can toggle a setting that will automatically unlock the Encode Plus when you get home and lock it again when you leave. But this works only if you have a hub, as described later in the review. And I found it frustrating that my Apple Watch kept asking me if I wanted to run this automation instead of just, you know, running it.
The lock supports Amazon Key in-home deliveries
If you have concerns about package theft, you’ll appreciate the Encode Plus’ support for Amazon Key. Once activated, delivery drivers can unlock your door (without the need for any manual code-sharing or the like) and place packages inside, then lock it again. This all but guarantees protection against porch-piracy, though of course you need to be comfortable with strangers stepping foot across the threshold.
What we don’t like
Apple Home Key setup can be a pain
Although the Schlage smart lock hardware installs with minimal fuss, Apple users may get a little frustrated by the software part. For starters, it’s not clear whether you should use only the Apple Home app or install the Schlage app as well. The manual suggests choosing one or the other, but I learned that without the latter, you don’t have access to most of the lock’s settings and options. The Home app by itself makes for a confusing (and limited) Encode Plus manager, as there’s no obvious way to do anything but toggle between lock and unlock. (To delve into settings, you have to long-press the lock icon, then tap a gear icon.)
There’s another important aspect to consider here: Although the Encode Plus has built-in 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, meaning you can control it and get status updates even when away from home, that option isn’t available to Apple Home users unless you also have a hub: Apple TV, HomePod Mini, or iPad. And an iPad works as a hub only when it’s actually in your home; if you travel with it, you’ll no longer have Wi-Fi access to the lock. Same goes if the iPad’s battery dies.
There’s no such requirement for Android users or Apple users who opt for the Schlage app instead of Apple Home. But if you bypass the latter, you lose out on the iPhone/Apple Watch key feature, which sort of defeats the purpose of choosing the Encode Plus over another smart lock.
I had a much easier time setting up and using the lock with an Android phone: Just install the Schlage app and walk through the pairing and setup steps. But there’s no Home Key equivalent on the Android side, no way to trigger the lock via proximity.
There are a few key features missing
As advanced as Apple Home Key makes the Encode Plus seem, the new Schlage smart lock lacks a few key features that can be found in a growing number of competing products. The first is geofencing: Without Apple HomeKit, the Encode Plus doesn’t automatically sense when you’re approaching or leaving your home and lock or unlock accordingly. This option is available on the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock, U-Bolt Pro Wi-Fi and Wyze Lock, among others.
There’s no fingerprint sensor here, either, arguably the single most reliable unlocking tool there is. Given the high price of the Encode Plus, it seems like something that should be included. The new Wyze Lock Bolt has one, and it’s just $70.
Another notable omission: There’s no sensor to indicate if your door is open or shut. Arguably, the lock/unlock notifications you get on your phone obviate the need for a sensor, but it would still be nice to have that option, which, incidentally, is available on many other locks.
The keypad is hard to see and hear
The Encode Plus employs a flat, touch-powered keypad that’s flawed in several ways. First, it’s just hard to read, as the numbers are hidden until you touch it. That activates a backlight, but it’s quite dim and not very helpful in bright sun.
Making matters worse, there’s no tactile feedback when you press a number, only a very faint beep. This makes it difficult to tell if a press has registered, and there’s no way to raise the beep volume. More often than not, I found myself fumbling to input a code, either because I had to squint to see the numbers or couldn’t tell if my touch had registered. There may be an aesthetic value to an all-digital keypad, but I prefer those with raised buttons.
Another gripe: The keypad flashes the same blue-checkmark LED, on the same “house” button, to indicate a successful lock or unlock. Why not have separate icons for these two functions so you can tell the lock status at a glance? At least color-code it: red for locked, green for unlocked, for example.
Only one physical key is included
In the grand scheme of things, this is an extremely minor complaint: Schlage provides only one physical key. Big deal, right? Head to the hardware store and you can make extras as needed. But this is a $300 smart lock; it feels insulting that Schlage doesn’t put two keys in the box.
The Schlage Encode Plus smart lock claims to have dual data encryption that uses 128-bit AES. This means that no one but you should be able to access the lock or any of your personal data relating to the lock. However, the Schlage app is lacking two-factor authentication, a feature that can help keep your smart home safe and secure by alerting you to unwanted attempts to hack your account. Companion apps for some of the best smart locks, like the Wyze Lock, offer this user security feature.
Should you buy the Schlage Encode Plus?
Yes, but only if you have the necessary Apple hardware
Viewed in a vacuum, the Schlage Encode Plus is a solid smart lock, one with classic styling, a superb warranty and good basic features. However, it costs more than most and offers a bit less, skipping desirable extras like geofencing and a fingerprint sensor.
The big draw here is the Apple Home Key support, as it’s undeniably convenient (and cool) to use an iPhone or Apple Watch as a touch-free key. But unless you also own an Apple device that can serve as a hub, you lose out on the lock’s Wi-Fi capabilities.
Unless you’re really vested in the Apple ecosystem, you’re better off with a smart like the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro Wi-Fi, which adds geofencing, fingerprint-unlocking and a door sensor to the mix, all for a lower price.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Rick Broida has been writing about consumer technology since the days of the Commodore Amiga, meaning he’s not only incredibly old, but also the undisputed champion of Defender of the Crown.
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