The most significant aspect of the new Nest Thermostat from Google is not its lower $129.99 retail price. Nor is it the new recycled plastic housing offered in a choice of snow, sand, fog, or charcoal colors. Nor is it the new mirrored glass lens and QVGA liquid crystal display designed to reflect the decor of the room. Rather, it is the fact that for the first time, a Nest product disses the ubiquitous Nest app entirely and instead gets installed and managed exclusively though the Google Home app.
(Editor’s Note: This content was revised on 10.29.2020.)
We saw this day coming. As we have written extensively, the launch of the Google Nest brand in May 2019 and the succeeding migration of Nest accounts to Google accounts foretold a future where everything Google and Nest would live in the Google Home app and be controllable by the Google Assistant. And while previous Nest products—such as the Nest Learning Thermostat or the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor—could be partially controlled by the Google Home app or Google Nest smart display, you still needed the separate Nest app to install and configure them and to access deeper features. Yet, they were forever tethered to the Nest app. That all changes with the new Nest Thermostat.
Now, it remains to be seen if legacy Nest products will be similarly treated, potentially enabling full installation and management support through Google Home. There is still no definitive sign that will happen, but you can bet all Google Nest products from this point on will follow the lead of the new Nest Thermostat.
The $129.99 price of the new thermostat, simply branded as Nest Thermostat, undercuts the Nest Thermostat E by $40. On the Nest Thermostat E, Google has removed that product from the Google Store but will continue to offer it exclusively through their Nest Pro professional installer program (where an extended warranty is also provided as part of the package).
The stainless steel-built Nest Learning Thermostat (third generation) remains at the top of the line, keeping its $249 price. It’s not a stretch to see how Google Nest could replace it with another high-end version that works strictly with the Google Home app.
On Learning Features
But the new Nest Thermostat loses one of the hallmark features of all previous generations—the ability for the devices to self program. Dependent on the Nest app, the thermostat would automatically generate daily setback schedules based on learning your temperature preferences over time, based on manual adjustments you made. The homeowner could then accept the automatically-derived schedules and temperatures, or override them or create new ones by going to the Schedules tab.
With this new thermostat, the Google Home app will suggest some basic schedules, but does not have a learning feature per se. Instead, individual daily schedules can be easily programmed from the app based on choosing cooling and heating temperature presets you define for various operating modes, such as Comfort, Eco, and Sleep. These preset modes can be programmed through guided setup as you install the thermostat, or at any time thereafter.
On Remote Sensors
Another feature missing is the capability to use the Nest Temperature Sensor, puck-shaped remote sensors that can be placed in various rooms. These sensors can be a handy feature in larger homes, where you may want to automatically adjust the thermostat based on the temperature reading in a specific room. For example, a remote sensor in the master bedroom could be used to automatically adjust the temperature at night based on the specific reading in that room, rather than based on the reading at the thermostat itself residing in the living room.
We’d love to see Google Nest deliver on compatibility with their existing remote sensor or allow third-party sensors to integrate with the thermostat.
On Rotatable Ring
Also missing is the classic, rotatable ring used to adjust the thermostat, again a feature on every previous Nest thermostat. In its place is a touch-sensitive area on the right side of the plastic housing, which can be used to adjust the temperature or settings with simple gestures.
The new thermostat also lacks the Farsight feature of the current Nest Learning Thermostat, whereby the display could display the time, temperature, or weather.
On Nest Accounts
Nest accounts are also not part of the picture with the new thermostat. You will have to create a Google account if you don’t already have one, though any plain vanilla Gmail account will work. Amazingly, you still can’t use a Google G Suite account with Google Home.
On Trim Plate
There is no longer a trim plate in the box. Google Nest offers an accessory trim plate for $14.99, and it can be ordered in the same 4 colors as the thermostat to either blend into or contrast with the wall as desired.
On Works with Nest
The Works with Nest integration program for third-party accessories, such as automations with smart lighting and smart door locks, has been sidelined. Google Nest has instead moved to the Works with Google Assistant integration program, but don’t expect similar functionality.
What’s Still There
While de-featuring seems to be a focus here to cut down on Google’s development and manufacturing costs, there is still plenty to like in the new Nest Thermostat, including eligibility for utility rebates that can be significant. Here are some to the top features that made the cut.
On Home and Away
Of course, the new thermostat can automatically adjust itself like all other Nest thermostats to save energy, given the availability of the location-based Home and Away modes. This was another hallmark Nest feature carried over from the very first generation of the thermostat, and one of the most highly used.
On Remote Control and Voice Control
The thermostat can be controlled from anywhere by using the Google Home app, and can also be controlled locally by Google Assistant voice commands (but you must have a least one Google Assistant-compatible smart speaker or smart display in the home, since there is no onboard microphone or speaker).
The new thermostat can also be controlled by Amazon Alexa voice commands, again assuming you have an Amazon Echo or compatible smart speaker installed.
On Multi-Zone Setups
Like most previous Nest thermostats, the latest product is also compatible with multi-zone setups, and has onboard temperature, humidity, and motion sensors. This makes it a good fit for larger homes where they may have 2 or more thermostats.
On Utility Rebates
Finally, for many consumers, one of the most popular money-saving features is still there: rebates. The new Nest Thermostat is still eligible for significant rebates at initial purchase from many local utility providers, as well as ongoing rewards and other offers from them. For example, in our hometown of Austin, Texas, the local electrical utility offers an $85 rebate per thermostat. That brings the effective cost of the thermostat down to $45.
Portending the Future of the Google Nest Home
We expect all future Google Nest connected home accessories to follow the pathway set by this new thermostat, integrating with its ecosystem exclusively through the Google Home app and tight integrations with Google Assistant.
Furthermore, Google Nest smart displays will begin to expose more access to settings and deeper features through on-screen gestures or voice commands. By way of setting an example, the new thermostat brings gesture and voice access to temperature setting, mode, presets, and hold features. Previous Nest thermostats only get temperature and mode features.
The new Nest Thermostat is available on the Google Store, Amazon, and other major retailers.
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.