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TECH WEEK: Google Nest Aware 2.0

Posted on Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

Dave!Welcome to Technology Week at Blogography, where I will be reviewing tech purchases I've made over the last month or so.

After I moved into my new home I bought a set of cloud security cameras... then bought a second set of redundant wired security cameras with battery backup. It's not that I'm overly-paranoid (though I probably should be), they are left over from wanting to watch over my mom while I was at work. After my mom had to leave, I found the cameras were a handy thing to have for keeping an eye on my cats when I travel. Now-a-days I mostly ignore them unless I am trying to solve a mystery that Jake and Jenny have left for me.

The cloud cameras are by Nest, a company that was bought out by Google. They are the best of the cloud cameras I tried, but have always been hampered by the absurdly high cost of the "Nest Aware" cloud service that enables them to record footage. If you don't subscribe to Nest Aware you can watch a live stream, but that's it. No more recording. With my mom gone, I didn't need to spend the money and decided to let all but two camera subscriptions lapse. Instead I switched to $20 Wyze cameras which are an incredible value for the money and, if you put an SD card in them, they are actually more capable than Nest cameras without Nest Aware.

Last year Google announced that they were changing Nest Aware from a pay-per-camera subscription to a new plan which covers all your cameras for one price. If you have a couple cameras, it's more expensive. But if you have a lot of Nest cameras like I do? Huge bargain. $120 a year gets me 10 days of cloud storage for an unlimited number of cameras. "Unlimited" being a relative term. Technically it's unlimited, but eventually you'll saturate your bandwidth, so there's a limit based on what internet access you have.

But there's a catch.

In order to sign up for the new Nest Aware service with unlimited cameras, you have to migrate your Nest account to a Google account. Which didn't seem like a big deal to me because I already had one for my Google WiFi mesh internet system. The problem is that when you login to your cameras on the web, you now get a login with Google screen...

Then you have to select your Google account before having access...

That's two extra steps from when I had a Nest account, because the Nest account info was stored in a browser cookie so you end up at the cameras immediately.

This may seem like a small thing, but it really isn't. Usually when I am accessing my cameras, I need to get to them right away because my security system has detected something I want to check. Calling up the Nest system is slow to begin with. Now, thanks to the Google login, the process horrendously slow because you're in a hurry.

Ultimately, Nest is still a pretty good system. No, it doesn't do everything they claim as well as they claim (I still get occasional alerts that there's a person in my house and it ends up being a cat) and, yes, the Nest Aware you need to buy to make use of your cameras is pricey... but they are dead-simple to set up and use. More importantly, the quality and reliability is great (assuming you have the bandwidth), which is the most important thing of all.

If I was starting over from scratch today I don't know that I would still choose Google Nest for my cloud system. All the glitchy service interruptions that plagued me seem to have been minimized over the past several months (knock wood), but there's still plenty of things that should be addressed...

  • No local storage. This is nuts, really. If your internet goes down, my $20 Wyze Cams are still recording. With Nest you get nothing.
  • The web interface is glitchy for Mac Safari. Camera displays overlap and scrolling a video sometimes snaps back as you're trying to scroll through the timeline. Incredibly frustrating.
  • iPhone interface is lacking. Hasn't been updated in years and years. Still impossible to define the start and end of a clip you want to save. Nest just randomly records kinda-sorta around the general vicinity of where you are on the timeline. This is garbage.
  • Google changed it so that a green light is always on and you no longer have the option to turn it off. Way to draw attention to the cameras when somebody breaks into your house! What kind of logic is this?
  • Cameras are pretty useless without Nest Aware. If your finances change and you can no longer afford to pay for Nest Aware, the camera's have the most basic of functionality. No playback at all... just a live view. This is shitty, shitty, shitty.
  • When the internet goes down or my router goes down, the camera views which you have "flipped" 180ยบ will flip back to default which means all the views for cameras that have been mounted up-side-down (which is most of mine!) are now up-side-down. Why in the hell can't the camera remember the orientation I set?
  • It seems silly that the cameras can't adjust their bandwidth quality on the fly. Or at least be set to use a schedule. Switch to highest quality during the hours I am not at home or sleeping... switch to lower quality when I'm home and wanting to use my bandwidth for streaming to my TV.
  • Google kills the "Works with Nest" program... thus IFTTT integration... when you migrate from a Nest account to a Google account. This really, really sucks. I love IFTTT and use it to integrate many services in my "smart home." Google claims this is for better security. I say it's because they want you locked into the Google ecosystem and don't want you buying non-Google products. What a bunch of bullshit from a bunch fucking assholes. When you destroy functionality of. Product like this, you are taking away the reasons that people bought your product in the first place. Most everything on this list is annoying but not a deal-breaker. This right here comes very close to being a deal-breaker for me. One of these days I am likely going to investigate hacking all my Nest cameras so I can get the fuck out of this backwards, anti-consumer mindset that Google has adopted. Really strange coming from a company whose motto is "Don't be evil." Oh... wait a second... never mind! They are okay with being evil now!

In the end I think Google buying out Nest was probably a good thing, but so many of the things I loved about Nest have changed or been eliminated... so perhaps not? My Nest Protect fire alarms are still chugging along, so at least that much hasn't changed. For now.

Final Grade Nest Protect: A
Final Grade Nest Cam: C

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