Amazon is expanding nationwide availability of some Amazon Key features, including keyless entry, remote lock and unlock, and guest access, though it will continue offering optional in-home delivery through the service only to Prime members in 37 cities, the company said in a press release.
In addition to the broader rollout, Amazon has added the optional capability for Amazon Key owners to watch video clips of guests, friends or family entering and leaving their residence when the door has been remotely unlocked.
Amazon has also expanded its list of available smart locks supporting the service from three to eight, including five new smart locks from lock manufacturers Kwikset and Yale, and is currently offering discounts of between $109 and $139 on the purchase of its Amazon Key Home Kit, which usually costs at least $249.
On the surface, this announcement appears to be Amazon increasing its commitment to a service it launched less than six months ago by making it available to more customers, expanding its feature set and bringing in more manufacturer partners. The e-commerce giant also has acquired smart doorbell start-ups Ring and Blink in recent months, though this particular announcement didn't contain any further details about how Amazon Key might become more integrated with those products.
Below the surface, this expansion seems like a cautious step for a service that has experienced some initial criticisms. Just last month, a study from InsuranceQuotes found that more than 75% of women and more than 60% of men were unwilling to use the in-home delivery option. Many consumers surveyed apparently fear Amazon delivery people stealing things from their homes, which is disconcerting on many levels, and is the exact opposite of the feature's intent, which was to mitigate the persistent problem of package theft.
But, for Amazon, smart locks, smart doorbells, video monitoring of entry doors and keyless entry capabilities are all elements of its broader smart home strategy that it has built on the foundation of its wildly successful Echo smart speaker product line and Alexa virtual assistant. The smart home market is a major battlefield of competition between Amazon and other giants, such as Google and Apple, and not one that it will step back from due to a bit of negative publicity (though offering a steep discount on Amazon Key kits is another matter).
In keeping availability of the feature limited to its original 37 markets and Prime membership base, Amazon may be trying to get a prolonged look at how these customers respond to the feature before deciding about expanding it.