Nest Thermostat Review: First Impressions
I am an Apple fanboy, it is no secret. So it is also not surprising that the day the Nest Thermostat became available in Canada I had ordered two. Here are my thoughts after a few weeks of use:
Ordering: The First Touch Point
- The Nest website is crisp, clean and well thought out. It is a level of work I aspire to. Additionally though, it does a fantastic job of explaining the value proposition behind the product (not easy with something as traditionally mundane as a thermostat). It also includes a handy tool and video explaining how to determine if the Nest is compatible with your heating system. I was unsure, but after using the tool, I knew the Nest would work in my home.
- The actual purchase process was elegant in a way that most people won’t notice, but if you do any User Interface (UI) and/or User Experience (UX) work, you will admire. Smooth transitions, a very conversion focused, streamlined process. Again it is well thought out and aesthetically pleasing. In short, it is very “Apple-y”.
- Shipping was fast, very fast. I ordered on Thursday and without expedited shipping, the package arrived on Tuesday.
- The packaging was well done. The unboxing experience was very similar to the iPhone. Some nice touches were included – instructions directing you to video tutorials, a small disposable (but well made) screw driver, screws – everything you need to complete an install, regardless of your technical experience. Still nervous? Through the site you can arrange to have a professional come and install Nest for you.
Installing the first Nest took under fifteen minutes for the first unit and under five for the second unit. As soon as the Nest started detecting a current, it lit up and began to walk me through the rest of the set up process.
It was amazingly simple, with one exception – if you have a good wi-fi password, inputting it takes a while. The UI on the Nest is very well-designed. Exactly what you would expect from someone who helped design the iPod and ran the iPhone division at Apple. However, you input commands either by pressing in on it (“enter”) or dialing it like a safe combination. In normal use it works well, but to input a wi-fi password with 20+ characters that are a mix of numbers, symbols, upper and lower case letter….well it is a challenge.
Some kind of integration with Apple’s Airport Utility (for those of us with Airports) would have been great.
After about two weeks of use, I am very pleased with the product.
The more I use it the more I realize how well thought out the whole experience is.
- Very subtle audio signals compliment the graphic interface
- The screen changes color to indicate if it is active (for example it turns red when the furnace is on)
- There is a motion detector and while the screen is normally off, it becomes active as you approach it. One flaw here – it doesn’t do this quickly enough. It needs to detect me walking up sooner.
- When you set the temperature to something that is considered “enviro-friendly”, the Nest presents you with a little green leaf on the screen. It is subtle, but oddly rewarding.
- One unusual thing about the Nest is that it always displays the temperature it is set at (unlike most thermostats which display the temperature the room is at). First I found this disconcerting, but I realized over time that it makes me less likely to turn the heat up (and the point of the Nest is to conserve energy). When I walk up to the Nest and see it is set at 19 degrees, I don’t turn it up, because I know 19 is a reasonable setting. I can’t explain why, but it works.
The biggest selling feature of the Nest is its ability to learn from your habits and adjust the temperature in your house accordingly.
- The web interface and app interface for iPads and iPhones (iOS) to set up your schedule initially is terrible. It is not intuitive at all.
- The first few days of using the Nest were frustrating, because it adjusts the temperature in what is a logical manner – but contrary to what you would want if you have a new baby you like to keep warm. Each evening we’d have to get up and turn the heat back up, because it had gone into power saving mode. For most people this would be fine, but it was a big headache at our house (and the Nest lost a lot of credibility with my wife).
- The motion-sensing feature to determine when you aren’t at home (and adjust heat accordingly) is slick. However, the Nest needs to learn that sometimes during the day, a quiet, motionless house is actually a house with a sleeping baby.
- When you change the temperature on the Nest, it will briefly display when the next automatic change will be and what the temperature will be set at. The display of this is too momentary, I never catch it in time to see the details.
That all said, two weeks in and the Nest seems to have learned most of our habits. As we are into summer (and our heating needs are minimal), I’d be very interested to hear how it does at controlling Air Conditioning (which our circa 1930′s house does not have).
The entire end-to-end Nest experience is almost seamless. From the day you order it to you start using it, you feel like you intuitively understand how to complete each step. Where it falls down however is the iOS and web interfaces.
The iOS (iPad and iPhone) app is adequate. But that is all. It does little to live up to the standards set by the Nest website and the product itself. This is disappointing because being able to check and control the heat of my house while I travelled was a big selling feature for me. While it is usable, it is disappointing in comparison to the device itself.
The website interface for controlling your Nest suffers from the same flaws. It wastes space and misses obvious features. For example, when displaying the outside temperature – why not let me click to get a forecast? When displaying the set temperature for the Nest, why not allow a hover to display what the actual temperature is?
Interestingly, I also don’t think that my Nest is checking on my location via my iPhone. If the temperature is set to away and my iPhone is approaching the house – shouldn’t that be a signal that my arrival is imminent? This may be happening in the background, but not that I can tell.
Summary: Recommended Buy
Long story short, I would recommend the Nest. The price point is high, but I deem the features to be worth it if you are someone who takes pleasure in a slick User Experience and/or (like me) are constantly worried about the temperature at your house while you are away. It even includes a safety setting, creating a “floor” temperature it will not let your house get below if you are worried about freezing pipes.
Do you have a Nest? Notice any UI and UX features I missed? Let me know.
Finally, here is a video from Nest about their product. You can learn more about it at their website here.