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What Is Nest? Everything You Need To Know – Updated May 2022

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Google and Nest are brands that almost seem synonymous in the modern smart home market. But while both companies are involved in the smart home arena (and it is a joint effort), they are not the same brand. So what, exactly, is Nest?

That’s exactly what this article hopes to explain in a bit more detail. Along with some answers to several of the biggest questions about Nest and its products. As well as how to get more out of Nest products you already own.

What’s the difference between Nest and Google?

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Summarily, Nest is a smart home-specific company operating under the more familiar brand, Google LLC, which serves as its parent company. Google LLC is, of course, under the parent company “Alphabet.” But it started out on its own footing.

Prior to merging fully with Google in 2018, Nest had its own endeavors. That began with the AI-powered Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011 and was followed up by carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in 2013. Those were all under the “Nest Protect” branding. The company acquired Dropcam and Revolv in 2014. While it adopted Dropcam products into its own lineup, it effectively shelved Revolv products entirely.

Also, prior to fully merging with Google, the company took its Nest Learning Thermostat to its 3rd Generation in 2015. And released a subsequent follow-up with the Nest Thermostat E in 2017. A new Nest Protect-branded smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector launched in 2015 as well as the original Nest Cam. That was followed by the Nest Cam Outdoor in 2016 and the updated Nest Cam IQ in 2017.

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Under Google, those devices were followed by a range of smart home gadgets. From the latest Nest Thermostat to the Nest Cam and Doorbell (Battery).

Now, Google and Nest are effectively the same company, with Nest operating as a subsidiary. So the biggest difference between Nest and Google is that some older Nest products connect to both the Nest app and Google Home app for smart home integration while the latest cameras only require the Google Home app and don’t appear in the Nest app.

Nest, of course, is also responsible for the Nest Aware service. That’s a value-added service for all Nest-branded products. It adds features such as noise detection for smoke alarms and breaking glass. It also increases the amount of time and which events are recorded and stored. But we’ll dive into that a bit later on in this explainer.

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What are the current Nest products?

Google Nest Thermostat AH HR Controls

Now, Nest products have been released steadily since the company’s founding. But the current run of products is quite a bit more extensive than where Nest started. Especially since Google has begun to place all of its smart home products under the Nest brand. This means that there are now no fewer than ten categories for its products if you navigate over to the Google Store page.

For instance, for smart home entertainment, Nest now has the Speakers and Streaming categories. The latter of which houses the Google-branded Chromecast and Chromecast with Google TV. While the former category houses its Nest Mini (2nd Gen) speaker and Nest Audio speakers.

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What’s more, the apparent trend of featuring two products in those categories continues across the remaining categories. So, for example, in Display-centric smart home hubs, Nest has its smaller Nest Hub (2nd gen) and its full-size Nest Hub Max. Under doorbells, it has an older wired and newer battery-powered version. And that holds true for its cameras as well. Although it also still sells a combination floodlight and camera package.

There are additionally two home thermostats — including an older “Learning” thermostat and a newer model. As well as a temperature sensor to help HVAC systems get a better handle on managing multi-level homes.

All of which is to set aside the company’s two mesh internet offerings and a plethora of accessories for powering, protecting, or repositioning the products. And, of course, without consideration for partnered products such as the Nest x Yale Lock.

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Conversely, the company does also sell Nest Protect smoke & CO alarms, installation services, and offer consultation services.

Via the Google home app, conversely, each of these products and services can meaningfully interact with others. By that, I mean others that are well outside of the Nest ecosystem, connecting through the Google Home ecosystem. This includes interactions for automation via routines and other useful features found in the Google Home app.

Do Nest cameras record all of the time and how do you know?

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Whether Nest cameras record all of the time depends entirely on the subscription level chosen and on the camera that’s been selected. The newest, battery-powered cameras cannot record all of the time. Even when wired up to a secondary source to charge the battery — effectively making them ‘wired’. They can be viewed live at any time and record events. But they cannot record 24/7 video feeds.

Older cameras can and do record all of the time when a Nest Aware Plus subscription is in place. With up to 10 days of recordings saved, as we’ll discuss in the next segment here.

Equally importantly, all Nest cameras indicate on-device when they are recording. Namely, via the built-in LED lights. Solid green lights on the cameras themselves indicate that a recording is being made. So, for example, when a camera is recording at all times via a Nest Aware Plus subscription, the light stays on. Or when an event is being recorded.

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A blinking light, conversely, indicates that users with access to the cameras are watching. The light comes on anytime the live video is being viewed.

Do you need to pay for Nest?

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One important fact to note about Nest products is, in fact, that they don’t typically come with added after-costs; namely, subscriptions.

Nest does have a Nest Aware subscription available. But for most Nest products, simply paying for the product will give you its full range of functionality. Or very close to it. For instance, if only Nest speakers, Chromecast, or WiFi gadgets are in use, there’s no benefit to a subscription service. The same can be said of Thermostat products.

For the Nest Hub-branded smart displays, improvements are available if the video recording features are turned on. For facial recognition, keeping track of “seen” faces, and activity zones. Or if you’d like your Nest Hub to recognize sounds like a smoke alarm or glass breaking — or more intelligent motion tracking since basic tracking is included out of the box.

The full range of benefits for cameras is similar to those available with the Nest Hub Max, which is camera-enabled, for instance. With added benefits on recording and storing footage too. For instance, Nest Aware Plus gets users 10-days of continuous 24/7 video history. And 60 days of event history. They’d just have 30-days of event history with Nest Aware and either 5, 10, or 30-day continuous video history with the original, 1st-Gen Nest Aware subscription.

That, in turn, feeds into other advanced features that wouldn’t otherwise be available. Such as saving and sharing video clips. But a subscription is absolutely not going to be necessary for most buyers. Especially with e911 services included for both subscription levels. And, even then, it isn’t overly expensive. Starting at just $6 per month for Nest Aware or $12 per month for Nest Aware Plus. With a 30-day trial available for those who are just getting started.

How do you use Google Nest products & do you need to use the Nest app?

Now, as far as access, features, and functionality, some Nest products do require users to access them via the Nest app. Around half of them, in fact.

For instance, the latest Nest Thermostats, smoke alarms, door locks, temperature sensors, and services such as Nest Aware and installation. Older camera models, excluding the latest “(Battery)”-designated models require the app too.

Speakers, the newest cameras and doorbells, the mesh Wi-Fi gadgetry, and even the smart home hub displays all use Google Home instead. As do Google Chromecast and Chromecast With Google TV. Though, for those latter two products, the app is mostly just for a setup.

So the biggest difference between Nest and Google is that some older Nest products connect to both the Nest app and Google Home app for smart home integration. But others simply use the Google Home app. And future products will likely continue that trend.

That’s made using Nest products less intuitive than some might have hoped. But, fortunately, we have an extensive list of how-to guides to help get started with some of the interactions users will access most commonly.