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Everyone seems to hate the Google Home app and Nest, should they?

3 weeks ago 123

google home app nest camera

Especially in recent years, Google’s efforts in the smart home have received continued criticism, but looking at the current state of the Google Home app and Nest hardware, is that still deserved?

Google purchased Nest almost a decade ago, and things have changed a lot in the time since. 2021 saw the biggest revamp, with the first proper Google Nest hardware hitting the scene with new cameras and a new doorbell. But it started off rough.

Back at launch, the new Google Nest cameras were held back drastically by their app. The experience was worse across the board from the Nest app in basically every way possible, as we said in our reviews.

The hardware lineup has been unchanged in the time since, save for the addition of a wired Doorbell, as Google has mainly poured its efforts into improving the Google Home app, efforts which have paid off to some extent. The experience of using a newer Nest Cam in the Home app has gotten way better with new features arriving. As of this month, Google has added long-awaited features like manual clips and history access on the web. Stuff that arguably should have been in place three years ago.

view google cameras browser

Nest cameras have, as a whole gotten a lot better over the past two years especially thanks to the launch of the new Google Home app. It’s a much, much better experience than what we had back in 2021. It scales better to bigger homes with more devices, and there are so many more features available to Nest users.

Still, there’s always room for improvement, and the features that are still missing or don’t work as well as they should – loading and accessing history, for example, are both still unreliable – are a pain for users. That all came to a head last week, as a Reddit AMA held by the Google Home team was, for lack of a better word, a bloodbath of negativity towards the experience.

The AMA drove nearly a thousand comments from users, the vast majority of which were around complaints for the Google Home and Nest experience. Many users took issue with recent feature removals via Google Assistant. Others were frustrated by lacking features in the Home app, especially the web app. Another common ask throughout the comments was the request for some sort of roadmap or basically anything to instill confidence in the future. And, though Google offered quite a few answers throughout the session, it doesn’t seem like any of it helped anyone feel better about the future of Home and Nest.

new google home app

As someone who uses the Google Home app and a whole lot of Nest hardware, I get it. I’m regularly frustrated by the Home app’s shortcomings specifically around Nest stuff. I think it’s crazy that we’re still not at feature parity with the Nest app, and that the features we do have took way too long to arrive.

But, at the same time, is it really better elsewhere?

Wyze is affordable and has lots of features, but it’s also a continual security nightmare. Eufy is similarly compelling, but has also had its share of security problems, and probably gave the best possible example of how not to handle those issues. Arlo puts out some compelling hardware, but the costs add up quick, and the software is pretty awful in my experience. Amazon’s ecosystem, to me, is the only other one that looks compelling compared to Nest in terms of something that covers a lot of bases without a complicated installation.

arlo essential indoor camera
arlo essential indoor camera
arlo essential indoor camera

That’s basically where I stand at this point. Google Nest is full of shortcomings, absolutely, but it’s also one of the only simple smart home camera offerings out there that isn’t bogged down by awful software, higher fees, or complicated setup/maintenence. I’ve been vocal about my issues with Nest over the past few years, but I’m overall reasonably satisfied, and I don’t hesitate to tell folks who ask about home cameras to give Nest their consideration.

Should Nest still work to improve? Absolutely.

There’s so much room to improve, as the very vocal community of users made clear during this week’s AMA. I, for one, hope Google’s team read each and every one of those comments and took them to heart. But, like many of those users, I’ve also been burned by Google on the smart home. I still hate that feature parity isn’t a thing in the Home app (without some ridiculously complex workarounds). I’m still frustrated at poorly thought through choices on newer Nest Cams. I’m still trying to find a good security system to replace my Nest Secure that’s dying for no good reason.

But every time I look elsewhere, I have the same thought: is it really so bad?

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