Nest Dropkicks Revolv Buyers (Again) With This One Cruel Trick

I’m not a terribly big fan of Nest, but I don’t hate them, either. I own a Nest Thermostat, and I like it—for the most part. What I don’t understand is the gushing amount of praise a lot of writers give it, both as a standalone thermostat and a major smart home device/controller. You get the feeling that if God needed a thermostat, the Nest would be the one He’d buy. Despite what you might read, the Nest thermostat has its flaws, two of which are its inability to detect occupancy in other areas of the home and its requirement for an always-on Internet connection when used with other smart home systems.

But I have to give the Nest folks a great deal of credit for doing a very honorable thing recently. Late last week, Nest-subsidiary, Dropcam, announced a Dropcam Legacy Camera Replacement Program. According to Dropcam:

We’re always trying to improve Dropcam and the software behind it. But that means some features won’t work with our older Dropcam models. As we improve Dropcam, we’ll no longer be able to give active Original Dropcam and Dropcam Echo owners an experience that meets our standards. So we decided to stop supporting these products and offer active legacy camera owners a free replacement Dropcam HD camera.

Wow, that’s a twist! “Active legacy camera owners” get a FREE replacement Dropcam HD camera. There is a small caveat, though. “To receive your replacement Dropcam HD, your Original Dropcam or Dropcam Echo camera must have been active between December 22nd and before January 21st, 2015.” You don’t even have to send back the original Dropcam, although the company says original Dropcam and Dropcam Echo models “will stop recording and connecting to the Dropcam service after April 15th.”

Earlier I called the free replacement program an “honorable” thing to do. While I wasn’t in the room when the decision was made to ship out a boatload of free Dropcams, I’m pretty sure “it’s the right thing to do” didn’t come up very often in the discussion. Dropcam isn’t solely about hardware. Although live streaming of video from your Dropcam is free, the company also offers an optional Cloud Recording service that “automatically saves live video on a rolling basis. You can also keep track of activity in specific areas of a room, receive custom alerts, and make and share clips.” Seven days of continuous footage costs $10/month. Thirty days will set you back $30/month.

Obviously, it’d be extremely difficult to terminate the service and then go back to all those subscribers and ask them to buy a new camera so they can continue to pay those monthly subscription fees. (That sounds like something Verizon Wireless would do…) So handing out free replacement cameras is simply a way of ensuring Dropcam’s recurring revenue stream. I guess you could say it’s the “honorable” thing to do for the stockholders.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the situation for those poor suckers who paid at least a hundred bucks more than a Dropcam costs for their Revolv Hubs. Revolv was silly enough to neglect setting up some sort of monthly service fee that would have kept the money rolling in from Revolv Hub owners. As a result, when Nest bought Revolv last year and shut down the company—the Hubs still work, but they’re basically tech orphans without any hope of upgrades—no such replacement or refund offer was made. There’s no other way to say it: Nest screwed Revolv buyers. You could argue that they got gently screwed because NEST is continuing to provide Revolv owners with customer support. Nevertheless, Nest f**ked their customers.

The moral of this cautionary tale is that if you’re thinking of buying a smart device or a smart home hub that relies on continuous Internet access to the company’s server, you should tread very carefully. As much as I love smart home systems and smart devices in general, I have to say that right now may not be the best time to rush out and buy smart home stuff—especially smart home hubs.

You might think that it’s worth taking the chance on a $50 or even $100 hub because that’s not a lot of money. Once you start expanding your smart home system to include sensors, door locks, cameras, and thermostats, though, that cheap hub becomes a critical, absolutely essential part of the system. It’s easy to unplug one hub (say a Revolv Hub) and plug in a new one (say a D-Link Staples Connect Hub). But once that’s done, you have to identify all of your devices to the new Hub. Then you have to reprogram the entire system—one you might have gradually built up over months of time—from scratch.

Staples Connect deserves a great deal of credit for coming up with a “Migration Tool” in its app that’s supposed to help transfer all the settings when an owner of the original Staples Connect Hub upgraded to the D-Link Staples Connect Hub. I haven’t used the migration tool yet, but even if it sucks, Staples Connect gets points for trying.

So be smart when you’re shopping for smart home stuff. Hunker down and let the waves of hype pass by before you buy. You won’t get all the great benefits that come with having a smart home, but you certainly won’t get burned, either.

jnemesh's picture

And hire a PROFESSIONAL INTEGRATOR to install and program a REAL control system...RTI, Savant, Crestron, Control4, URC, etc.

I have ZERO sympathy for people trying to do it on the cheap with whatever the hot flavor of the day is in automation. Nest screwed you? No, you kinda screwed yourself by buying an unproven product from a company with no history or experience.

But but but...these systems are EXPENSIVE! Well, the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. If you want a SMART home and not one with dementia, you hire a pro. Do it yourself? Well, you get what you get...and you deserve it.