“I’m thinking about my doorbell, when ya gonna ring it, when ya gonna ring it?”
Exactly what The White Stripes were on about in that famous chorus is up for debate, but when it comes to Nest Hello - one of a number of new products unveiled this week by the home automation company - you won’t have to sit there thinking about who’s ringing your doorbell. You’ll know, every single time.
Apparently the number one most requested addition to Nest’s smart home arsenal, the doorbell utilises some of the same tech found in the Nest Cam IQ. It recognises faces, both familiar and unfamiliar, and can send crisp HD images of them (Night Vision mode kicks in after sundown) directly to your smartphone app.
From there you’re able to either chat away or send them packing. I got some (admittedly brief) hands-on time with the Nest Hello at this week’s launch event in San Francisco, naturally curious to see how well it all works in practise. Short answer: I'm very impressed. Long answer: well, you know, read on....
Design: Hello handsome
I didn't know I wanted a futuristic doorbell until I clapped my eyes on the Nest Hello. It’s small enough not to be too attention grabbing to anyone walking past your driveway, but when you spend this much cash on any gadget you want it to be noticeable, and Hello is.
It’s starting to feel a bit lazy to compare Nest’s aesthetic to Apple, but its products have a similarly premium look and feel, elegant in their minimalism. Even the button is satisfying to press.
I'm a big fan of the blue LED light ring, the intensity of which increases as you get closer to the door. It'll be particularly useful when you’re stumbling through the darkness after a long night in the pub, as well as acting as a deterrent to any would-be intruders.
One thing that did impress us was that Hello uses the same wiring as your current (and now infinitely less interesting) doorbell, so installation shouldn’t be too tricky at all. Although that does mean it's lacking a simpler battery-powered option, like the Ring Video Doorbell 2.
How it works: ring leader
Like the rest of its product lineup, Hello hooks up with the Nest app, and it’s from there that you’ll be kept informed of exactly who’s rocking up at your door.
When someone presses the button, it’ll ring (obviously) and you’ll get a notification on your phone, straight away showing you who’s there. In a demo I saw, it looked a lot like receiving a phone call.
Thanks to the 4:3 aspect ratio and 160° field of view, you get a head-to-toe HD stream of the person (or people), rather than just their face (or faces), and you can adjust what’s visible in the frame by swiping or tapping the screen.
Below that you’re presented with three options: ignore them entirely (sorry door-to-door salesperson), use the two-way HD Talk and Listen feature to start a chat through the built-in mic and speaker, or select from the a number of preset responses.
So, for example, if you can’t be bothered dragging yourself from your Netflix duvet dungeon to collect a package, you can just politely ask Mr. Postman to drop it at the door without actually having to give the instruction yourself.
For the times when an audible ring is going to be an issue, you can enable Nap Time, meaning you’ll get the notification but there’s no danger of waking little Jimmy up.
Features: doorbell meets security cam
Nest Hello’s person detection means it can differentiate between dog, cat and pizza delivery man, while those signed up to the Nest Aware subscription service will also get to test out its facial recognition, which in theory should mean you’re told when Grandma is making a beeline for the front door.
It’s impossible for us to rate this feature for accuracy without rigorously testing it over time, but the ability to spot friend from potential foe is obviously a big selling point.
I also saw a demo of the ‘Sightline’ feature, which will be familiar to anyone who's used a Nest Cam. This lets you trace back along a timeline of recent activity and see your security 'highlights' from the day.
Nest Hello initial verdict
Calling the Nest Hello a doorbell is underselling it a bit – it's effectively a security camera in disguise.
Of course, it's difficult to say whether or not the Hello will be a worthy addition to your smart home setup until we've lived it for a while. But what I did see, I really liked.
A doorbell isn’t something you generally show off to friends, but Nest Hello is a well built, premium device that wouldn’t look out of place in Cupertino.
Basically, very few people wouldn’t want one on their door. I like that you’re able to issue quick responses if you can't make it to the door, while facial recognition, assuming it works as it should, will make the onslaught of notifications you’re inevitably going to receive smarter.
Nest Hello is due to arrive next year, so we'll bring you a full review as soon as we've slapped one next to our front door.