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Google’s new Nest Thermostat is geared toward smart-home newbies

October 12, 2020, 8:00 AM UTC

Google is pitching its newest Nest Thermostat as an entry-level gadget intended for people curious to jump aboard the so-called smart-home bandwagon.

The search giant debuted its new Nest Thermostat on Monday, the latest edition to the company’s growing portfolio of Internet-connected devices, like the Nest Audio smart speaker and various web-connected security cameras

The Nest Thermostat costs $129.99 and comes in four different colors—snow (white), sand (pinkish tan), charcoal (dark grey), and fog (green).
Compared to the company’s high-end Nest Learning Thermostat, which costs $249, the new thermostat is significantly more barebones.

It lacks some of the more complex machine learning technologies of the Nest Learning Thermostat that enable that device to do feats like automatically adjusting the temperature of a home based on monitoring a person’s schedule, thus learning the patterns of daily routines. Instead, people can create schedules via the new Nest Thermostat to determine what the temperature should be when they leave their home, for instance. People can also choose from several preset schedules if they don’t want to spend too much time deliberating. 

Google is still promoting the latest Nest Thermostat as a way people can save money on their energy bill. It contains a so-called Savings Finder feature, for instance, that may suggest little changes like decreasing the temperature at night when people are likely to be asleep—presumably, the suggestion wouldn’t cause someone to wake up at night from being too cold, but it would reduce the amount of energy spent heating up a home.

Ruchi Desai, a Google product lead for the Nest Thermostat, said that for most people unfamiliar with the concept of smart-home devices, cost and simplicity are their number one choices when deciding to buy a gadget. 

With that in mind, Google’s new Nest Thermostat was designed to be as simple as possible, with a screen that displays in a large font the temperature in a person’s home and whether the home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is heating things up or cooling things down.

The thermostat also contains sensors that tell it when a person is near, so that it “will magically wake up when you approach it,” Desai said.

Desai described how people can set the thermostat’s temperature or adjust settings via the Google Home app as an example of how simple it is for laypeople to operate the device. People want to be able to control their thermostats with an app, she said.

Still, users may get confused by the fact that they can’t use the existing Nest smartphone app to control the Nest Thermostat’s settings—they must use the Google Home app, even though the new Nest Thermostat contains the Nest branding. It’s part of a larger problem with Google’s marketing and branding strategy that seems to carry over to all aspects of the company, from it’s recently renamed business software suite (now known as Google Workspace) to its recent rebranding of Hangouts Chat to Google Chat.

As for reports that the new thermostat would contain gesture controls that would allow people to change settings by moving their hands, Desai said “there is no gesture control” on the new device. A Google spokesperson declined to comment about the possibility that gesture controls would come to future thermostats.

The new Nest Thermostat also supports the Google Assistant voice technology so people can set their home temperature by speaking. Like the more expensive and older Nest thermostats, the newest gadget also supports Amazon’s Alexa voice technology, making it one of the few recent Google Internet connected devices that support a rival voice technology.

Despite the Nest Thermostat’s different features, it seems Google is banking that it’s low-price will be the main reason people buy the gadget. Other Internet-connected thermostats that cost around the same price include the Emerson Sensi Touch Smart Thermostat ($128.62) and Ecobee3 Lite ($169).

“The number one barrier and why people don’t purchase smart thermostats is price,” Desai said.