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What is Nest Aware, and is it worth the cost?

We'd only seriously consider Aware if you're going all-in on Google for security.
By

Published onFebruary 23, 2024

Google Nest Cam with Floodlight Installed

If you’ve taken an interest in Google Nest Cams or Doorbells for your smart home, you’ve probably run into some mention of Nest Aware, a paid subscription service that augments their features. So what do you get out of a Nest Aware subscription, and is it worth the recurring fee?

What is Nest Aware?

Nest Aware on Android phones

The primary benefit of a Nest Aware subscription is extended recording history. By default, Nest cameras record just 3 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 relatively 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. An upgrade tier, Nest Aware Plus, 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 against anything battery-powered.

The primary benefit of a Nest Aware subscription is extended recording history.

The next biggest benefit is familiar face detection. While all of the latest Nest Cams and Doorbells can distinguish between people, packages, animals, and vehicles using onboard AI, which triggers smarter notifications, Aware subscribers can go a step further and 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. If a person isn’t recognized by Aware, it probably warrants attention. Familiar face detection isn’t available on Nest Cams in Illinois, or on some Cams in the European Union.

Something less commonly known about Aware is that it enables sound detection of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, not just by Nest Cams, but (in supported regions) 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 an Aware plan, if you’re comfortable with that. That includes alerts when a person is seen, whether familiar or otherwise. It’s the only modern Nest device that can trigger alerts for people talking or barking dogs.

Aware lastly makes it easier for US subscribers to get in touch with a local 911 call center. This won’t matter if you stick to the same city all the time, but it may be handy if you travel — Google’s e911 tech connects you to the dispatch center closest to your home, rather than wherever you’re personally located. Dialing 911 during a trip to Seattle is hardly useful if your home is in Austin, for example.

How much does Nest Aware cost?

Google Nest Doorbell Video Quality

In its standard US version, Nest Aware costs $8 per month or $80 per year for new customers, the latter option saving you $16 if you’re willing to commit. 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 $15 per month or $150 per year. The unlimited camera support remains, even with multiple devices recording continuously.

Is there a free Nest Aware trial?

Google Nest Cam Review 2021 Lens

Yes. Once you set up a new Nest device or update from a 1st gen Aware plan, you’ll be offered a 30-day trial. Trials are only offered where Aware is sold, and supported features can vary from country to country. There’s a limit of one 30-day trial per home, so don’t expect to get half a year covered because you bought six cameras.

Note that some features are further restricted to paid customers in the US, primarily Emergency Calling (e911) and sound detection for breaking glass and smoke alarms by Nest speakers and displays.

How to sign up for Nest Aware

Nest Aware at the Google Store

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, open the Settings tab, then under Subscriptions, select Nest Aware.

The following regions have access to Aware:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States (except Puerto Rico)

e911 and sound detection is US-only. And again, familiar face detection isn’t available on devices in Illinois, or on some devices in the European Union.

How to manage your Nest Aware subscription

The Nest Hello doorbell in shadow

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 and 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?

Google Nest Cam with Floodlight Review Lights ON At Night

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 3 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 familiar face recognition and extended event recording could 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’re already using an Echo Show as a smart display for instance, you’ll get more out of Amazon’s Ring cameras, which are built around Alexa compatibility. 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

Nest Doorbell battery Ash lifestyle

In an era when people are getting everything from dinners to gym equipment delivered, and porch pirates are a serious concern, 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 1 hour after a power or Wi-Fi cut. Just know that it doesn’t support continuous recording with Aware Plus, even in a wired setup.

Google Nest Doorbell
Google Nest Doorbell
MSRP: $179.99
See review
See review

Nest Cam Battery

The Nest Cam Battery outdoors in the rain

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 1 hour after losing Wi-Fi, but it doesn’t do 24/7 recording with Aware Plus.

Nest Hub Max

Face Match on the Google 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

Google Nest Cam Wired Review Placed In Home

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.