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What’s the Deal with Google Home and Nest? Is There a Difference?

The Google Home and Nest logos.

In the smart home world, there are two brands you hear about a lot: Google Home and Nest. Both are actually owned by Google, but the way the company uses these names has led to some confusion.

A Short History of Nest Labs

Nest Labs burst on the scene back in 2011, when it introduced the Nest Learning Thermostat. This was a revolutionary device, and it was the first time anyone was really excited about thermostats. The original Nest thermostat was a driving force in the rapid evolution of the smart home.

A Nest Learning Thermostat.
The first-generation Nest Learning Thermostat. Nest

A couple of years later, the company branched out with the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. In 2014, Nest was acquired by Google. The company then operated independently from Google as a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc.

RELATED: How to Set Up and Install the Nest Protect Smart Smoke Alarm

Shortly after that, Nest made an acquisition of its own: Dropcam. The company then added security cameras to its growing suite of smart home products.

Nest remained separate from Google until 2018, when it finally merged with Google’s hardware division. The goal of the merger was tighter integration with Google’s smart home devices and Google Assistant.

And that’s where things started to get messy.

Name Change

While Nest was releasing its own branded devices, Google launched smart speakers and displays in its Google Home line. The original Google Home speaker launched in 2016, followed by the mega-popular Google Home Mini.

An ad for Google Home Hub, with the word "Home" crossed out, and the word "Nest" replacing it.

After Google and Nest merged, Google renamed the Google Home Hub the Google Nest Hub. It also announced that Google Nest would be the new branding for its smart home products. Confused yet? It gets worse.

RELATED: How to Use Your Google Home Hub as a Digital Photo Frame

The original Google Home speaker launched with a rename, too. The Google Cast app, which was a companion for Chromecast devices, was renamed Google Home. That name has persisted, even though the physical devices are no longer branded as such.

Together, But Separate 

Google is trying to merge the two brands under one vision for home products, but the company still has a few degrees of separation. For instance, nest.com is still up and running for customers to interact with security cameras and thermostats. However, customers who want to purchase hardware are redirected to the Google Store.

Even more confusing are the Nest mobile apps. You still have to use the Nest app to set up a Nest thermostat or camera. Nest speakers and smart displays, however, require you to use the Google Home app.

The "Nest" and "Google Home" apps in the Google Store.

Google tries to make it sound like this is one big family of products, but, in practice, it’s not. It just doesn’t make much sense that you can’t use the Nest app to set up the Google Nest Hub, or that your Google Nest thermostat uses a different app than the Google Nest speaker.

What Does It All Mean?

If you look past the names, these products are still clearly in two different bins. All you have to do is look at the logos on the devices. They might be sold in the same section of the Google Store, but some sport the Nest logo, while others have Google’s.

Google and Nest products with callouts labeling which have Nest logos, and which have Google's.
Google

It’s going to take some time to clean up this branding mess. Eventually, the old Nest products (thermostats, cameras, and so on) will be replaced by newer models with Google logos. Customers will also no longer need the Nest app.

Until then, though, these products clearly exist on two different platforms, despite Google’s attempts to mush them together with a name-change.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time Google made a confusing naming decision, and it likely won’t be the last.

Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has close to a decade of experience covering consumer technology and previously worked as a News Editor at XDA Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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