You might recall that back in December we ran a review of Dog & Bone's LockSmart Bluetooth Padlock. It was the first Bluetooth-enabled padlock to make it to market, although another company -- FŪZ Designs -- had been working on a Kickstarter project for quite some time. The US$69.99 ($64.99 for quantities of 2 or more) Nokē finally arrived, and I'm happy to say that it was worth waiting for.
Like the LockSmart, the Nokē (pronounced "no key") looks like a regular padlock. I think Nokē did a smart thing keeping it plain and gray compared to the LockSmart with its bright red ring -- there's less of a chance that the lock will call attention to itself and to those who might want to see if they could "beat" the lock.
Nokē is designed to be opened one of four different ways. First, if you walk up to the lock and press down on the shackle, it attempts to connect to a smartphone running the free app. If it has been paired with the app, it unlocks with a flash of a green LED and you're ready to go. Next, there's a more secure two-step method where you press on the shackle, then go to the app to "approve" opening the lock. The third "Quick Click" method is clever, using a pre-set code of short and long shackle presses to open the lock if your phone is dead. And finally, there's an optional Bluetooth fob that can be purchased for $24.99 -- think of it as a "garage door opener" for your lock.
The app is easy to understand and well-implemented. You must create an account that the app uses to store the lock and user information in the cloud; that's one of the nice things about Nokē in that enterprises can use Nokē padlocks throughout a company, allowing certain users access to certain locks, revoking user rights, and so on. For those of us who just have a lock or two, the app lets you send an electronic "key" to others for one-time or continuous use. You can even select a date/time window or location for users, so they can't unlock the Nokē except when and where you want them to. Here's a video showing how to set up the Nokē:
Hardware-wise, the Nokē will work in temperatures from -10 to 150°F (-23 to 65°C), pretty close to the same range for the LockSmart. It works off of a single CR2032 watch battery, something that's readily available. Battery life is listed as "over a year" depending on usage. The app will warn when a battery needs to be replaced, but there's a way to "jump start" a Nokē with a dead battery. On the bottom of the lock is a weathertight door that can be opened with a coin; open that door, hold a fresh CR2032 against a set of prongs, and you can give the lock enough of a quick charge to open it. Once open, the back of the lock rotates and then swings open, giving unfettered access to the battery. In my opinion, this is a much better solution than what you'd have to do with the LockSmart -- get a USB cable and external battery pack to be able to charge the battery enough to open it.
FŪZ Designs notes that the lock is built of steel with a boron-hardened shackle, and that it uses the latest in anti-shim technology. Not sure what that means, but it sounds good, doesn't it? It just feels solid, and that's a good thing when you're trying to keep your personal property safe.
When I ordered my Nokē in 2014, I requested a flat gray lock and that's what I received. The color choices don't appear to be continuing, as the only choice right now is silver.
The app is thoughtfully designed and extremely easy to use. Each user can be assigned one or more locks, and each lock can be designated with a photo and description. For my one padlock, I just used one of the default photos included in the app.
I tested three of the four opening methods; as I don't have a Bluetooth fob, I wasn't able to test that. I found the first method to be the easiest and fastest. You simply press down on the lock shackle, which then wakes the lock, displays a blue LED, contacts the nearest smartphone, and then flashes green and opens the lock when the virtual key is accepted. The second method still requires the shackle press, but then asks for the user to validate the unlocking request in the app by tapping a button.
I wasn't too happy with the "Quick Click" method, which took me 16 long/short pushes when I used the code that was generated by the app. Sadly, I think most Nokē users will give it an easy code as a result, and that's not very secure. Fortunately, the lock provides visual feedback with a blue LED for a short click and a white LED for a long click.
The app keeps a history of every lock or unlock, and if you've given the app access to Location Services on your iPhone it will even provide a map of where the lock was last used. The latter could be useful if you are lending a bicycle to someone, give them the electronic key, and then want to see where they locked up the bike.
Speaking of bikes, you can now pre-order a U-lock version of Nokē for $109.99. The company also sells a cable if you'd rather use the padlock with it to lock your personal property to something else.
The Nokē padlock was worth the wait from September of 2014 (when the project was funded on Kickstarter) until now. FŪZ Designs definitely took the time and effort to think through all possible use cases for the product, and the emails that were sent to product backers during the long wait explained some of the design changes that were made. In the end, the product is less expensive by $20 - $25 compared to the LockSmart, and to my eyes it appears to be a much better-engineered padlock. The support website for Nokē is also extremely complete, so any questions that users or potential owners may have will definitely be answered.