Kwikset Premis Review: A Solid, Reliable HomeKit Smart Lock

On first glance, the Premis looks like just another electronic deadbolt with a keypad, but it's actually an excellent smart lock that gives you another good product option if you live in the HomeKit world.

Ah, smart locks. An interesting category of home automation product. If you boil all the details down, they're just a fancy deadbolt replacement (sometimes entirely, sometimes just partially) that turns your deadbolt for you. Some might say, "you can't be bothered to lock or unlock your door? When I was your age, I had to lock my door by hand while dragging it uphill in the middle of winter with frozen boots!" But there are some truly non-lazy, helpful features of many of these smart locks:

The interior portion of the Kwikset Premis smart lock

The interior portion of the Kwikset Premis smart lock

Auto-Unlock: As you approach your home, your lock will sense your presence (via your smartphone, usually) and unlock automatically.

Auto-Lock: Most smart locks have an optional, customizable timer, that when set, can automatically lock the door after it was successfully unlocked.

Did I Lock The Door? Many smart locks work only with your smartphone via Bluetooth, but can be extended to work with your phone over greater distances via special Wi-Fi hubs, bridges, etc. The peace-of-mind of knowing that your door(s) is indeed secured is very, very helpful. Also, the ability to "buzz somebody in" remotely by unlocking the door is just as helpful, especially with our busy lives these days.

Electronic Keys: Need to allow someone to access your home on a regular basis, or even a one-time basis? You can set them up with access to your smart lock very easily, and without making physical copies of keys. Most, if not all, smart locks have this handy feature that can be adjusted based on days, times, etc.

Before starting to test the Premis, I decided to remove my previous smart lock and go completely without one for a month. I wrote an entire piece on it, check it out here.

The Physical Details

Some of what's in the Premis box (minus the lock itself)

Some of what's in the Premis box (minus the lock itself)

I'm not going to go into the details of the physical install and setup of the lock, because you can check out the first few minutes of the video for it, but suffice it to say, they're really easy. Kwikset includes just about everything you could possibly need to do the install, minus tools. The process is well-documented and takes just a few minutes. The Premis replaces both the front and rear side of your existing deadbolt, so just know that to start with. And, it's about 2 3/4" wide by 5 3/4" tall on both sides, so be sure that it will fit on your door when closed before purchasing it.

The Premis that I reviewed is in a Satin Nickel finish, but also comes in a darker Venetian Bronze. One great thing Kwikset did with the Premis was that they basically just added Apple's HomeKit functionality to their existing SmartCode touchscreen-locks. So it means that if you like this design but want a different home automation technology, like Z-Wave or Zigbee, or even just a touchscreen lock, you can get it. Just follow the links to see more details.

One final note of caution before I go further, and this applies to ALL smart (or motorized) locks: If your door doesn't align properly right now, you may have trouble. A misalignment between the deadbolt and the "receiver" in the door frame or secondary door, even a small one, could cause a motorized lock to fail prematurely, not work at all or shorten its battery life. Doors tend to sag over time, warp during different weather conditions and so on. Check to make sure that your deadbolt turns easily when the door is closed, without any noticeable friction, and you should be in good shape to upgrade to a smart lock. I truly can't stress this enough.

And speaking of smart locks and motors, the physical movement on the Premis is smooth and a reasaonable speed, but it's a bit loud...even compared with some other Kwikset motorized locks. Not ridiculously loud, but slighty noticeable. Watch the video review and you can hear it for yourself. It's not really loud enough to hear on the other side of your door, as in outside your home.

To potentially alleviate some of the issues I've mentioned above, the deadbolts that come with the Premis are tapered, which can help somewhat. Kwikset includes two kinds, depending on how your existing deadbolt is mounted inside your door, and even a new strike plate, so that everything can be shiny and new. I chose to utilize some of my existing components, as my deadbolt was already a Kwikset model.

Exterior view and lit-up touchscreen of the Kwikset Premis

Exterior view and lit-up touchscreen of the Kwikset Premis

Speaking of existing deadbolts and locks... If you have one from Kwikset, there's a good chance you can re-key your new Premis smart lock to your existing key with their SmartKey technology (a special tool is included with the Premis). The Premis is also equipped with Kwikset's latest physical-lock innovations, for picking and drilling resistance and more. As this lock comes from a trusted, established brand, I'm not worried about having it installed on my front door.

Easy Control Options

OK, enough about the physical parts and details, how do you control it?! There are a few ways: Traditional keys, the touchscreen, the Kwikset app, and HomeKit.

Beyond using a regular physical key, the touchscreen is the first obvious choice for controlling the lock when you first glance at it. It's actually one of my own favorite ways to use the lock, more on that in a little bit. Up to 30 user codes can be setup, and users can have full or limited access based on days, times or single-use access...all configurable via the Kwikset Premis app. Each user code can be between 4 and 8 numbers in length. A special security feature, turned on by default, for the touchscreen is the Secure Randomizer. It lights up two random numbers of the 10 digits on the screen and you need to input those numbers before entering your own code. This prevents anyone from deciphering your user code based on fingerprints / smudges on the touchscreen surface.

I like to name security devices funny names, to prevent accidental voice activation by others.

I like to name security devices funny names, to prevent accidental voice activation by others.

While you can control the lock via the Kwikset app, check its status, manage its settings like auto-lock, user codes, etc, once you generally have the lock setup you'll probably use it infrequently. Aside from the auto-lock feature, there are no other automation features within the Kwikset app itself. To make the magic happen, head over to HomeKit.

HomeKit Magic

I'll go relatively light on HomeKit, because it is independent of the Premis itself. In general, for all smart locks on the market, HomeKit just knows if a lock device is locked, unlocked or jammed. And it can request it to lock or unlock. That's it. HomeKit is Apple's home automation technology that's built into iOS, by the way, just in case you've been living under a rock for the past few years.

HomeKit lets you control and check the status of the Premis smart lock via your iPhone or iPad when you're within Bluetooth range of the lock. You can get access to the Premis (and other HomeKit devices) from outside your home by adding an Apple TV to your setup (it acts as a gateway between Bluetooth-only devices like the Premis and your home's Wi-Fi network.) And, knowing the status of your lock and being able to control it remotely is the "killer app" of home automation.

Apple's Home app, showing the status of the "Mango Margarita" Premis Smart Lock

Apple's Home app, showing the status of the "Mango Margarita" Premis Smart Lock

And here's the magic I promised: With HomeKit, Premis can automatically unlock when you approach your home, participate in scenes (think: double-check that the front door's locked before bedtime) and you can receive alerts anytime the lock is unlocked or locked. These functions really aren't rocket science, but if you're "all in" on Apple and want to get into home automation, HomeKit is the way to go because it's really simple.

In the video review, you can watch as I create some automation magic live on camera with Apple's Home app and the Premis lock, so I won't go into too much detail here. But it goes without saying that you can get up and running very quickly. HomeKit works even better once you add a few different HomeKit-enabled products, so that you can make more magic happen when you leave home, arrive home, throw a party, watch a movie, wake-up...the ideas are endless.

One thing that HomeKit adds, specifically for the auto-unlock functionality, is an extra layer of security. If you choose to automate the lock based on your location or possibly some other automation trigger (time, a sensor activation, etc), you'll get a notification on your iOS device and/or Apple Watch asking you to confirm that you want the automation to run. If you're coming home and your hands aren't free, but you can still type in a code, then you'll love the touchscreen that's on the front of the Premis. I use it for that specific reason, and a few other times, too.

Conclusion

The Premis is a solid, reliable smart lock. I could complain about the lock noise, but it's not a big enough negative to truly list here. I did have (see the video) some glitchy behavior occasionally where the Premis thought it was jammed even though it wasn't, but that still never really concerned me. Some other reviewers would knock points from this lock because of missing features in HomeKit, but that's not something that Kwikset can control.

So I'll return to my original opinion. This is a very good product. For me, I really like the touchscreen, it really completes the set of options on how to operate the lock. The Premis has never failed to operate, connectivity to my iOS devices has been consistent, and battery life still sits at 50% or above after three months of daily use. Kwikset makes the Premis in multiple finishes, and the physical design matches their other smart locks, for those who may like this design, but not HomeKit.

The Kwikset Premis is a bit pricey at $229. It's similar in price to other smart locks, but near the top of the price range.

Buy a Premis smart lock on Amazon (using our affiliate links helps support us).

Disclosure: Kwikset provided the Premis smart lock to Smarter Home Life, making this review possible.