Dog & Bone LockSmart Mini Quick Review: A Bluetooth-Only Electronic Padlock

If you're the kind of person that carries valuable tools around with them, or that rides a bike and parks it in a public place, you're setting yourself up for grief. Anyone can pick locks with a little practice. But what if you equipped yourself with a padlock that didn't have a key? The LockSmart Mini is a padlock that uses Bluetooth and talks to your phone to unlock.

It's certainly sturdy — like a good padlock should be. Padlocks have two elements — a case (the thick metal body) and a shackle (the locking hoop at the top). On the $US70 LockSmart Mini, both are made from tough metals, steel for the shackle and die-cast zinc alloy for the case. It's not a brass-bodied lock that a dedicated thief could hacksaw through in a matter of minutes, and for a padlock — the kind of thing you secure an unattended gate or pushbike with for a few hours or days — this is more important than you'd think. You can trust the LockSmart to stay in one piece.

Battery life isn't a problem, at all, and neither is charging. Dog & Bone says the LockSmart Mini will last for 3000 cycles of locking and unlocking, or up to two years of hibernation between unlocks. Now, when you're comparing it to an actual padlock with actual keys and no battery, there's no level playing field, but for any Internet of Things-y 'smart' device, two years is a pretty impressive figure. Charging, done with the ubiquitous microUSB connector and cable, is reasonably quick — and it's not like you have to do it any more than once in a blue moon in the first place.

It doesn't have a physical backup key; Bluetooth is your only choice. Unlike a lot of other 'smart' locks, there is no backup key for the LockSmart Mini, and that means it's much harder — if not effectively impossible — for a would-be lockpicker to crack. My LockSmart Mini has spent the last month living on my toolbox and locking up my bike chain — both perfect situations for a padlock that requires a phone, not a key, to unlock. You'll need the LockSmart app, and the unlocking process takes a few seconds — booting the app, powering up the lock, then unlocking it — but it does feel simple once you've set it up for the first time.

You can share Bluetooth 'keys' over the Internet, too. It's not a perfectly streamlined process, but it certainly works when needed. From the original owner's app, you're able to share a unique unlock code via SMS, which can then be used to install the LockSmart app and sync it wirelessly with the LockSmart Mini. It requires a working knowledge of apps and Bluetooth, so it's more for your mate that wants to borrow your bike than your technophobic grandparent. The complementary LockSmart app includes Touch ID support on iOS, too, and simple passcodes on Android and iOS.

It's expensive, but not unreasonably so. At about $90, the LockSmart Mini — like its $120 larger, rounded LockSmart sibling — costs a fair bit of money, but not an unreasonable amount considering its utility, its long battery life and the fact that you can share keys with your friends or family (even if that process is a little convoluted). It's a niche product but one that fills its niche very well. With battery life extending well beyond the point that anyone would expect, it's certainly technologically capable — but the only question is whether you'll remember to set the LockSmart up again when you switch to a new phone.