For the first time, the Nest Labs app for their line of smart-home technology products has joined the domain where wrist-borne complications, haptics, and glances are commonplace—a world otherwise known as the Apple Watch. Effective with the release of version 5.6 of the Nest app, Nest Learning Thermostats can be controlled directly from the face of an Apple Watch.
The Nest integration requires watchOS 2.0 or greater, plus a companion Apple iPhone running iOS 9.0 or higher. Once the Nest app is switched on, common day-to-day interactions for controlling Nest smart thermostat functions are enabled on the Apple Watch face through the usual gestures, including taps, long presses, and swipes. And while Nest Cam or Nest Protect Smoke + CO Alarm products are not visible and cannot be controlled from the watch, notifications from these devices are presented in audible and visual formats as well as haptic cues. For example, alerts for emergency events from Nest Protect are delivered to the Apple Watch for smoke or carbon monoxide detections.
Setting the stage for Nest
With the exception of a Nest on-off slider switch on the Apple Watch app for iOS, there are no Nest configuration settings on the Apple Watch itself. So, if one is installing a Nest thermostat or other Nest product for the first time, account setup and device activation work will need to be done through the Nest website, a smartphone, or tablet. Upon launching the Nest app on Apple Watch—via tapping the Nest icon on the Home screen or through a Siri voice command—the familiar Nest home screen appears.
Adjusting to Nest on Apple Watch
Current users of the Nest app will be immediately comfortable on the Apple Watch app, where the signature Nest button for setting the Home or Away modes is front and center. For Nest users with more than one home configured in their Nest account—say, a primary residence and a vacation home—a long press on the watch face allows the selection of the desired home location.
Individual Nest thermostats appear in a scrollable list, with active icons indicating the Home or Away mode, and additionally display the temperature setting and heat or cool mode when set to Home. Tapping a given thermostat expands the device to full screen, and the target temperature can be adjusted by touching the up-down arrows or dragging the dial control. Any relevant Nest feature icons are also displayed, depending on what is going on with that particular thermostat—for example, the Leaf icon to indicate an energy-saving mode. Finally, a long press anywhere on the watch face enables manually selecting heat or cool mode.
The Apple Watch version of the app does not support Spaces, a new device organization feature also integrated into version 5.6 of the Nest app. When using the Nest website, or a smartphone or tablet app with Spaces activated, homeowners can group multiple Nest-branded products into rectangular room boxes to enable at-a-glance status of the devices in that room. On the Apple Watch, Nest thermostats will simply be listed individually based on their room names as configured in the Nest account.
Smooth Nest operation, and a caveat
Running the Nest app on Apple Watch was a very smooth experience in our testing, with the app quite responsive and taking just a handful of seconds to launch and spin up into a ready state. Switching between Home and Away modes was instantaneous, and thermostat temperature and mode adjustments worked quickly and flawlessly. So, after a few days of acclimation, we routinely bypassed our iPhones and relied on Apple Watches exclusively for Nest thermostat interactions.
One downside, however, lies not in the Nest app itself but rather the overall architecture of the current Apple Watch, which is not equipped with an onboard cellular radio. The watch relies on a primary Bluetooth connection to its paired iPhone, and can also switch to compatible Wi-Fi networks the same paired iPhone has previously connected to (see this article on the Apple support site for full details). So, when the Apple Watch is out of range for both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, apps that rely on networking connectivity won’t function. As most current Apple Watch users are already accustomed to this limitation, the Nest app is unlikely to be more troublesome in that regard than any other networked app.
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.