Dog & Bone LockSmart Travel: Keyless luggage padlock

Dog & Bone LockSmart Travel With Canadian "Loonie" for size comparison. Photo ©2017, Steven Sande

Dog & Bone LockSmart Travel With Canadian "Loonie" for size comparison. Photo ©2017, Steven Sande

Having just come back from a nearly month-long trip, I often think about security while I'm traveling. In the past we used small travel padlocks to discourage would-be thieves from opening our bags, but with the TSA's requirement to open all bags we got rid of those locks. Dog & Bone's new LockSmart Travel (US$59.95) updates the old luggage padlock with a TSA Travel Sentry approved key lock, then ups the game with a Bluetooth LE smart lock that works with an app for keyless access. 

Design

The LockSmart Travel looks unsurprisingly like any other travel padlock. On one side is a hole for the TSA Travel Sentry lock and a door panel that tells the TSA employee what key to use. That door slides away to reveal two CR-2016 pancake batteries that power the device. The bottom of the device has a small button that is very important to the operation of the LockSmart Travel.

Function

The LockSmart Travel works with Dog & Bone's free LockSmart app, which also controls the $89.95 LockSmart padlock (read our review from last year). With the app on your iPhone, adding a lock is quite simple. Press the button on the bottom of the lock to turn it on, tap the Add A Lock button in the app, and then let the two pair. 

It's possible to set up the lock with three different methods of access -- tap to unlock, Touch ID, or a passcode. The lock shuts itself off after 20 seconds of inactivity, then requires a push of the bottom button to wake it up in order to unlock it again. 

There are some real advantages to locks like this. For example, let's say that you've used it to lock your bag and your spouse needs to get into it to find something...but you're on the other side of the airport stuck in a TSA or customs line. A virtual "key" can be sent via Messages from the app, then used by the recipient to open the lock...provided that they also download the app. 

There's also a location mode for finding your lock when it's within 30 feet of you. This mode is enabled in the app's settings, and wakes up the lock every 30 seconds. I'm not really sure how useful this is -- I can usually spot my bag visually if it's within 30 feet of me, and the mode also reduces battery life.

One thing that I wish LockSmart would outline in its instructions for the LockSmart Travel is that it's more of a "push and hold" the button until the LED starts flashing green instead of just a "push" of the button. Just following the instructions, I was frustrated in my efforts to open the LockSmart Travel until I finally figured out that I needed to hold down the button. After that, it opened every time using Touch ID in the LockSmart app. 

One final concern -- if those two pancake batteries happen to fail while you're traveling, you're out of luck opening your bag. The app does give an indication of how much battery power is remaining so you shouldn't be caught unaware, but I'd recommend that anyone using a LockSmart Travel also carry a spare pair of CR2016 batteries with them. Those aren't exactly the type of battery you can find everywhere...

Conclusion

Frequent travelers who want to do away with the need to carry yet another key or remember another combination should take a look at the Dog & Bone LockSmart Travel. It's not exactly inexpensive, but the TSA-compliant physical lock, ability to use different methods to unlock, and sharing digital keys make it a must-have for travelers. My biggest complaint? The instruction to "push the button" needs to make it clear that the button must be held down.

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★