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Rachel Metz

A View from Rachel Metz

Why Is Nest's Smart Thermostat Getting Bigger?

A larger display may get users to pay more attention to it, which could help it become more of a smart-home hub.

  • August 31, 2015

Nest’s smart thermostat is getting more in your face: today Google-owned Nest announced the third iteration of its smart thermostat, which adds a larger and brighter display that can be set to turn on when it senses you’re across the room, rather than three feet from its face.

Specifically, the display is 40 percent bigger and brighter than it was before, and has 25 percent more pixels per square inch, making it higher resolution as well (it’s still fairly small overall, at 2.08 inches in diameter, compared with 1.75 inches on the previous version). The latest Nest will cost $249, while the price of the previous version will drop to $199.

A bigger, brighter display might not seem like a big deal, but it’s the first update to the product since 2012 (it was originally released in 2011), which also makes it the first change since Google bought Nest in 2014. Furthermore, by making the display bigger, brighter, and able to turn on from farther away to show you information like the temperature the room is set for or the time, it also seems like a move by Nest to make its smart thermostat a more central part of your home. The company clearly wants users to interact with the device more from the display specifically (though you can also use Nest’s app), and maybe the change also hints that the company is positioning the gadget to be more of a smart-home hub than it already is.

Like previous versions of the thermostat, the new one will work with Nest’s other products, a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector called Nest Protect and video camera called Nest Cam, doing things like showing an alert on its screen when Nest Protect sounds an alarm. And it works with a number of other companies’ Internet-connected gadgets like light bulbs and door locks, too.  

But what if eventually it went farther, letting you see more data directly on the Nest device itself and adjust settings for all kinds of things on the fly, for instance, such as rules governing how Nest works with anything you might connect to it? A bigger face would make it easier to do these kinds of things.

For now, Nest is publicly concentrating on the display as simply a way to make it easier for customers to use the thermostat—at least, that’s what Nest spokeswoman Zoz Cuccias said when we spoke last week. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing it acting as a more capable smart-home assistant in the future.

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