The launch of Google’s new Nest Cam in India along with Tata Play’s subscription plans is a good sign. It tells me that slowly but surely, the smart home segment in the country is maturing. You see, I’ve been following the DIY smart home arena for a while now, and when I set out to find wireless security cameras for the home, I couldn’t find any options at the time. My quest eventually led me to Amazon’s Blink XT 2 cameras, and I ended up buying three of them on a trip abroad. This was three years ago, but the fact is… they’re still not available in India officially and are a tad basic in comparison to what the Nest Cam can do. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then, but the official launch of the Google Nest Cam in India at this time comes as a pleasant surprise. So what does this camera do, and why am I excited about it? Should you care and join me in my excitement?
Security cameras are an integral part of a smart home setup, and there are quite a few inexpensive and capable options available if you want one for indoor use. However, if you want one that you can install outdoors, and that too without needing extensive wiring, there are hardly any reliable options, if any. That’s exactly the gap the Google Nest Cam fills… not to mention all the intelligent features it brings with it. Before I dive into the review, here are a few things you should know:
- The device I’m referring to is the Google Nest Cam (Battery), which is the latest model introduced by the Mountain View major. It’s being sold in India by Tata Play (formerly known as Tata Sky), which also offers a range of subscription plans for the device that enable longer storage times for videos stored on the cloud, and additional features too.
- The device is a Wi-Fi-enabled security camera that alerts you when it detects motion (more specifically, motion by people, animals, and vehicles) and also records video clips that are stored on the cloud and can be viewed on your smartphone via the Google Home app. It also offers an on-demand live view via the app.
- Without a subscription, the Nest Cam lets you go back 3 hours in time to view recorded video clips, but if you buy the Nest Aware subscription available as part of the Tata Play Secure package, you can go back 30 days in time (which works using cloud storage) and also get to use the Familiar Face detection feature. The Secure+ subscription bumps up the storage time to 60 days.
- The camera has a built-in battery and can be used either wirelessly or in powered mode, both indoors and outdoors. I’m told Tata Play will be offering a secure loop along with the device, which is a chain that physically attaches the camera with the wall plate, thereby reducing the risk of it getting stolen if you choose to install it outdoors.
Design, specs and features
The camera itself is a rather large, oval-shaped device with a flat front where the lens and the sensor are located. You can get the device in any colour, as long as it’s white. There’s an LED on the front that lights up when the camera is recording. The base of the camera has a hole for a screw mount, a cavity where the included charging cable attaches magnetically, and a small speaker. For mounting the camera on the wall, you get a magnetic plate, a wall plate and a pair of screws along with anchors included in the box. The charging cum power cable is 1m long, and can be used along with the bundled 7.5W adapter to supply power to the device. The magnetic plate is quite strong, being able to handle the 400g weight of the camera without issue. And thanks to the rounded shape of the camera, you can position it at any angle on the plate.
The Nest Cam features a 2-megapixel sensor, capable of recording in 1080p at 30 fps. It supports HDR and night vision too. Other specs of note include built-in speaker and microphone, support for dual-band Wi-Fi, and IP54 weatherproof rating. You need the Google Home app on your smartphone (Android or iOS) to set it up and link it with your Google and Tata Play accounts, and with your home network as well.
Once the camera is installed and set up, the Home app can give an on-demand live view of what the camera sees, regardless of where you are. While in live view, you can also hold a 2-way conversation with the person on the other end… useful for when you need to convey instructions to a delivery person at the door, as an example. You can set up notifications and choose to get alerted when the camera sees people, animals, vehicles, or just any motion, depending on your requirements, and also set up zones within the camera view which will be monitored for these movements. The camera uses on-device intelligence to process this info. You can view video clips of recorded events by jumping backwards and forwards using the timeline, or choose to see the full history which shows you all the recorded events in reverse chronological order.
Via the settings available in the app, you can set video quality between max and high, toggle audio recording, specify wake-up sensitivity for the motion sensor, turn night vision on or off, and choose the duration of the video clips that the camera will record on detecting an event. The default duration is 30 seconds, but you can set it as low as 10 seconds, or go up to 3 minutes. You can also view battery status (if like me, you’re using the camera on battery power), enable an automatic battery saver mode, and choose one from three different battery modes… with the default set to balanced. And if you’re the proud owner of a Google Nest Hub smart display, you can view your Nest Camera’s video stream on it just by using voice. For some reason though, streaming the Nest Camera’s feed on a Chromecast-enabled smart TV isn’t possible yet, and that’s quite disappointing, really. Using the Google Home app, you can also set Home and Away routines that enable and disable the Nest Camera by sensing if you’re at home or not. Of course, it’s crucial you not only have high-speed broadband at home but also ensure that the camera is in range at the location you install it at. Just in case your Wi-Fi network goes down though, the camera can store up to an hour’s worth of history locally.
So here’s how my experience with the Nest Cam has been so far. I stay one level above the ground, and chose to get it installed above the main door to my house, facing the stairs. I had charged and configured the camera beforehand, so installation just involved drilling two holes in the wall, hammering the anchors in, and screwing in the wall plate. The magnetic plate locked in over it, and the camera was attached on top. Since I’m using the camera in battery mode, no wiring was needed. Tata Play was kind enough to give me a demo subscription of Nest Aware, so I have access to video footage of recorded events from the past 30 days, and the ability to use the Famiiar Face detection feature as well.
Notification alerts, as I found out, are instantaneous… popping up on my phone as soon as a person is detected by the camera. Since my review camera is facing the stairs, I only chose to enable people alerts, leaving alerts for animals and vehicles disabled. The Nest Aware subscription plan is visible under Google Home settings, which is where you can also set up Familiar Face detection. All unrecognised faces appear here, and if you know those people, you can mark them as familiar and also add their names… so the next time the camera detects them, the notification alert will include their names as well.
This feature can be set up to recognise family members and other frequent visitors, like house help, for example. In my usage, this worked pretty well too. The recorded footage from the Google Nest Camera was quite clear, even at night. Since it uses infrared, the night vision footage is recorded in black and white, but is still quite clear and usable.
The built-in rechargeable battery is rated at up to 1.5 months with busy usage (20-25 recorded events per day), and after five days of usage, the Home app is showing me I have two weeks’ worth remaining, at the time of posting this review. I estimate that with my current usage (which is admittedly quite high), I’d end up charging the device every three to four weeks… which isn’t too bad. Now, depending upon the location you’ve installed it and how easy it is to access for you to remove the camera for charging, your opinion on this could be different.
I do wish the free tier allowed you to go back further in time, since the 3-hour window means you won’t be able to view recorded events when you wake up from slumber. The inability to view the camera stream on Chromecast-enabled TVs seems like a big miss too, and I’m hoping Google would be able to bring that feature soon. The ability to view the camera feed through a web browser would be welcome as well. At Rs 11,999, the Nest Cam (Battery) device doesn’t come cheap, and a Nest Aware subscription from Tata Play will cost you Rs 3,000 annually (supports up to four Nest cameras). The cost goes up to Rs 6,000 per annum for five to eight cameras, and Rs 9,000 for nine to 12 units. There’s a Nest Aware Plus subscription too, that increases the event window to 60 days, and even lets you view continuous 24/7 video feed from your Nest Cam with the latter requiring using it in wired mode. All said, given how quickly the Nest Cam can alert you, the video quality, the intelligence features it offers, and the flexibility it allows in terms of using it either indoors or outdoors, in powered mode or wire-free, there’s no doubt that the Google Nest Cam (Battery) makes for a very useful addition to your home.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Instant alerts & clear footage
- Face recognition works well
- Flexible, wire-free installation
- Can be used indoors or outdoors
- Can’t stream to Chromecast-enabled TVs
- Free tier only includes rolling 3-hour footage
- No web interface to view stream