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Aqara Smart Lock U100 review: Look, Ma, my iPhone can unlock my front door!

And so can my Apple Watch, but the U100 is hampered by some real setup and usability quirks.

A dumb deadbolt? In this day and age? No, thank you. I want a smarter door, one that can detect when I leave and lock behind me, or unlock using any number of magical methods: phone, watch, fingerprint and so on.

That's the Aqara Smart Lock U100 in a nutshell; it satisfies all those requirements and then some. Indeed, it's one of the most advanced deadbolts you can get. But is it as good on your door as it is on paper? Here's my Aqara Smart Lock U100 review.

VERDICT: An affordable and versatile smart lock that's best for the Apple crowd, but you need to be pretty tech-savvy to set it up and understand all the options.

Pros
  • Stylish design
  • Multiple modes of entry
  • Supports Apple Home Key (which is awesome)
  • Fast fingerprint scanning
  • Less expensive than other HomeKit-compatible locks
Cons
  • Hub required for many features
  • No printed installation instructions
  • Complicated HomeKit and Home Key setup
  • No NFC support for Android users
  • Can't customize notifications
$190 at Amazon

Before deciding whether to buy the U100, take note that it's fairly limited unless you add a hub — something that can connect it to your home Wi-Fi network. Without one, you can't remotely lock or unlock it, configure passwords from your phone or connect to other smart devices. So plan on factoring Aqara's Smart Hub M2 ($60) into your budget. I used one in my testing; it's fairly plug-and-play, but relies on an out-of-date micro-USB connector and doesn't include an AC adapter for power. Bad first impression, Aqara.

Aqara Smart Lock U100 installation and setup

The second impression wasn't much better. Although the U100 hardware isn't particularly difficult to install, it's puzzling that Aqara provided no printed instructions save for a terse, small-print guide to downloading the Aqara app. To be fair, that app walks you through lock installation with a series of videos, but I didn't know that until I got it loaded on my iPhone, created an Aqara account and all that.

There's a fairly detailed manual online, which is helpful, but what's with the all-red text and illustrations? That just makes it harder to read.

Aqara does supply a printed template in case you're not replacing an existing deadbolt and need to drill holes in your door. In my case, I swapped out another smart lock, the Wyze Lock Bolt, which I like save for its lack of Wi-Fi connectivity; I can't check or control it when I'm away from home. (On the other hand, it's only $80.)

All told, it took me about 15 minutes to install the U100, the only real hassle being the need to pry off both the door of the battery compartment (which didn't pop loose easily, even with the included plastic spudger tool) and the locking knob (which popped right off). Speaking of batteries, the lock runs on four AAs, which Aqara says will last up to eight months.

Three screenshots from the Aqara app
The Aqara app is reasonably easy to navigate, but some of the settings are confusing.

But then I was left to wonder about the M2 hub: Do I set that up in the app before the lock, or vice versa? This isn't addressed anywhere I could find. Ultimately I chose to add the hub first — a relatively straightforward process, albeit with a couple of confusing configuration choices along the way.

From there I added the U100, similarly straightforward but also with some head-scratching moments. The real struggle lies in the Apple HomeKit integration, which is confusing at best. In the end I got everything set up, mostly just by stumbling my way through.

It helped that I've installed and tested several other smart locks, including the aforementioned Wyze Lock Bolt, the Schlage Encode Plus and the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro. But the Aqara would definitely benefit from better instructions, both in the box and in the app. As it stands, it's not novice-friendly, at least on the setup front.

Aqara Smart Lock U100 features and performance

Once it's installed, however, it's (mostly) smooth sailing. The U100 can be locked and unlocked using a variety of methods: mechanical key, electronic keypad, fingerprint scan, phone, Apple Watch, NFC tags (sold separately), smart assistants (Alexa, Google, etc.) and so on. I think the only option missing is The Force. (No matter how often I wave my hand in front of it, Obi-Wan Kenobi–style, it doesn't unlock.)

I'll start with the Apple stuff because I think the U100 is most likely to appeal to that crowd. Once you've added the lock to Apple HomeKit (by way of the Apple Home app), you can then take advantage of Apple Key — by way of Apple Wallet. (Nah, this isn't confusing at all!) That means if you hold your iPhone or Apple Watch next to the keypad, it'll lock or unlock — even if your phone has a nearly dead battery.

An Apple Watch being used to unlock the Aqara Smart Lock U100.
With just a tap of my Apple Watch, I can unlock my front door. I can use my iPhone the same way. Android users will have to rely on the keypad, fingerprint reader, Aqara app or one of several other unlocking methods.

That's really handy, and in my tests both devices worked extremely well, with zero delay; the lock activated all but instantaneously. When my hands are full, it's especially nice to just tap my Apple Watch and unlock the door.

But it's also nice to have the option of the keypad and fingerprint scanner; the Aqara app lets you set up multiple users with their own codes and, of course, fingerprints (up to 50). You can also use that app to generate a temporary code or remotely unlock the U100 (like if you need to let a neighbor in while you're not home).

The lock is less versatile for Android users, mostly because there's currently no Home Key equivalent on that platform. And although many Android phones support NFC, you can't use one as a de facto NFC tag. Bottom line: An iPhone or Apple Watch can be used as a wireless key; Android devices cannot.

What happens if you come home to a U100 with dead batteries? Assuming you have the actual key with you, you can pop down the front panel and manually unlock it. Failing that, there's a USB-C port on the bottom for connecting a power bank or the like — assuming you have one available and the necessary cord to go with it.

The Aqara Smart Lock U100 shown with its mechanical key.
When all else fails, you can use an old-fashioned mechanical key to lock or unlock the U100.

Aqara Smart Lock U100 issues

Much as I like the modern, stylish design of the U100, I don't fully understand the color choices. On the outside, it's two-tone: a dark metallic gray up top and a lighter shade on the bottom. Neither one really matches my matte-black door handle. Inside, the entire knob mechanism is the lighter shade; it definitely stands out against the black handle.

Most smart locks are black, chrome or nickel, the better to match most door hardware. I'm not saying this slightly oddball coloring is a deal-breaker, but I don't love it.

My bigger issue is with the app, which can feel overwhelming because it's designed for use with a host of other Aqara smart-home products. Once you tap through to the U100's individual control page, it's fairly straightforward, with quick access to activity logs, user management and one-time password setup.

Dive into the settings and you'll find options like auto-locking (the deadbolt activates whenever the door is closed), Do Not Disturb Mode, Alexa pairing and many more. Some of these are simple enough to understand; others I found confusing. (Alexa pairing was a huge pain because Aqara's installation video is out-of-date.)

Meanwhile, although I had no trouble adding users (like my spouse) and their own keypad codes and fingerprints, I couldn't figure out how to share the Home Key (so she could configure her iPhone the way I have mine). Is this done in the Aqara app or Apple Home? A Google search revealed it's the latter, but even with Apple's support I couldn't share the virtual key.

Aqara, for its part, offers limited support on this front: An FAQ page entry mentions that you can share a Home Key, but doesn't explain how to do it. And speaking of support, at press time, Aqara's main support pages didn't seem to be working properly. Every product I clicked, including the U100, returned a blank screen. It was only after visiting the U100 product page and clicking the FAQ link listed there that I found help.

A screenshot from Aqara's U100 product page, indicating there are two NFC tags included.
Aqara's U100 product page specifically mentions two NFC tags are included — but they're not.

Speaking of the U100 product page, it currently indicates that there are two NFC tags included in the box, but that's simply not the case. It's an error, one that Aqara needs to correct.

One last gripe: By default, the app notifies you every time the U100 gets locked or unlocked, whether it's done manually or otherwise. The only way to prevent that is to enable Do Not Disturb, but that's not always the preferred option; I might want to get notifications when, say, my kid gets home from school. Aqara doesn't allow this — it's all or nothing.

Aqara Smart Lock U100: Should you buy it?

I'm really on the fence with this, because the U100 is a functional and versatile smart lock hampered by some setup and usability quirks. It's definitely better for Apple users, and I'll admit to loving the benefits of Home Key — rocky though it was to set up.

I also like the fingerprint and keypad entry methods, both of which work well. I suspect most users will rely on one or the other, in which case the U100 makes a good addition to any home.

But the odd coloring, the all-or-nothing notifications, the need to buy and set up a hub if you want remote control and automations — these and other issues make the U100 harder to recommend.

If you're an iPhone user who's on the tech-savvy side and you want a really versatile HomeKit-compatible smart lock, I think you'll like the Aqara Smart Lock U100. For Android users and those who struggle with tech, I think there are better options out there.