Why Nest Accounts are Becoming Google Accounts and What You Can Do About It

By David Nield on at

It’s official: if you’ve got a Nest account, you can now swap everything over to your Google account. But should you do it right away, if at all? And why is Google asking you to combine accounts anyway? Here’s everything you need to know if you’ve got Nest-branded smart home gear set up.

A brief Google and Nest history

Google, Nest devices. Image: Google

As you may or may not remember, Nest Labs was formed in 2010 by ex-Apple engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, with the company’s flagship product the Nest Learning Thermostat – introducing us all to smart home gadgets before the idea of the smart home had really become established.

The thermostat did well, and was followed by a smoke alarm, and that did well too. Google bought Nest for a cool £2.6 milion in 2014 (you can see it’s taken a while for this account merge to happen). Fadell and Rogers stayed on, and at the time, Google said it was keeping Nest separate as its own distinct brand.

After Google restructured itself as a subsidiary of Alphabet in 2015, Nest became a subsidiary too, operating separately from Google. That continued to be the case until February last year, when Google announced it was absorbing Nest, bringing it under Google’s hardware division – which made sense, considering Google was already making smart home devices like the Google Home.

Exactly what that would mean for Nest wasn’t immediately apparent, but Google obviously wanted its hardware products all in one place. Then at I/O in May this year, Nest was rebranded as Google Nest – accounts would be moved over, products would get renamed, the Nest website would disappear, and Nest users would have to make do with Google’s overarching privacy policy.

That switching of privacy policies has already put Google under fire from long-term Nest users, as Nest cameras will now always show an indicator light when recording – the debate being whether making them easier to spot for burglars is worth the trade-off in always knowing when you’re being watched (yes it is worth it, we’d argue).

Goodbye Nest, hello Google

As soon as you’ve got an email from Google, you can make the switch. Image: Google

The first big migration Google has kicked off here is replacing the Works with Nest program with Works with Google Assistant – basically, the third-party apps and devices that can interact with Nest devices will have to jump to working with Google Assistant instead. It doesn’t make sense to have two of these back-end protocols running, so we can see the logic, but it does mean a lot of integrations might get broken along the way.

No new Works with Nest connections can be made after 31 August 2019, though existing integrations will keep working for an unspecified length of time. Google says it’s trying its best to “minimise disruptions” during the transition and is now actively trying to get developers to replace WWN features in WWGA: The Nest ability to have your lights automatically turn off when you leave the house is coming to Google Assistant in early 2020, for example.

Kind of separate but also very much related is the switch from Nest accounts to Google accounts, something you can now do, as soon as Google emails you about it. You can’t go back, and any WWN integrations you’ve got set up are going to stop working when you do.

After the switch, you’ll be able to access your Nest data through your Google account, and your Nest devices will show up in the Google Home app. You’ll still be able to carry on using the Nest app for key device features – like motion detection alerts from your cameras. There’s no word on whether the Nest app might disappear in the long term.

It’s not yet clear how Nest Aware (the optional, paid-for cloud storage service for your video recordings) will be incorporated into Google One or Google Drive: it’s another of the jobs that Google engineers are going to have to get around to as it looks to phase out Nest accounts in favour of Google ones.

Should you switch?

Head into the Nest app to see the Works with Nest integrations you’ve got set up. Screenshot: Gizmodo

As we’ve said, switching from a Nest to a Google account will break any Works with Nest links you’ve got in place, unless you’ve also set them up with Works with Google Assistant. That’s why IFTTT is telling people not to make the switch – it’s not certain whether or not the same IFTTT applets for Nest products will ever appear under the Works with Google Assistant banner (IFTTT has made noises about wanting to work with Google on this, but not particularly positive ones).

So essentially it’s the Works with Nest integrations you need to worry about: figure out how many integrations you’ve got and how many you still need (tap Works with Nest in the Nest app settings to check). If you don’t make the switch everything will keep working as it currently does, but you’re not going to get anything in the way of new features or tools as Google focuses its attention elsewhere – you’ll likely get the most basic security patches, and that’s about it.

Asked whether this switch is eventually going to be compulsory, a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo that the process is optional, and didn’t go any further than that. It’s hard to imagine Google keeping Nest accounts around forever (buy a new Nest product now, and you’ll need to use a Google account to set it up), but for the moment at least, there’s no time limit on switching.

If you have other family members who share your Nest account, this is one feature that Google Home already supports – you can use the Google Home app to set up a family with up to five members in it, all accessing the same devices. You don’t have to worry about this aspect of account migration at least.

Right now there doesn’t seem to be any compelling reason to switch your Nest account to a Google account, unless you already use Google Home to manage a lot of smart home devices – it’s probably worth waiting until more features (like the Home/Away automations) have been transferred. Just be aware that you’re most probably going to have to make the switch eventually.

Featured image: Google