back to article Apple perfects vendor lock-in with home security kit

Apple devotees now have another reason to dump hundreds of dollars into the iGiant's ecosystem with the release of the Level Lock+, an exterior door lock that can be operated by an iPhone or Apple Watch. In partnership with Level, a company that seems to have made the ancient mechanism of locks "cool," Apple is flogging the …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    How is this 'iThing' different from other 'smart' door locks?

    Come on El Reg... don't we deserve to know how unique this thing is when compared to those flogged by Amazon and a few dozen other vendors?

    We know that you have huge downer on Apple but honestly... why shouldn't I spend $329 on this POS when brand X's POS is $129.99. etrc etc.

    1. Proton_badger

      Re: How is this 'iThing' different from other 'smart' door locks?

      Yeah, well, El Reg have always been extra butthurt about Apple after a little tiff years ago where they both behaved like children. Truth is, Apple is just another company following very typical 'murican business methods, though more successful than most.

      This lock, made by Level seems to also support Amazon's "ring", which the article carefully omitted to mention. They seem to be a lifestyle-ish brand looking for what's currently popular with their devices. Apple also sells Yale and August locks on their site, btw.

      What's much more interesting, but less controversial (oh no!) is that both Apple and Google voluntarily, enthusiastically even, supports the new universal Matter/Thread standard. Both companies have support on their most recent operating systems which is a good thing. Even better; this standard is intended so that devices can work locally, without requiring a remote server (though I'm sure some manufacturers are looking for ways to spoil that).

  2. DJO Silver badge

    So getting your phone out of a pocket or handbag, logging in with face ID or fingerprint or whatever then waving the phone over the lock (hope it's not raining) is easier than taking a key out of your pocket and manfully thrusting it into the lock?

    Not 100% convinced, actually not even 0.01% convinced.

    Anyone going to take bets on how good a physical lock is provided - Score in how many seconds the LPL would take to open it.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      I don't understand the fad with relying on an expensive piece of electronics such as a phone rather than a cheap bit of plastic with a chip. RFC isn't the problem, it's banks accepting higher risk of abuse to generate higher turnover. Customers can always disable payments that do not require some kind of 2FA, such as a PIN or a signature.

    2. Jan 0 Silver badge

      You'll still need to have a physical key available for when power to the lock fails.

    3. The Sprocket

      Yeah, agreed. Then I look at all the neighbourhoods where RFID key fobs for cars have been tampered with inside houses from a van on the street to gain access to said parked cars. This 'over digitization' for the sake of convenience and/or cool factor is pure madness. Re-direct the efforts, Apple (et al).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yep, RFID access to cars using something like a card is a particularly dumb idea. Flipper Zero anyone?

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > waving the phone over the lock (hope it's not raining) is easier than taking a key out of your pocket [?]

      It is easier to get a virtual key to a friend to feed your cat, to a guest or to your plumber, than it is a physical key. Individual virtual keys can be rescinded, too. Put another way, merely carrying and wielding a key doesn't describe *all* the work involved with key use - getting keys cut and distributing them are 'tasks' too.

      Most extant door locks that use physical keys are not considered very secure - just check the internet for guides on picking or jamming various brands. No lock is secure, so just make sure yours take a bit longer to pick than your neighbours' locks do!

      The more secure models aren't always easy to operate, often requiring a full 360 deg turn of the key - that can be difficult for users with dexterity problems or arthritis. See the internet selling small levers for turning keys to this category of user.

      The more secure models can also be fussier about receiving a key in the first place.

      BTW, fingerprint scanners work near instantly these days, as does FaceID when I've seen it used. Rain will confuse my Samsung's fingerprint scanner, but pattern unlock works reliably unless there are big puddles on the screen. A lot of phones a properly waterproof these days, many more are weatherproof.

      Apple Watch users won't even need to take anything out of their pocket to operate this lock.

      And yes, it is good that the lock retains a physical key. I'd be unlikely to lose my phone AND my key at the same time.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        See my comment below about door releases placed in the jamb.

        This lock forces the user to use a lock which may be less secure than the existing lock but there is another problem not touched on yet - power - either you need a cable bridging the hinge or you have to muck about with sprung electrical connectors on the closing side neither of which are 100% reliable. Battery power is an incredibly bad idea.

        Using roughly the system Apple plan but connected to a door release that matches the existing lock avoids the power problems and allows users to keep the locks they have and would be far cheaper to buy and to install and gives all the advantages you mentioned. Best of both worlds.

  3. Giles C Silver badge

    Lock picking lawyer

    We need him to prove the lock is reasonable, but I prefer to have a physical key rather than rely on a phone for everything. Besides it is nice to go for a walk and leave the phone behind so nothing interrupts you.

    Yes I know to some people that is dangerous thinking but it is true, I go to pick up my daily paper and leave the phone at home.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Lock picking lawyer

      I wonder what it will take to open it?

      The magnet

      The piss hammer

      The bit of red bull can

      The wave rake

      The custom tool that Bosnian Bill and I[he] made?

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Lock picking lawyer

        It looks like a bog standard 5, 6 or 7 pin tumbler lock - For a (very) skilled user of a pick-gun it's possible to open that style of lock without breaking step.

        1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          Re: Lock picking lawyer

          That reminds me: Must get my lock collection out and refresh my lock picking skills.

        2. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: Lock picking lawyer

          There's a lot to be said for lever deadlocks. Several British Standard ones I've examined blank the keyhole as the mechanism rotates, making it impossible to use a "feeler" pick. Pin barrel locks of the "consumer" kind are far less secure even if they have a higher number of differs as there's no way to avoid the pin set being exposed to the pick. And the moment you go electronic, unless the lock is incredibly sophisticated (and thus expensive) there has to be a solenoid somewhere that withdraws the bolt, and that's a perfect target for attack. I'll never forget a friend's "electronically" locked combination safe. He lost the combination and called in a locksmith. The guy took a couple of measurements on the door front, drilled a small hole, pushed in a stiff wire hook and lifted the solenoid, releasing the bolt.

          1. Spamolot

            Re: Lock picking lawyer

            Friend has a similar problem - had hidden the key around the home somewhere but forgotten where. Batteries were totally dead. Took a hammer and smash the plastic next to the keypad, carefully inserted flat-head screwdriver and pulled back the solenoid. Took all of five minutes...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Lock picking lawyer

              Some of the electronic safes I have seen have a couple of external battery contacts for a 9V battery in case the internal battery goes flat

      2. Totally not a Cylon

        Re: Lock picking lawyer

        What we really want to know is:

        Can it be re-pinned? With security pins, serrated, spool etc

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Lock picking lawyer

          They'll fix that.

          V2 will have a unique Apple key that costs (£/$)199 to cut - only available at an Apple store.

          V3 will have no key but perform direct facial recognition.

          V4 will check for a pulse in the face...

          1. Mark 65

            Re: Lock picking lawyer

            V5 will link to Apple Pay

    2. rob_marion

      Re: Lock picking lawyer

      You beat me to it. It will take the LPL 30 seconds to open it and another 30 seconds to "prove it wasn't a fluke".

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    but if you were to lose your phone and didn't have that physical key on you [...] you'd be a bit screwed

    You're complaining that a door lock won't function without either a (working) phone or a key? How is this different to all the "traditional" door locks out there which don't function if you've lost/left your keys somewhere? I'm all for a bit of Apple bashing when they go too far up their own arses, but in this case El Reg, WTF?!?

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      I half agree. The first problem I see with the lock is the price. Apple specialises in Veblen goods so by itself that should not be a problem for their target market but the lack of a distinctive logo and the opportunity to flash it around the bar/restaurant/golf club limit how much Apple can increase the price. Next up, the lock is going to need power. As I plan on getting through my front door when the batteries are flat or during a power cut then a key is required. (OK, I don't actually need a key for an ordinary pin tumbler lock but with improvised tools and minimal skill it takes me a while.) Adding phone access just increases the attack surface.

      Not a product for me but I can understand that it would suit some other people.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Even if you have your Apple phone, if the battery is flat it is no good to get in to your charger...

    3. teebie

      "How is this different to all the "traditional" door locks out there which don't function if you've lost/left your keys somewhere"


    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > but if you were to lose your phone and didn't have that physical key on you [...] you'd be a bit screwed

      Can also be juxtaposed with:

      "If you lose your key but happen to have your phone with you, you'd be happily not screwed!"

      And is a cousin of:

      "If you get to the pub and realise you've left your wallet at home, you use your phone to buy beer!“

  5. DJO Silver badge

    Dumb design

    If you are going to design a way of opening doors electronically forcing your customers to use a specific lock is super dumb, what if they have mastered locks? This will screw that up a treat, what if a vulnerability is found with the mechanical parts of the lock? - Will they at their own cost replace all the locks? (of course not).

    For decades electronically released locks have used a release in the door jamb which will work with any lock - Shirley that would be more secure, cheaper & more versatile than this design.

  6. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Quick question

    How many articles has The Register published about iPhones being 'bricked' by updates, non-Apple spare parts, or not working because 'you're holding it wrong'?

    Just asking because if you brick / update your iEverythingYouNeedInOneEasyToLoseObjectPhone you could be completely stuffed. No money, no train ticket, no way to get help and now no way into your home.*

    *Yes, I know, I have an iPhone, and a Mac, BUT, I also have physical keys, physical credit / bank cards and, old fogey that I am, still use actual money sometimes.

    1. Totally not a Cylon

      Re: Quick question

      Simple! you visit your nearest Apple Store and buy a new one, sign in with your Apple iD and Bob's your Uncle......

      Coat etc..... Emblazoned with "fully paid up member of 'Cult of Apple'" on it...

    2. The Sprocket

      Re: Quick question

      Agreed 100%. Same boat.

  7. DS999 Silver badge

    Electronic locks just add another mode of attack

    Now you can pick the lock OR hack the lock. Though for 99.9% of people it doesn't matter, as the ordinary deadbolts almost all of us have installed are comically easy to pick.

    I suppose you could get an electronic lock that doesn't have a keyhole, but unless you're terminally stupid you will have to have a door somewhere on your house that has a keyhole so you have some way to enter if the locks fail due to software bugs or the maker going out of business.

    The biggest problem with an electronic lock is that it can go from 'highly secure' (at least in the sense of "no known exploits") to 'highly insecure' (a known exploit easily findable on Google) overnight. That's something you don't have to worry about if you buy one of those high security pick resistant deadbolts.

    Of course I usually leave my house unlocked if I'm only gone for a couple hours like running errands, going for a bike ride, etc. so I can't claim to be worried about hackable smart locks I guess!

    1. Robert Grant

      Re: Electronic locks just add another mode of attack

      You probably already have another door on the house with a keyhole, so having a version without a keyhole shouldn't increase the number of attack vectors.

  8. Scott Broukell

    Not taking any chances here! So, I am henceforth going to leave my iPhone under a flower pot next to the front porch, whenever I go out.

  9. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Making things harder

    I have two keychains: House + bicycle key, House + car key. It's easier to carry one of those than a phone.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Making things harder

      And there is still the option of using a physical key.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here we go again

    My mate was showing off his Yale biometric lock on the front door of his very swanky house.

    I asked him what he values more, the security of his home or his front door. He said security of his home, so (and it's an area I'm involved in professionally) I booted the door in the bottom left corner on the opening side and the door sprang open.

    A crappy little nightlatch style lock isn't securing anything.

    He got a good, old fashioned BS3621 rated 5 lever mortice lock the next day and threw the Yale in the bin.

    1. JT_3K

      Re: Here we go again

      Agreed. Having worked in the industry, I now trust a decent door (well installed) with a multipoint mech more than a single mortice. Having said that, if someone wants in to *your* house, they'll get in. If someone wants in to *a* house, they'll choose the one with externally beaded windows, the 30yr old worn single Yale or the snappable barrel in the French door.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Here we go again

        Which exposes another problem, every place I've lived has had a crappy cylinder lock and a decent mortice lock, the cylinder is just used as a catch when the house is occupied, when unoccupied the mortice lock is locked.

        So to open such a door with this device you first need to get your keys out to open the mortice lock then muck about with the phone, or just use the key as you have them out anyway.

        Could be handy for the kids to get in while the parents are home and the mortice is unlocked but apart from that I can't think of a good use case.

      2. Spamolot

        Re: Here we go again

        An old acquaintance, let's call him Derek, was taught that the correct way to open an exterior door was to fire a solid shotgun slug to the hinges from his pump action, then to stand clear as his balaclava wearing mates stormed inside. That was the overt entry method back in the 1980-90s. His employer later upskilled him via the services of an old gentleman from Wormwood Scrubs who taught him the finer points of covert entry i.e. lockpicking, alarm bypassing and how to open several types of commercially-popular safes through physical manipulation with some electronic wizardry thrown in for good measure.

    2. Kane

      Re: Here we go again

      "so (and it's an area I'm involved in professionally) I booted the door in the bottom left corner on the opening side and the door sprang open."

      You boot open doors professionally? Where does one get a job like this?

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Here we go again

        Join the Plod !

  11. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    phase 2

    "users are able to gain access and lock their door with a simple tap of an iPhone or Apple Watch, just as how you'd pay for goods in a store"

    Wait for it. When they decide it's not already _enough_ profit, there will be a per use charge to unlock the door. Conveniently linked to your Apple Pay.

  12. Winkypop Silver badge

    I’m sorry Sir

    You have insufficient credits to open this door.

    Would you like to purchase some?

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: I’m sorry Sir

      Open the front door, HAL.

      I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that.

      (I am truly ashamed of myself and will do much penance, sackcloth and ashes etc. I'll get my coat, just hope I can get out through the door ...)

  13. Velv

    Backup keys

    I only see one benefit to device holding credentials for other things - a backup to the primary.

    Two of my friends hold a set of my house keys, in case I ever lose the set I carry. I could have put a key box on the property, but that then makes it look like an AirBnB and is more susceptible to theft or break in. I'm less likely to lose both my keys and my phone, so a backup on me would potentially be a good thing. I'm certainly not going to replace one easily lost item with an "all my eggs in one basket" item that's just as easily lost item (if not more so given I take it out my pocket far more often).

  14. DrSunshine0104

    The non-smart door locks I have exposed to have been universally slow. It takes 2-3 seconds to full retract the bolt. I could have turned the bolt in far less time with a key, and it doesn't sound like a paper shredder while I am at it too. I am not sure what the use case is for a homeowner. If my hands are full, it doesn't solve anything, I still have to turn or press the handle. If I am travelling light, bringing my phone doesn't sound like travelling light.

  15. simonb_london

    Company won't stop until you need a NEW Phone to operate every facet of your life

    Corrected. I believe this is how the headline should have read.

  16. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Breaking *IN* to a home

    Home owners concentrate on this aspect of burglary when securing their home, but it is just as important, if not more important to make it difficult for them to get *OUT* again afterwards.

    I had many attempts to get into my home over the years when I had a ground floor one-bedroom flat. The only success they had was breaking a large frosted window in the bathroom. All the gear they stole had to go back out through that hole, which was a real health hazard, due to the splinters of glass everywhere. You could see that they'd tried to take my hi-fi speakers, but had left them because the hole wasn't big enough. (The policeman that attended after the event was bemused that the perps hadn't trashed the place "no, no officer, the place is always untidy").

  17. derrr

    Lock Picking Lawyer had this open in seconds. He was also concerned with the security of the deadlock as it contains the battery, and the cost is massive compared to the unbranded version.

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