Apple Home Key | What Is Home Key? What Makes It Useful or Unique?

Schalge Encode Plus being unlocked with Apple Watch Credit: Schlage
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In 2021 Apple announced a really, really smart feature called “Home Key” which was planned for release in iOS 15. If you had forgotten about that, that’s not surprising: Home Key was a cool idea utilizing the Apple Wallet for smart homes, but no devices were around to support it when it was released.

Due to global manufacturing woes, it’s also been difficult for brands to get their products – like smart locks – to the market as soon as they wanted to.

But now we’re finally starting to see the first products that work with Home Key appear, so it’s an excellent time to take a look at what this feature does and why you should think about using it.

What Is Home Key? What Does It Work With?

Home Key is essentially a digital security code kept safe in the Apple Wallet. It can be used in conjunction with the Home app and a compatible smart lock to automatically sense a nearby door lock and unlock it for you.

Think about how you use Apple Pay to swipe over sensors to quickly buy a coffee or pay a fare – this is a very similar option, but it’s to unlock your home’s door instead.

It also works with a quick swipe from the Apple Watch if your hands are full of groceries, etc.

The missing piece is a smart lock that supports the Home Key process – and these were missing for a long, long time. The good news is that they’re starting to show up, at last, beginning with the sturdy Schlage Encode Plus smart deadbolt.

This lock features compatibility with both Apple’s Home Key and HomeKit for full smart home integration for Apple users, plus control through the Schlage Home app.

What Are Home Key’s Unlocking Modes?

Apple has a number of different modes available for the Home Key system, depending on the amount of security you want.

The first option is the Express mode, which is the Apple Pay-like option to simply swipe your iPhone or Watch close to the door lock to unlock it.

The second option is to Require Face ID or Passcode for authentication. This option works well for newer iPhones with Face ID, where you can just glance at your phone while at the door, and it should unlock smoothly for you. A Passcode adds even more security.

In addition to this, Apple’s home keys come with several time-saving features you can enable, including:

  1. A setting to always lock the door lock after the door closes. This is a handy option if there aren’t many people at home and you want to make sure the door always locks after you’re gone.
  2. A setting to lock when leaving home. This looks like it includes a bit more leeway, requiring you to actually get far beyond the door before it locks. It’s useful if you need to herd children or partners when leaving and need the door to stay unlocked for a bit.
  3. Option to give all residents of the household their own Home Key automatically. This is only available if the lock supports HomeKit.

What About Guests and Visitors?

Apple’s Home Key solution has a way to deal with this, too. With a compatible lock, you can head into the Home app, hold on the lock icon, and go to settings to choose Manage Access. This is the section that allows you to Add Guests for a temporary pass.

You can name the guest, choose which locks they can open, and give them a special access code, which you can then share directly with another person. The person can then use this access code to enter a home. You can remove the guest and the code whenever you want.

If you don’t prefer this solution, or your guest doesn’t have compatible technology (remember, this is all still pretty new), smart locks come with their own separate apps that typically allow you to create guest profiles as well.

How Long Do I Have to Wait for a Compatible Lock?

A few months. Schlage’s Encode Plus model is set to be released in spring 2022. Other compatible models will surely be following throughout the year if you’d like to keep an eye on your options.

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