Most Wi-Fi cameras and video doorbells offer a paid subscription that comes with more features, but also offer a free tier that works well enough for most use. However, that’s not the case with Nest cameras at all. You pretty much require a Nest Aware subscription.

RELATED: What Is Nest Aware, and Should You Pay for a Subscription?

Nest’s paid subscription tier is called Nest Aware, and it starts at $5 per month (or $50 per year). That gives you a five-day video history, 24/7 continuous recording capabilities, and a few other handy features. While there is a free tier, and you might be tempted try getting away with using it, the bad news is that the free tier makes Nest cameras pretty much useless.

There’s No Video Recording At All

Even at the free tier, you can get live video whenever you want. So, if someone rings your doorbell and you want to see who it is without going to the door, you can fire up the Nest app and see a live view of your Nest Hello. And that’s an important feature.

But we’d argue that an equally important feature for any Wi-Fi camera or video doorbell is that it records video of any detected motion so that you can see what you missed. However, the free tier on Nest cameras has exactly zero video recording capabilities.

RELATED: How to Get the Most Out of Your Nest Cam

Instead, you get what Nest calls “snapshots” that just capture a still image whenever a person or general motion is detected. In some instances, it works okay, but most of the time, it doesn’t capture what it’s supposed to.

Snapshots Are Only Kept for Three Hours

And if you’re thinking static image snapshots might be good enough, the next problem in line is that Nest’s free tier only keeps them for three measly hours.

That’s not even nearly enough time. Even a 12-hour hold might be useful, but three hours just isn’t very useful. That means you can’t even leave for a full day of work, and then check up on captured motion when you get home. Forget about taking a vacation. If you don’t check your phone every three hours, you won’t be able to see who or what your Nest camera captured.

You Still Receive Basic Alerts, but That’s About It

The good news is that you still receive notifications and alerts whenever a person or motion is detected, but all the other features that are advertised for Nest cameras fall within the Nest Aware subscription.

Face detection, Activity Zones, and the creation of clips and timelapses are all Nest Aware features that you’ll have to pay for. Of course, these specific features aren’t an absolute must or anything, but they are what separates Nest cameras from the competition.

In the End, Expect to Pay More Than the Camera’s Price Tag

Everything comes with a paid subscription option these days, to the point where after you’ve paid any up-front costs, you’ll still pay a small fee every month or every year.

RELATED: Nest Hello Installation: 3 Things You Should Know

Like I said earlier, free tiers on some products are actually perfectly fine for a lot of people. However, this is not the case for Nest cameras. If you’re even thinking about getting a Nest camera of some kind, you’ll want to factor in the continuous operating costs of that camera as well.

For example, if you plan on grabbing a Nest Cam IQ, that camera’s main big feature (i.e. the reason you’d buy that specific camera in the first place) requires a Nest Aware subscription. In that case, you’re pretty much required to pay for a subscription to take advantage of the “IQ” part. Otherwise, you’re better off with a regular Nest Cam.

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Craig Lloyd is a smarthome expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and GottaBeMobile.
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