Google Nest Hub Max review – gpgmail


There were two standout features I really appreciated off the bat about the original Nest (nee Google Home) Hub: its compact size and its lack of camera. The new Nest Max has decidedly neither of those things.

After releasing a model that offered an interesting alternative to the Echo Show, Google’s taking Amazon’s flagship smart screen head-on with the Max. It’s a device that leverages the learnings of the earlier, smaller model, while applying new case users.

As far as design goes, Google decided not to mess with a good thing here. The Max is nearly identical to the Hub, albeit scaled up, from seven inches to ten. The form factor is the familiar tablet mounted atop a fabric speaker base. It’s simple, it’s subtle, and it will fit in with most decors. Lenovo’s given Google a run for its money with its own Assistant displays, but so far as I’m concerned the Nest line is still the best looking product in the category.

The addition of a camera is really the most radical difference here for a few reason. The most immediate is, of course, security. Google successful avoided inserting itself into that conversation with the original Hub. The reason was simple: it was a product designed to live on nightstands. Sure, the topic of privacy is a slippery slope that most of us have already tumbled halfway down, but for many the idea of introducing a cloud-connected camera into the bedroom was understandably a bridge or two too far.

Facebook, notably, stepped into yet another hornets’ nest when it launched its camera-sporting Portal device amid its own privacy scandal(s) — and rightfully so. Google, however, has inserted itself back into that conversation with Hub Max. Put in the company’s position, one would imagine doing as much as possible to ease users’ peace of mind about privacy concerns.

A physical shutter is a pretty quick and easy way to do precisely that. It’s a helpful sort of shorthand — heck, even Facebook included a clip-on shutter in hopes of nipping some of those concerns in the bud. It’s honestly a bit baffling that Google didn’t do the same — a strange oversight it appears to have made largely for aesthetic reasons.

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There is, of course, a switch in the rear, which turns off both the microphone and camera, illuminating a red light to the side of the camera in the process. That a red light can both indicate either camera off or record on different devices is a design conversation for another day, I suppose.

But Google’s decision to include a camera isn’t arbitrary. The truth is that it effectively unlocks a whole slew of new functionality here and further distinguishes Nest Hub products from Amazon’s offerings. And, naturally, it also unlocks further privacy concerns in the process. The biggest piece of the puzzle is a kind of personalization that wouldn’t be accessible through other means.

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During setup, the device walks you through a similar process that smartphones implement to enable unlock. Using your phone’s camera, it grabs a 3D image of your face. When the Nest Hub Max spots you, it will greet you with a note along the lines of “Good afternoon, Brian,” and the image of you associated with your Google profile. When you’re locked in, the device tailors all of its suggestions to you. It’s a clever way of swapping between accounts.

Of course, like so many other things, it feels like a piece of a slippery slope. Google, of course, has already identified the sound of your voice, which it can also use to provide bespoke content, but that’s a less dynamic approach to this kind of implementation. You can certainly opt out, though you’ll be missing out on a reasonably large piece of the puzzle here.

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The camera also brings the ability to video chat through Duo. The Hub Max utilizes a similar zoom feature as Facebook’s Portal — a dynamic pan that was initially positioned as that product’s killer app. Implementation here is similarly effective, moving and zooming out to follow the subject and included additional people at once. The digital zooming does notably degrade image quality, however.

The other big piece of the puzzle is security camera functionality. It is, after all, a Nest device. Given that it’s not a devoted security product, however, Google is positioning that feature as more of a supplement to existing Nest devices. In other words, you place your Nest Cam in key areas and use the Hub Max’s camera to fill in the gaps. It works similarly to those devoted devices (including features like geofencing), though it lacks some features like night vision.

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Handily, the device will let you know when it’s being used as a camera, sporting a “Nest Cam being viewed” notification, for added privacy. And, of course, it can be used with a variety of other connected cameras and smart home devices, serving as a kind of centralized control panel. There are a handful of compatible video services that can be added on set up, including HBO Now and CBS. No Netflix at the moment — and likely no Amazon Prime, ever, though Chromecast functionality addresses that to some degree.

The bottom speaker is bigger, louder and bassier (and stereo, to boot) than the original Home Hub. But it’s probably not sufficient for most as a standalone speaker. That said, the ability to pair it with another Home speaker makes it a nice companion to something like the Home Max, with the inclusion of a screen that displays and serves as a control panel while you’re listening to music.

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Notably, there are only two mics on board — fewer than many comparable smart home devices. In spite of the mics and improved sound, however, Google hasn’t built in the spatial-based level tuning you get on the higher-end Home Max.

At $229 (and available now), the Nest Hub Max is priced to compete with the Echo Show. It’s a stronger entry in most respects, and while the camera carries the aforementioned privacy concerns, it’s a clear sign of how Google’s strengths are coming together to create a superior smart home product.


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Google’s Nest doorbell camera plan gets a package-detection feature – gpgmail


Nest’s transition into the broader Google brand portfolio could honestly be going a bit better. For its part, Google has promised that it will keep adding compelling software features into the ecosystem, and this morning’s announcement is a pretty good start.

The company just announced the addition of a package-detecting feature for Nest Hello users with an active Nest Aware subscription. The feature, which starts rolling out to users today, will use the doorbell camera to track package pickups and deliveries.

Among the more interesting bits here is the ability to draw “Activity Zones” in order to distinguished those places on one’s doorstep or porch where packages are usually delivered. This leverages an existing Nest Aware feature that works as follows:

Activity Zones can have your camera send alerts and mark your video history timeline when there’s important motion in the zone. You can set up your own custom zones, and in some cases, Nest will even do the work for you by automatically creating a zone over a spot we think you’d find interesting so alerts become more specific and meaningful.

When packages are delivered and picked up, Next Aware will send a notification. The app will note when the feature is live, and users can opt to turn it on or off. Per Google:

To get the most out of the feature we suggest users check that packages can be seen in Hello’s video stream and ensure the spot is well-lit. If not, you may need to install a wedge to change Hello’s angle (a complementary wedge comes with the device), or remove the object that blocks the package from Hello’s view.


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IFTTT warns against migrating Nest devices to Google accounts – gpgmail


Google says it’s moving Nest devices over to a unified Google ecosystem for the sake of simplicity. But simple can be complicated, as is certainly the case here. In May, after user pushback, the company announced that it would maintain Works with Nest connections for some third-party integration.

IFTTT’s popular applets for the company’s camera, smoke detector and thermostat are among those exceptions. That certainly bodes well for those user who took the time to ingrate IFTTT functionality.

However, users who opt to migrate a Nest account to a Google one will apparently break their connections in the process. The organize issued a dual warning late last night, following a migration blog post encouraging users to migrate.

Per IFTTT,

  • Do not migrate your Nest account to a Google account. Migrating your Nest account will cause IFTTT and other Works with Nest integrations to be disconnected. This process is not reversible.
  • Do not disconnect Nest from IFTTT after August 31st as you will not be able to reconnect it. This affects users that do not migrate their Nest accounts to a Google one.

For its part, Google says it’s looking to bring similar automation functionality to Nest that presently requires third-party integration from services like IFTTTT.


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Nest Enrages Users By Removing Option to Disable Camera Status LEDs


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Nest is the most high-profile player in smart home and connected security, and its status as a Google subsidiary has subjected it to special scrutiny. Google talked about its “customer privacy commitment” at I/O 2019 when it unveiled the new Google Nest branding. The company just made good on one of the promises it made at I/O — it’s removing the option to disable camera status LEDs. Nest customers have responded with almost universal anger to the change. 

One of the principles outlined in Google’s privacy commitment stressed that the company would ensure there was a visual indicator when your Nest cameraSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce was on and streaming video to Google. According to the email sent out to users, Google is doing that by making the status lights on most Nest cameras always-on. So, you’ll always know if one of these devices is actively streaming. So, that’s good, right? Not so fast — it turns out a lot of people liked being able to disable those lights. 

Nest says that the Nest Cam and Nest Hello video doorbell will get a silent OTA update soon that removes the status light feature. The small green LED will be on at all times while the camera is active, and it will flash when someone is watching the stream live. Instead of disabling the light, Nest will only support dimming it slightly. 

The status LED on the Nest Hello is particularly noticeable.

This does make sure you and everyone around you are aware of what the camera is doing. However, that’s not a feature everyone wants. Many Nest camera owners prefer the devices to draw as little attention as possible. For example, the doorbell camera flashing could tell an unwanted visitor that you’re looking at them and not answering the door. Pretty awkward. It could also make the cameras easier to spot for an observant thief, who could then avoid or damage the cameras. 

The status light is indeed a valuable tool if you’re worried about someone hacking your cameras or you just don’t trust Google. Although, putting a Google camera in your house seems like a bad idea if you’re that person. For everyone else, the status light at best unimportant and at worst a nuisance. Forcing it on everyone could be missing the point. The outrage on Google’s community forums is rampant, but there’s no indication the company will reverse its decision.

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