Why can’t we have nice(r) things? Google Nest Protect edition.

I’ve had Google Nest Protect smoke/CO detectors for about 10 months now. Here’s an update to my prior post about them and how they could be better.

When the story left off, I had noticed some annoyances upon initial installation and routine troubleshooting. What I didn’t write about is that after a few more weeks of struggle, the Nest techs (all very helpful) determined that three of my nine units (33%) were defective. So, they shipped me three new ones. Then, after a similar amount of struggle, they determined that one of the three new ones (33% again) was also defective, so they sent me one more.

A 33% defect rate is bad. Maybe Google Nest had a particularly bad run of production of the Protect devices and this is not the rate all the time. Or maybe I just got particularly unlucky and the true rate is lower … or maybe it’s higher! Who knows.

Anyway, after working through all that, the devices hummed along perfectly for nearly 10 months. I was happy and felt justified in switching from the annoying First Alert products I previously owned and detested.

Then, a few days ago, I got some warning signs of trouble. Some of my Nest Protect devices started complaining of being offline, disconnected form Wi-Fi (still functioning as detectors though). I followed guidance to put them back online, which seemed to work, but only briefly, if at all. Devices lost connection again.

After a good hour with tech support, we discovered that what my Nest devices needed was a software update, which can be manually forced. This is supposed to happen automatically (good) but somehow didn’t, at least for some of my devices (bad).

Here’s my first gripe: Nowhere in the help pages for a Nest Protect that won’t connect to the internet does it suggest to force a software update. The help pages are just not has helpful as they could be. Further, why are there help pages at all? In other words, why do I have to search for help online? Nest has an app. The app should (and does) notice when a device is offline or has any other problem. A better app would walk the user through troubleshooting steps.

Yes, that would require an investment in a better app. But it could allow Google Nest to redeploy its human techs to other things than explaining how to get a device back online.

Here’s my second gripe: After we got all my devices back into shape, the Nest Protect app didn’t update for over 24 hours. Devices themselves were working fine (as one can tell by pressing their buttons to get a report) and the Nest web browser page said all was well. But the app wouldn’t update, not after a reset or reinstall. The tech said it could be delayed by 30 minutes. It took a full day. That’s nuts.

Fundamentally, the Google Nest app, while good, is not great. This is typical of Google — fantastic out of the gate and then very little improvement, even in obvious areas about which numerous users have complained. Going from good to great is just not what they do, probably for sound business reasons (I guess) but still to the annoyance of users.

All in all, I’m still happy with Nest Protect. They’re still massively better than First Alert. Even when I’ve had issues, none of them woke me in the night. None of them set off blaring alarms, freaking out my kids. It’s good technology. But it could easily be even better.


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