Tech Guide

Amazon Key changes how packages are delivered — just beware of your dog

Key Points
  • Amazon Key includes a smart lock and a smart camera, and lets delivery people inside your home
  • It works, but you need to be aware of a few things, including dogs and security systems
Amazon Key changes how packages are delivered -- just beware of your dog
Amazon Key changes how packages are delivered -- just beware of your dog

Amazon Key is a new concept: a delivery service that actually allows delivery people to enter your home and leave packages. It's easy to install and use, but it's also expensive, and there are some setbacks you need to know about — especially if you have a dog.

Here's what I discovered when I installed the necessary gear and tested the service in my house.

Amazon Key: A camera and a smart lock

This is the Yale smart lock I purchased
CNBC | Todd Haselton

Amazon Key is a service that incorporates two physical products, a smart lock (you can select one of three Amazon offers, ranging in price from $150 to $250) and the Cloud Cam Key Edition in-home camera.

Depending on the lock you choose, the Amazon Key bundle will set you back $249 to $319 after a discount is applied during checkout. That's not cheap, but it makes sense if you're a frequent Amazon shopper and worry about packages being damaged outside or, worse, stolen.

This is the Amazon Cloud Cam, one component of Amazon Key
CNBC | Todd Haselton

The way it works is pretty simple. A user can unlock the door using the Amazon Key mobile app and can grant access to contacts. Delivery drivers get access through a delivery app when they arrive to drop off a package — it works only if they're at the right house with the right order. Whenever somebody unlocks the front door through any of these methods, the camera starts recording.

Amazon's idea is that this can allow its drivers to drop off a package inside your house instead of leaving it on the front stoop where it might get stolen or rained on.

Installation: Super easy

I prefer this aesthetic to the other locks Amazon offers
CNBC | Todd Haselton

I chose the high-end $250 Yale Assure Smart Lock Amazon Key Edition because it has a digital keypad that works if you don't have a smartphone or keys, which I thought was a good convenience to have. I also liked the aesthetics of this higher-end lock — some smart locks are rather ugly.

The lock required me to replace my entire front door lock, which only took me about a half an hour. It might take you a bit more time if you've never installed a lock.

Here's the camera keeping an eye on my door
CNBC | Todd Haselton

Next, you'll plug in the Amazon Cloud Cam and download and open the Amazon Key app on your smartphone. (Android and iPhone are supported.) Amazon's process is simple: You'll connect the camera to your home wireless network, enter the master code on your lock keypad and the two products will sync. That's it.

The app: Lock and unlock from your phone

This is the main screen of the Amazon Key app
CNBC | Todd Haselton

The Amazon Key app lets you take a peek at your camera from your smartphone whenever you want. It also provides alerts on whenever the front door is unlocked or locked.

You can give access to guests who are visiting
CNBC | Todd Haselton

With it, you can walk up to your door and unlock it or lock it directly from your smartphone. You can also give access to your contacts, including family members or a dog walker and choose how long or when those people are allowed to enter your home.

The delivery: Beware of dog

Amazon left the box outside my door.
CNBC | Todd Haselton

Amazon left my package outside my door instead of bringing it inside, which surprised me.

I called a spokesperson who explained that this is what a delivery driver is trained to do if he or she hears a barking dog or clawing at the door. It's safer for the driver and prevents a dog from running around the neighborhood. On the other hand, I was kind of bummed since I expected the package to be delivered and didn't think my 10-pound dog would be much of a problem. I'd left a note in the app explaining that I had a small dog.

Amazon Key Delivery
Amazon Key Delivery

In a second delivery, which arrived later at night, the Amazon Key worked as expected and my package was dropped off inside my door. That worked because my alarm was off, which brings me to my next point.

Amazon alerted me my package didn't make it inside
CNBC | Todd Haselton

Amazon Key can't deactivate your security system. You'll need to turn that off the day you're expecting a package. Amazon wouldn't comment if it's working to embed this support with in-home security systems, but it would make perfect sense to do so.

This is the app delivery drivers use

Behind the scenes, Amazon has adopted its delivery application to work with Amazon Key. That means the delivery person doesn't have a permanent code to access your house. Amazon makes sure the driver is at the right house with the right package and then gives them access. They'll unlock the door, the camera will begin recording for security purposes, and the delivery driver can't move on to the next delivery until your door is closed and locked properly.

Should you buy it?

The two components of Amazon Key
CNBC | Todd Haselton

I'm planning to keep the one I bought, but there are some big caveats you need to know about.

Amazon Key will work as advertised — just using the smart lock for personal use is great, too — but you need to think about your security system and your dog. If you're worried about either, this isn't the product for you.

Ultimately, I'm most concerned about deliveries being secure when I'm out of town. With Amazon Key installed, I'll be able to have my boxes placed safely inside my home when neither I nor my dog is there. If I'm at work and letting my dog run around the house as I normally do, I'll just choose regular outside-the-house delivery.

Amazon has some kinks to work out, but it's a product I think will evolve over time and it's one I'm curious to continue watching.