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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Google’s Home Upgrades Go Further Than New Hardware

Google will be taking the wraps off its Pixel 7 smartphone and Pixel Watch smartwatch at its Made by Google event in New York City later this week, but today, Google-owned Nest is sharing a few new products and updates in the company's smart-home ecosystem—from a new Nest Wifi Pro router with Wi-Fi 6E support to a redesigned Google Home app. 

Here's everything Nest announced.

New Nest Doorbell and Nest Wifi Pro

Last year, Nest debuted a second-generation Nest Doorbell (Battery), a battery-powered video doorbell. Now, it's time for a second-gen wired version, for those who don't want to worry about their doorbell running out of juice. It looks quite similar and has similar specs but is 30 percent smaller. There's 24/7 recording support, and it stores three hours of important events in its local memory in case your Wi-Fi goes out. (Nest has doubled the onboard memory from the first-gen Nest Doorbell.) 

The new doorbell's camera isn't as high-resolution as the original Nest Doorbell, with a 960 x 1,280-pixel resolution, but it's the HDR support that takes the camera quality a step further—it'll be able to handle bright lights and better expose your footage. Nest says it has fine-tuned the image quality to be clearer in various lighting and weather conditions too. Like the Nest Doorbell (Battery), it has two-way audio with noise cancellation, is IP54 water- and dust-resistant, and can detect people, packages, vehicles, animals, and familiar faces (the latter requires a Nest Aware subscription). It requires a Google account to operate as well as the Google Home app. 

The Nest Doorbell (Wired, Second Gen) is available today in the US and Canada and costs $180, a lower starting price than the original but the same price as the second-gen battery-powered model. It's made of 43 percent recycled materials. 

Nest Doorbell (Wired, Second Gen) for $180

Nest is also adding a new Nest Wifi Pro to its current Nest Wifi router lineup. This is the company's first router with Wi-Fi 6E support, adding tri-band connectivity, an increasingly common feature on mesh routers. Essentially, the router now utilizes three different bands: 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz. The latter new band can transmit more data at faster speeds to your devices, though it won't be as far-reaching, which is why it still employs the longer-range 2.4-GHz band. (You can read more in our Wi-Fi 6E explainer here.) The caveat? Your devices need to support Wi-Fi 6E too, and right now, that's just a handful of recent phones and laptops. 

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Nest says one Nest Wifi Pro can cover up to 2,200 square feet, but this is the same claim it makes with the Nest Wifi (for reference, the Eero Pro 6E has a range of 2,000 square feet). Despite the “Pro” moniker, it only comes with one Ethernet LAN port, just like the Nest Wifi, so you can only hardwire one device (unless you use a network switch to add more ports). The company says the new router is constantly analyzing your network performance, will automatically prioritize high-bandwidth activities, and will try to fix internet issues on its own. But there's a big downside if you're already using a router from Google: Nest Wifi Pro does not work with previous Nest Wifi or Google Wifi routers, so you can't mix and match the hardware. 

It's made with 60 percent recycled materials and looks glossy, like a shiny Tic Tac. You can preorder it now, and it goes on sale starting October 27. A one-pack costs $200, a two-pack is $300, and a three-pack is $400. 

Nest Wifi Pro for $200 (1 Pack)A Redesigned Google Home App

As teased before, the Google Home app for Wear OS will launch alongside the new Pixel Watch (and other Wear OS 3 devices over the coming week), so you can control your smart home right from your wrist. It's also launching on the web in the coming weeks, which means you'll be able to see your camera feeds from your computer. But the Google Home smartphone app is getting a major redesign too, with smarter automation and a focus on customization. 

First and foremost is the new Favorites tab. Devices you mark as your “favorite” are front and center when you open the app. That also includes camera feeds, and you'll be able to see the live feed immediately without having to tap into a device. Above this section are your Spaces, which are devices broken down into categories, like Lighting, Cameras, and Wi-Fi. You'll be able to customize these Spaces to create your own categories, like “Pet Devices,” but this customization won't be available until 2023. At the very bottom of the Home app sits a new media player that shows what's playing on any of your connected devices, making it easy to quickly hit play/pause or change the volume.

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Google says its customers have been asking for a better camera experience, so it has focused on improving the camera feeds in the Home app. Click into a specific camera to watch a sped-up version of everything that happened while you were gone, or dive deeper through events to catch specific moments. 

Home automation gets the center tab in the redesigned app, so it's easier to see what actions can trigger your devices—like all of your lights turning off when you leave home. Google says it's expanding support for household routines to include more devices too. Take the Rise and Shine automation, for example. Instead of the lights turning on at 8 am, you can have a Philips Hue Motion Sensor turn on the lights when it detects movement. This can then set off a chain of commands, like playing music and powering on the kettle. If you want even more control, Google says a Script Editor will be available next year. 

The new Google Home app for iOS and Android is launching in the next few weeks as a public preview, and you'll be able to sign up soon to request an invite to try it out. 

Updates to the Matter Protocol 

Matter, the upcoming open-source smart-home standard meant to make your devices across different brands work more seamlessly together, is set to launch later this year, and Google says it's injecting Matter support into many of its products. The idea is that you'll be able to buy a smart-home device and use any voice assistant or platform you like to control it—Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri.

Later this year, Google will bake Matter support into Android. Phones will automatically detect a Matter device and will set it up quickly, with minimal work required on your part. All Google Home products will also support the standard by the end of 2022, including the original Google Home.


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