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What is Nest Aware, and is it worth the cost?
If you’ve taken an interest in Google’s Nest Cams or Doorbells for your smart home, you’ve probably run into some mention of Nest Aware, a paid subscription service you can sign up for to augment their features. So what do you get out of a Nest Aware subscription, and is it worth the recurring fee?
What is Nest Aware?
The primary benefit of a Nest Aware subscription is extended recording history. By default, Nest cameras record just three hours of event history, an “event” being a short clip triggered by sound or motion. That’s good enough if you’re awake and within quick reach of your phone, but not for incidents recorded overnight or while you’re away on a trip.
The standard Aware subscription extends event history to 30 days. Google sells an upgrade option, Nest Aware Plus, that stretches this out to 60 days and adds 10 days of continuous video history if you need to see more footage. Just realize that not all Nest cameras support continuous recording, the main restriction being anything battery-powered.
The primary benefit of a Nest Aware subscription is extended recording history.
The next biggest benefit is familiar face detection. While the latest Nest Cams and the Nest Doorbell Battery can distinguish between people, packages, animals, and vehicles using onboard AI, triggering appropriate notifications, Aware subscribers can teach their cameras to recognize individual friends and family. So instead of getting an alert that a “person” is at the door, you’ll be told if it’s, say, Roger, Lakesha, or Stephanie.
Something less commonly known about Aware is that it enables sound detection of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, not just by wired Nest Cams, but (in the US) by any Google smart speaker or display. Speakers and displays can also trigger alerts when they hear glass breaking.
The Nest Hub Max can act as its own camera under Aware, if you’re comfortable with that. That includes alerts when a person is seen, familiar or otherwise.
Lastly, Aware makes it easier for US subscribers to get in touch with a local 911 call center. This won’t matter to most people, since you can always dial emergency services on your own, but it may be handy if you’re out of town — Google’s “e911” tech connects you to the 911 dispatch closest to your home, rather than one where you’re currently located.
Related: The best smart displays
How much does Nest Aware cost?
In its standard US version, Nest Aware costs $6 per month, or $60 per year, the latter saving you $12 annually, assuming you want to be a long-term subscriber. Either fee covers all of the Aware-compatible devices in your home, no matter how many you add. That differs from many other smart security plans, which charge you more as you move beyond a single camera.
Choosing Nest Aware Plus hikes prices to $12 per month or $120 per year. The unlimited camera support remains, even with multiple devices recording continuously.
Is there a free Nest Aware trial?
Yes. Once you set up a new Nest household or you upgrade from the defunct first generation of Aware, you’ll be offered a 30-day trial. On top of these restrictions, it’s worth noting that trials are only offered where Aware is sold — more on that in a moment.
How to sign up for Nest Aware
You can sign up for Nest Aware or Aware Plus via the Google Store, or via the Google Home app on Android devices. In the second scenario, tap the Settings (gear icon) button, then under Features, select Nest Aware.
The following regions have access to Aware:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States (except Puerto Rico)
As mentioned previously, emergency calling and sound detection on Google Nest speakers and displays is US-only. Familiar face detection doesn’t work with Nest cameras or doorbells in Illinois.
How to manage your Nest Aware subscription
The most common method is visiting store.google.com/subscriptions and signing in with your Google account. There you’ll find options to change your payment methods, cancel a subscription, or switch from Aware to Aware Plus (and vice versa). You may need to explore menus to access some options.
If you subscribed through the Google Home app, you have to manage Aware via the Google Play Store. Once you’re signed in on the web, visit Payments & subscriptions under your profile icon, and select Manage next to Aware in the Subscriptions tab.
Generally speaking, any Aware subscription will keep renewing (and billing you) automatically until you cancel. The exception is that 30-day free trial, which requires you to opt into payments to keep going. When you cancel, Aware will remain active until the end of your current billing period, whether it’s a month or a year.
Should you pay for Nest Aware?
Possibly, but there are two main criteria to meet. The first is a need for comprehensive home security. If you work at home all the time and live in a safe neighborhood, you might easily get by with the free event recording some camera makers offer, even Google’s three hours. Aware doesn’t make much sense if you’re just checking for packages or watching your child.
If you’re regularly away from home, and/or there’s a serious crime threat, Aware’s event recording and facial recognition may make a real difference. It’s always better to catch intruders in the act, but there’s at least a chance of pressing charges or recovering goods if you can supply video evidence.
The second criterion is a commitment to the Google ecosystem, not just in cameras, but as an entire smart home platform. If you have an Amazon Echo Show as your smart display, you’ll automatically get more out of Alexa-compatible cameras. Similarly, if you already have cameras from companies like Arlo or Wyze, it’s illogical to complicate your system by adding Google models, never mind paying for Aware, which is exclusive to Nest hardware.
If you genuinely need round-the-clock protection and you’re prepared to go Google-only, that’s when Aware fits the bill.
The best Nest Aware-compatible devices
Nest Doorbell Battery
In an era when people are getting everything from dinners to gym equipment delivered, and porch pirates are a serious threat, it just makes sense to have a video doorbell. Beyond its Aware features, the Nest Doorbell Battery can be hardwired if you don’t want to recharge it every few months, and it can record event footage for up to an hour after a power or Wi-Fi cut. Just know that it doesn’t support continuous recording with Aware Plus, even with its wired setup.
Nest Cam Battery
Although the Nest Cam Battery can be used indoors if you get a stand, it’s really meant to be used outdoors. It’s waterproof, and comes with a magnetic mount for easier outdoor installation and removal. Like the Doorbell the Nest Cam Battery can record for up to an hour after losing Wi-Fi, but it doesn’t do 24/7 recording with Aware Plus.
Nest Hub Max
The Nest Hub Max is practically mandatory for a complete Google smart home setup, all the more so if you have Nest Aware. It’s a convenient way of viewing camera feeds, and the Max can act as its own camera, complete with object and sound recognition. When you’re not on the lookout, you can do things like listen to music and podcasts, stream video, and control other smart home accessories.
Nest Cam Wired
On its own, the wired-only Nest Cam isn’t a great value versus the competition. It does become more attractive as part of a home with other Aware devices, however, since it’s cheaper than the Nest Cam Battery and you’re not paying anything extra for its recognition and recording features. You can mount it on a wall or stand it on a flat surface, but it can only record indoors since it’s not waterproof.
Read more: The best smart security cameras you can buy