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Nest Devices Without A Subscription (What Will/Won’t Work)

After shelling out $200 for a Nest doorbell or $349 for the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, you could be forgiven for baulking at the $60 per year “Nest Aware” subscription fee on top. This is especially true when Ring’s “Protect” subscription plan starts at just $40 per year. So are you able to skip the Nest Aware subscription?

Whilst you’ll still be able to view in real time from your 1st gen Nest devices, nothing will be recorded without a subscription. Having said that, the newer Nest models do record motion-activated recordings for a few hours, which is better than nothing.

What Nest Aware offers

Marketing image of the Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor.
The Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

At first glance, Nest Aware seems expensive compared to Ring’s plans, since Aware starts at $6/month but can be up to $12/month. This compares to Ring Protect Basic for just $4/month. But as it turns out, they aren’t directly comparable: Nest Aware covers all your Nest cameras/doorbells, unlike the Ring Protect Basic plan that only covers a single device.

The general features you get from a Nest Aware subscription are:

  • 30-60 days of video recordings (depending on whether you pay for the $6 or $12 per month plan).
  • Intelligent alerts which uses Google’s AI to smartly detect people or sounds that you may need to check-out, and sends them onto you.
  • Activity zones, allowing you to customize the parts of your house/property that should trigger motion alerts for. This is useful if your Nest device is triggering too many notifications, based on overlooking a busy area.
  • Share clips easily with your friends and family, for as long as they are in your video history (i.e. for 30 or 60 days). You can also download these clips easily to store them permanently.

As hinted at above, there’s two different plans: the Nest Aware which is $6/month (or $60 per year), and then the Nest Aware Plus at $12/month (or $120 per year). There’s two big differences between the two plans:

  1. With Nest Aware Plus, you get 60 days of video recordings (not just 30 days).
  2. Also with the Plus plan, you get 24/7 recording – and these 24/7 recordings are kept for 10 days. In other words, motion based recordings are kept for 60 days whereas the rest of the recordings are kept for 10 days.

    This is a significant improvement over Ring, which still doesn’t offer 24/7 recording despite promising this back in 2018.

The price for each Nest Aware plan varies a little around the world:

AmericaUKCanadaGermany/EuropeAustralia
Nest Aware$6/month ($60/year)£5/month (£50/year)$8/month ($80/year) CAD€5/month (€50/year)$9/month ($90/month) AUS
Nest Aware Plus$12/month ($120/year)£10/month (£100/year)$16/month ($160/year) CAD€10/month (€100/year)$18/month ($180/month) AUS
Nest Aware plans, with their price for different countries around the World

Nest Devices That Might Benefit From Nest Aware

A marketing image of a black Google Nest Hello Video Doorbell (on a white background).
A black Google Nest Hello Video Doorbell.

Whilst the Nest Hello is the best selling smart camera/doorbell from Nest, they have a bunch of other devices which will also benefit from Nest Aware – including some of their ‘smart speakers’, i.e. the ones containing a camera.

The full list of devices which can benefit from a Nest Aware subscription are:

  • Nest Hello (their 1st gen smart doorbell – wired only)
  • Nest Doorbell (their 2nd gen smart doorbell – available as battery or wired)
  • Nest Cam Indoor (their smart camera)
  • Nest Cam Indoor IQ (has extra recognition features, and a speaker)
  • Nest Cam Outdoor (their smart camera for outdoor use)
  • Nest Cam Outdoor IQ (their outdoor camera with extra features)
  • Nest Hub Max (their smart speaker which also has an integrated Nest Cam)

The benefit of the Nest Aware plans is that a single subscription covers all your Nest devices, meaning that for $6/month you can cover loads of Nest doorbells/cameras. This compares to Ring which only covers all devices on their Protect Plus plan at $10/month.

Of course, the reverse is also true: if you just have a single Nest device, you have to pay $6/month (or $60 per year) to get the 30 day’s of recording (and intelligent notifications), unlike Ring which can cover a single device for just $4/month.

So what happens if you decide that $6/month is too much for you? Well, read on to find out.

Skipping Nest Aware for Your Nest Doorbell and Cameras

A Google Nest Hello video doorbell mounted on a block of wood
A Google Nest Hello video doorbell mounted on a block of wood

Hello is worthless without a Nest Aware subscription

u/goliveyourdreams, Reddit, June 2018

The above is a direct quote from a user on Reddit who had a Nest Hello Doorbell but didn’t pay for the subscription. Unfortunately, even though the post was from June 2018, the number of features you get (or don’t get!) without Nest Aware is still broadly the same.

In other words, without a subscription you don’t get:

  • “Intelligent alerts”, i.e. phone notifications that Nest think are important enough to send to you. Instead you’ll receive all alerts for motion, even if they’re for cars or animals passing by.
  • Any saved video recordings of captured events.
  • Still images (more on this later) are deleted after just 3 hours.

2022 Update: Thankfully Nest realised that this situation was not ideal, and they announced that the new Nest Cam and Nest Doorbell (released in late 2021) will record motion-activated video… for three hours. After this point, the recordings are lost. While not perfect, it is better than the situation with Nest’s first generation of devices.

This seems like fairly crucial flaws in Nest’s doorbells and cameras which market themselves as security devices, but what do you get? Well, without a Nest Aware subscription you’ll still get:

  • The ability to watch the video stream live, whenever you want to.
  • Notifications if someone presses the Nest Hello doorbell.
  • Motion based alerts, but for everything (not just important alerts).
  • Image snapshots which fill in your ‘Sightline’ (basically the timeline of different events/recordings from each device). These are taken when your Nest doorbell/camera detects a face or relevant motion, and takes a still image of it. This is useful for seeing who has come to your door, however these still images get deleted after 3 hours (without the subscription).

For some people that’s enough, for others it’s not. I suspect that if you’ve bought a pricey Nest Outdoor IQ camera (i.e. with all the extra features that the ‘IQ’ introduces), it’d be annoying to lose some of the features from the aware subscription.

But if you picked up a cheaper Nest Cam Indoor in the sales and you just wanted to check in on your house from time to time, the subscription would be less useful.

How No Nest Aware Compares to No Ring Protect

Screenshot from the Ring app's "History" section, with a big red 'x' across it.
Screenshot from the Ring app’s “History” section, with a big red ‘x’ across it.

Throughout this article, I’ve been half-comparing the Nest Aware plan to Ring’s Protect plan. I wanted to finish with a final comparison between the two: what do you get (or not get) if you don’t have a subscription to each?

Nest devicesRing devices
Motion notificationsYesYes
Enhanced notifications (e.g. people only notifications)NoYes
Doorbell-press notificationsYesYes
Video recordingsNoNo
Still image snapshotsYes, for 3 hoursNo
Activity zonesNoYes
Real time viewingYesYes
Share videos with othersNoNo
Features you do/don’t get without a Nest and Ring subscription.

So they are fairly similar overall, but the inability to configure activity zones (which Ring call ‘motion zones‘) – and also receive filtered-down notifications of only the most important events – could mean that you get bombarded by notifications whenever a car or animal goes by.

This isn’t too bad if you live in a secluded area – any motion event could be important, meaning that it’d be good to know about it. But if your house is near the road, you’ll get lots of motion.

With a Ring device (and no Ring subscription plan), you can still adjust your motion zones and turn on “people only” mode to get less notifications. But this isn’t possible with Nest, unless you pay for the subscription.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

23 thoughts on “Nest Devices Without A Subscription (What Will/Won’t Work)”

  1. I’m still confused. My friends receive notification of someone in the camera view across their phone, I have to open the app and view and watch each frame?

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear it, I’m happy to clarify the relevant part of the article. But just to double check – are you saying that your own Nest camera doesn’t have a subscription, meaning that you can only do live view (and not watch historical recordings)? Or do you have a subscription but you’re still having issues with viewing recordings?

      Reply
  2. I have a nest doorbell without a subscription but I still get notifications. I can pick from people, sounds or motion. Are enhanced notifications more than this?

    Reply
    • That’s interesting then, thanks for that info Steve. Yes the enhanced/intelligent notifications is more than this – it adds some of Google’s AI to determine what is a ‘useful’ notification, and what isn’t. So a leaf blowing in the end won’t send a notification, but someone scoping out your property (hopefully) will send a notification.

      Reply
  3. I just activated my nest hello doorbell system. Is there a 30day free trial period? How can I know whether I have subscribed? Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Can i install thist nest doorbell without subscription and disable the motion detection for all things??? Because my entrance is on a sidewalks that a lot of people is walking on.

    Reply
    • It’s been a while since I tested the Nest Doorbell (I use the Ring Doorbell Pro on my own house), but my understanding is there still isn’t a specific option to disable all motion. BUT as a hack, you can use a motion zone and make it really small. Then turn ON motion/people notifications IN that zone, and turn OFF motion/people notifications OUTSIDE that zone.

      Reply
  5. I have a Nest cam from 2017, and every update, they remove whatever paltry features they initially had back then. Now, I can’t even see snapshots of movement events. (But I can still see video clips saved from 4 years ago…woopy doo!
    In the garbage it goes.
    How can they be so pound-foolish with their stupidly expensive products? This thing cost over $200 when we bought it and isn’t even heavy enough to be a paperweight. It makes me hate Nest so much that I will never consider their products in the future. Dumb!

    Reply
    • Agree. I was a Nest fan because it worked well with Apple Home and I could watch the camera from my work desk. Then Google hit. They encouraged everyone to transition to a Google account which made interface to Apple impossible. I have the Nest Thermostat, Smoke/CO detectors and Doorbell. All of my phones, computers and tablets are Apple. All Nest products will be replaced as they fail or when I can afford the expense – just to deal with the Apple / Google war.

      Reply
  6. Please help me I need to be able to click on live video and watch what’s going on in my driveway when I’m not home why can’t I watch this am I needing to subscribe to Google Nest aware

    Reply
  7. I did not have a subscription to Nest Aware at the time that I got a notification of some movement and the availability of a new still picture.

    This picture was very important and I tried to save it but could not do it using my Apple iPhone. I attempted to do a screenshot by pushing the home button with the iPhone off/on switch but nothing happened. After doing much research I found that these pictures are automatically deleted after three hours.

    In summary, is there anyway that I could retrieve for a fee, for example, that one photo that happened about 10 hours ago at the time I wrote this comment? Also, how can one do a screenshot of a nest camera photo using an iPhone?

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear it, that’s really frustrating. Unfortunately I would agree with your hunch that the photo is now gone off Nest’s servers (since they only keep them for a certain amount of time, as you have seen). You could try contacting Nest Support and see if they can help, although I fear that it might be too late to retrieve this now – sorry.

      Reply
  8. If I am not subscribing to the Aware, will I be able to save the video locally or to Google Drive within the 3 hours? Just thinking if there is any event going on, and by the time police arrive would probably be more than 3 hours….

    Reply
    • You are able to save clips (locally or to Google Drive) within the first 3 hours yes, but they are lost after this. So you have to be online (within 3 hours) to ‘catch’ the recordings, and back them up. As you suspect, this isn’t much help if you are asleep when a theft occurs – since you will wake up to zero recordings of the event (apart from maybe the photo in the phone notification).

      Reply

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