Nest vs. Apple (losing vs. keeping your soul)

I’ve been an Apple user since day 1 of the Mac. I’ve seen Apple stumble, and I’ve seen them make enormously farsighted decisions. But, somehow, through it all, the company has kept to at least some of its ideal vision as it’s climbed to the very pinnacle of corporate market valuations

As Apple began to emerge from its near death spiral during its vacation from Steve Jobs, two of its engineers left to start Nest, a company that seemed to have the same lust for innovation, with a series of transformative products, beginning with its learning thermostat, followed by home fire protection systems that could do so MUCH more than chirp in the middle of the night, to high resolution security cameras that could tell you what was going on inside and outside your home, to an expensive but SO innovative (and free from expensive monitoring fees yet available to YOU, the home-owner from anywhere in the world over Wii-Fi.

Then, Google bought the company, and it’s my belief that Nest has been in decline ever since.

Yesterday, I received an email from Nest, informing me that my Nest Guard (name changed for reasons unknown to me from “Guard” to “Secure,)” will stop working abruptly just about 1 year from now. Nest offers to soothe my disappointment by supplying me with a VERY bare-bones self-installed ADT monitoring system and 1 year of free monitoring. Of course I knew this would happen. The Nest “Detects” were the truly remarkable portal monitors that made the system work. They were expensive, but their batteries lasted for YEARS, they could easily be excluded from or included in whole-house monitoring, or just temporarily separated for one quick trip into the garage, and they could easily be configured to help a homeowner stumble from one room to the next in pure darkness with proximity-triggered path lighting. They were the first to go.

Google seems to be a reluctant participant in the “Matter’ protocols that supposedly will enable HomeKit to talk to Alexa, both of them to Philips Hue, and many others to many others. Nest says its basic learning thermostat will work with Matter, but has made no promises about its more full featured model, and although it still sells “smart” smoke/CO detectors, it’s made no promises regarding their future with Matter.

So, it seems Apple has stayed the course with HomeKit, while Google Nest seeks to disappear itself. Perhaps Google hasn’t found a way to monetize preventing a skillet fire from consuming your home, or to use its security cameras to target adds at your individual wardrobe as it sees your waistline expand or contract via your security cameras.

Anyway, I’ll be sad once Nest finishes its self destruction

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I saw the news of Google’s discontinuing support for some products earlier today. I’m not surprised. Nest is a poster child for how Google buys up innovative startups and squeezes the life out of them. Other tech companies do this as well, but none as methodically and efficiently as Google.

I have to regard this practice as ethically equivalent to private equity firms that buy failing companies solely to drain them of value before discarding them. It’s predatory capitalism at its worst, where the only value in innovation is how much short-term cash can be extracted from it. And it absolutely makes me sick.

Given the wide reach that companies like Google have, avoiding their products and services not only is nearly impossible, but also has almost no effect on the one thing they care about: the bottom line. The only real solution is societal intervention, which comes in the form of government regulation. But the US government has so far shown little initiative in doing more than talking about doing something.

I’m not trying to digress into a political rant; I’m just pointing out that the very nature of business in the current economy makes companies prone to stupid, short-sighted actions. Apple is definitely an outlier in the tech industry, and all its competitors keep missing what makes Apple continue to succeed: dedication to make things better.

No, they don’t always succeed at this goal. They make mistakes, and sometimes they deviate from it in substantial ways. But Tim Cook, like Steve Jobs before him, believes that trying to make things truly better is the only way out of the abyss that the tech industry is constantly teetering on the edge of. And this is a key reason that Apple continues to thrive, despite industry analysts’ continual predictions to the contrary.


I received an email yesterday offering to replace my old Dropcam with a Next indoor camera for free. That’s not terrible really.

I’m also a huge fan of Nest Protect - bought 8 years ago when, for the third time in a month, 5 smoke detectors stared beeping randomly in the middle of the night - it’s always in the middle of the night - because one of them didn’t like it’s relatively new backup battery. Protect are one of my favorite pieces of technology really. Those have a ten year life, so in July 2025 they’ll have to be replaced as well.

I also got the email telling me that my DropCam would stop working within the year. They offered me a replacement Nest Indoor Camera, but as I have no desire to let Google monitor my comings and goings, I cancelled by DropCam service (and got a prorated refund, nice) and tossed the hardware into the recycling bin.

Two thoughts: first, i don’t expect Nest to have completed its meltdown in the next two years. Google probably won’t try REALLY hard to peddle the technology in the Nest Protects to a run of the mill smoke detector company; e.g., First Alert, because the Nest Protects are much more expensive that the single chirp vocabulary sensors. However, I do have an amusing story I tell probably too often.

The very first Nest Protects were powered by six AA format Li cells; a/c powered units appeared a year or so later, each containing a single backup cell of the same type. As soon as they appeared, I replaced the rest of my “chirpers” with a/c powered Nest Protects. A year or so later, with my home supposedly now chirper-free, one night i began to hear… CHIRPNG. It sounded as though it was coming from my sole battery-power-only Nest Protect in the entryway of my home, so I got up on a ladder and realized that replacing all 6 of those Li cells would more than exhaust my supply (in truth, I had NO spares), AND I knew that just removing all of them would take a few contortions, so I removed the Nest Protect itself from the ceiling. The chirping, however, continued, making me realize it wasn’t coming from the Nest Protect. Actually, it was arising from a CO-only detector that was plugged into an a/c outlet low on the wall beneath the ceiling location of the Nest device, so I replaced its battery, plugged it back in, and prepared to re-mount the Protect to the ceiling. At THAT point, however, I noticed that the Protect was rather warm near the place inside where all six Li AA cells were housed. So, I removed them. The fifth was warmer than the first four, and the sixth was SO hot that I actually dropped the Protect onto the table where I was working.

I managed to remove the sixth battery by prying it our with an insulated blade screwdriver, then immediately called Nest Tech Support (staffed, even NOW, I think, by US based intelligent American-English speaking professionals*.

The tech support person immediately agreed that it would not be cool to have my house burn down thanks to a faulty Li cell in a fire alert device; he immediately offered to replace it, but only with another BATTERY POWERED unit, because, he said, Nest’s defective device replacement policy was quite strict that replacements needed to be with exactly the same device. Eventually he agreed to send me a refund check, which I took to Best Buy (by then Google was in command and the devices were no longer available at Apple Retail Stores) and purchased an identically priced a/c powered unit which worked fine until the night my “nest” of Nest Protects were unable to protect my home from the Tubbs Wildfire cataclysm in Sonoma County, CA in 2017.

The tech support person DID ask me to send the defective unit back to the company for inspection. I asked if he wanted me to include the incindiary battery, to which he replied, a few decibels up, “my GOD, NO!!!”

*I can’t stop without a riff on why the loss of native-American English-speaking tech support professionals for American products is so infuriating, even when it’s funny. A few decades ago, I boarded a United flight bound for O’Hare from SFO with my eventual target a small Airport on the Lake Michigan Coastilne via “United Express,” with full knowledge that there was an impressive band of thunderstorms in the Chicago area. I asked the gate agent about the status of my connecting flight to the small-city airport, and she told me there were no problems. However, when I exited the jetway in O’Hare a few hours later, it was immediately obvious that was not the case. The hallways were chalk-full of disgruntled travelers, and the giant electronic billboards displayed NO departure times, just the word “canceled” or the word “delayed.”

Back then, there was no United App. Hell, there were no iPhones. However, there WERE customer service centers that resembled bee-hives knocked from their perches from the dozens or hundred or more infuriated travelers swarming around each of them. I picked up my Motorola flip-phone, called UA Customer Service (at LEAST one could do that back then), but my call was answered promptly my a man who spoke grammatically precise but unintelligible English hidden by his Asian Indian accent. What I COULD decipher convinced me that his knowledge of American geography was even more limited than his command of spoken colloquial American. It WAS clear, however, that he’d been well coached to never stop smiling, as the one thing he made clear to me during our too-extended conversation was that he thought I should take my next vacation in India!

Too many hours later, I suddenly realized that I DID have another option. I’d been delayed more than 8 hours already; a few flights were now departing again, but the overall schedule remained a horrible mess, and I felt I had no more chance of getting out of ORD than did Tom Hanks’s character in The Terminal. I’d already established that ALL hotel rooms in the ORD area had been sold, but I realized that I’d already been swarmed by fellow humanity longer than it would take for me to DRIVE to Traverse City, so I called Hertz. There, the customer service agent spoke very precise Chicago Pizza Parlor localized English, but clearly had not been taught logic in Jr. High School. When I asked to rent a car that I’d turn in to Hertz in Traverse City, she apologetically responded “sorry, we have no more cars available.” But, when I asked what the earliest “tomorrow” I could obtain a rental, she answered with no sense of amusement or irony “12:01 am.”

In the end, my Moto flip-phone saved me. it rang and a synthesized voice announced that if I could make it from the two gigantic long-hallway UA terminals to the old F-Concourse, my little plane to TVC would be boarding in 15-20 minutes. That may have been my most obstacle-populated journey on foot in my lifetime, but I managed to get there in time to say adieu to ORD (I have no idea how to say it in Hindi).

Apologies for having a conversation with myself, but a few others ARE listening, so I’ll ask one more question. Just WHAT am I supposed to do, one year from now? I’m pretty sure Google won’t spend any money making its Nest Detects work with other central monitoring equipment, or even with “Matter” (but promise to give them kudos if they DO), because my initial browsing doesn’t reveal any other portal monitors that match them in AI smarts, configurability, and even their inconspicuous appearance on my doors and windows. Just to borrow a bit from our (in)famous former president’s lexicon, these little cylinders were definitely more my type than Stephanie Clifford (and his corporate shields at the National Enquirer)…

And THAT brings to mind another question. I never understood WHY Google stopped supporting the Nest Detects. They were pretty reliable, VERY useful, and easy to configure. SO, easy, in fact, that I have almost a dozen of the specialized LI batteries that make them work in reserve for which I’ll have no other use. Is this REALLY nothing more than corporate catch and kill?

I’m not seduced or even curious based on what I’ve read thus far about other HomeKit-compatible security systems. Does anyone here have any recommendations?

Stopped supporting? They’re still selling them.

Maybe you’re thinking of hte Nest “Protect” smoke detectors (which are also wonderful)…

They announced discontinuation of the Nest Detect portal monitors about 2 years ago. I don’t know of another device that is as well thought out for the portal monitoring mission.