Google is introducing updates to the Nest camera line with a new version of the Google Nest Doorbell and several new versions of the Google Nest Cam. The company is also softening the Nest Cam’s restrictive business model, which previously required an almost monthly subscription fee to get a usable camera.
We’ll get to the new models in a moment, but the biggest news is that Google is making the cameras more useful without a monthly subscription. Previously, core camera features were like record video were locked into a $6-$12 monthly subscription called “Nest Aware,” but the new cameras can now record local video. You only get three hours of “events” (motion detection, as opposed to 24/7 video), but it’s a start. Google has also moved activity zones and some image recognition features from its cloud-based pay-per-month service to on-device processing, so they’ll work without a subscription.
If you still want to pay for the “Nest Aware” subscription, it comes in two tiers. There’s the $6 “Nest Aware,” which gives you 30 days of video history of “events” and facial recognition. The free tier can detect people, animals and vehicles and alert you about them, but the subscription adds facial recognition for “familiar faces” so Nest can see if a loved one or stranger is at your door and alert you accordingly. The $12 per month tier is “Nest Aware Plus,” which offers 60 days of event video history and 10 days of 24/7 video history if you have a wired (not battery-powered) Google Nest Cam (the doorbell can’t provide continuous video to withdraw).
Another great added quality of life feature is that the cameras can now work offline. Local storage and processing on the device allows the cameras to work without internet; previously the cloud was the only way they had to process and store video. This addition helps if your internet is spotty, but it’s also useful if Google’s Nest cloud service goes down, which happens quite often.
Let’s talk hardware. Unveiled today, with a ship date of August 24, are the “Google Nest Cam (Battery)” and the “Nest Doorbell (Battery)” for $179 each. Both Wi-Fi-only cameras (up to 802.11n) have IP54 water resistance for outdoor use, speakers and microphones for voice communication, and motion sensors. The Nest Cam has a 1/2.8-inch, 2MP sensor for 1080p and 30fps video output, while the doorbell has a 1/3-inch, 1.3MP sensor, good for 960p video.
You might notice that “battery” designation behind each product’s name: Nest cameras now have built-in 6,000 mAh batteries, which allow the devices to run during a power outage. If you don’t want to do any installation work, the cameras can run completely on batteries. Battery operation is actually the default experience, and Google touts an easy “Wireless setup”. Battery life depends on the number of motion events per month, with Google predicting battery life of 1.5 months to seven months depending on traffic. Then you have to pull the thing off the wall (the magnetic mounting system makes this really easy) and plug it in to charge it.
Alternatively, you can save yourself a lifetime of charging and just install a power cable. Included in the box is a 1m (3.3ft) “charging cable” that uses a proprietary pogo pin connection, but for permanent outdoor installation Google wants you to buy the Nest Cam’s 5m weatherproof cable for $ 34.99. The doorbell can charge itself through your doorbell wire, which is also necessary if you want it to ring a traditional doorbell.
Google also announced the $99.99 “Google Nest Cam (wired),” which is indoor-only and has a fixed power cord, and the $279.99 “Google Nest Cam with floodlight,” which has two large lights on the side has for outdoor lighting. Both were just teased and lack a launch date or detailed information.
Please don’t steal this completely wireless, magnetically mounted camera
Okay, let’s get a few things straight here. The Nest cameras work on WiFi, so they don’t have an Ethernet cable. They can also run completely on battery power, so there’s no power cable either. And as has been the case for some time now, the connection system between the Nest camera and the wall mount is magnetic. So if the device is completely wireless and magnetically mounted, couldn’t someone just walk up and steal the camera?
Yes, that seems to be the case. Google even has a support document that says if someone walks off with your camera and you report it to the police, the company will replace the device for free. You could mount it high enough off the ground to make it harder to steal, but you still need access to the camera to charge it.
Google also sells a $14.99 “anti-theft mount,” which clips around the Nest camera and lets you tether the thing to the wall with a metal cable. At least someone thought about this before a spate of thefts started, but it seems like the security of a security camera should be more of a basic design consideration.
These new cameras also mark the beginning of the end for the Nest app. Since Nest moved from a separate Alphabet company to a sub-brand of Google in 2018, Google has been working to phase out the pre-merger Nest infrastructure. We’ve already seen the death of the “Works with Nest” ecosystem and Nest accounts, and these new cameras don’t use the Nest app at all and instead work through the Google Home app. The Nest app is now only for older devices.