Knock is a Solution Without a Problem

I’ve written this review twice now. The first time was in the heat of the moment. I was excited about Knock — a new app that was getting a lot of hype from the usual tech pundits, and I was enjoying it after just a few minutes of use. I was typing wildly like I was on a bender.

But then I told myself to calm down. Knock was cool, yes. But did it deserve my excessive praise? I figured I should let it soak in for a few days and see how it goes; analyze the app and see what solution it solves. And now that I’ve cooled off a bit, what’s the verdict? Well …

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Nuts & Bolts

Let’s get this right out of the way: Knock is a gimmick. A party trick of sorts, meant as something you could show off to your friends and impress them with your iOS/Mac wizardry. There’s nothing wrong with that — lots of successful apps and products started as a gimmick, and they’ve continued to make millions. I just want you to be aware of what exactly Knock is before you get your hopes up.

There's not much to the iPhone app, and it displays on your lock screen when your Mac's lock screen appears.

There’s not much to the iPhone app, and it displays on your lock screen when your Mac’s lock screen appears.

Basically, Knock is a way to pair your iPhone with your Mac to enter your lock screen password quickly and easily. After installing the free Mac app and then purchasing the iPhone app from the App Store, you pair the two devices using Bluetooth LE — the low energy version of Bluetooth that doesn’t cause your battery level to drop at dramatic rates. Then, after entering your Mac’s password into Knock on the Mac, you’re ready to go. The next time you go to wake up your Mac, Knock prompts you to knock on your iPhone — literally, rap on the screen with your knuckles — twice in short order. The result is that Knock unlocks your Mac and you’re free to use it per usual. Yay!

What It’s Not

Knock is not a replacement for your password, nor is it a fancy form of two-factor authentication. No, Knock is just a fancy way to avoid typing in a key string. For example, let’s say that your password is 20 characters long and contains a mixture of capped words, digits, symbols and punctuation marks. Well, Knock is a great way to get around that because you don’t have to type it all in, just knock on your phone.

Knock is pretty easy to setup, so that's a plus.

Knock is pretty easy to setup, so that’s a plus.

But it’s not a password replacement, because you can still type in your password anytime you want. Knock doesn’t take away the usual login procedure, it just gives you a quick out if you want it. Assuming your Mac and your iPhone aren’t stolen at the same time, there would be no other way for people to get your Mac unlocked (other than a brute force attack). And since Knock sets up the computer to lock more regularly, it could deter a thief from trying to get into the Mac. But it’s not a password replacement, so don’t think it makes you safer.

A Gimmick with a Purpose?

That said, Knock is useful. Because it adjusts my sleep settings to require a password, it makes my Mac more secure by default. Yes, I could just adjust those settings myself, but I’ve been lazy in that regard; maybe you have been as well. And the knocking action does seem like a secret code to those who don’t know about Knock, which also gives you a bit of a James Bond feel.

You'll have to enter your password to use Knock. If you don't trust the app, well then you might not want to buy it.

You’ll have to enter your password to use Knock. If you don’t trust the app, well then you might not want to buy it.

It is not, however, perfect. There were a few occasions where Knock and my Mac didn’t connect fast enough, or my knocks didn’t register. Several times, the act of placing my iPhone on the table triggered Knock and unlocked my Mac automatically. And, as of right now, there is no way to adjust the frequency, duration or timing of the knocks. Two quick raps and you’re in — if that were adjustable, I could see it adding some level of security to your Mac, which would definitely be worth the price. Granted, it does seem like the type of thing that could be tweaked with a bit of code, but I’m neither a programmer nor a psychic.

Is It Worth Your $4?

Contrary to popular belief, us writers don’t make Scrooge McDuck levels of money. So for me, $4 is a lot of money to spend on an app that doesn’t do much more than help my Mac unlock like a parlor trick. You may feel the same way.

I do like Knock, and I will continue to use it. Were I to have to purchase it again, I’m not sure I would’ve made the same decision, as $4 seems a bit steep for something that doesn’t add specific functionality to my workflow or improve my state of being. Yes, it’s cool, and it is convenient, and I know it seems stupid to complain about $4 in a world where developers should be paid substantially more for their work — but I can get a lot in the App Store for four bucks.

At the end of the day, Knock is a solution in need of a problem. It’s clever, inventive and neat, but it doesn’t add anything to your Mac/iPhone combo other than the “That’s cool” factor. Maybe that’s enough for you, and that’s fine. But for me, I’d like a little bit more. I just hope the developers beef it up a bit sometime soon.


Unlock your Mac's screen by knocking on your iPhone.