Otto is betting people will pay $700 for a premium smart lock

What’s the biggest thing holding back smart locks? Pricing? Consumer awareness? Security concerns? Bay Area-based startup Otto believes the issue is due, in part, to aesthetics. Today the company showed off its smart lock of the same name, created with a minimalist design in mind and a form factor the same size as the traditional lock it’s designed to replace.

The company’s CEO Sam Jadallah showed off a fun visual trick in a demo he gave us prior to the product’s launch. He shows off a door sporting August’s familiar door lock, which he then removes to reveal the much smaller Otto underneath. It’s gimmicky, sure, but it gets the point across.

While Jadallah was a Microsoft executive in a past life, the company is undoubtedly positioning itself as something akin to the Apple of smart locks, much as Nest did with its thermostats. And like Nest, Otto poached early employees from Apple’s ranks. Jadallah handily points out that around 70 percent of the company’s early employees came over from Infinite Loop in the startup’s earliest stages.

The company also brought a former Nokia employee on board to serve as the company’s in-house industrial designer, a role that many startups outsource. “We set out to create a product that people could fall in love with,” Jadallah tells TechCrunch. “We wanted to build a product that’s subtle, that works on everybody’s doors.”

And indeed, it looks good, so far as looks go, and in keeping with the Apple model, it’s also priced accordingly, at $700. The company has plans to offer a lower-priced product at some point, but in the meantime, it’s very much a premium-priced product, which means it’s probably not destined to make a huge dent in the overall lock market.

Interestingly, part of making the product smaller means doing away with key holes and keypads — both potential security loops. The product uses the phone for unlocking, naturally, and also features a light-up keypad that works by twisting its perimeter like a combination lock, bringing up different numbers.

If the battery runs out, there’s an emergency backup on board that should last a dozen extra unlocks, until you can replace the regular one. Beyond that, you’re out of luck, as the backup is only replaceable by the company.

The Otto is, indeed, nice looking, but I’m not entirely convinced that aesthetics are currently that big a driving force in lock purchasing at the moment. Though, it’s worth keeping in mind that locks are usually upgraded far less frequently than, say, smartphones, so you’ll be stuck with the one you choose for a while.

Pre-orders open today, and the lock will start shipping in the fall. For a limited time, the company is also sweetening the pot by waving the $150 installation fees in select markets.