Google / Nest is Destroying Dropcam

By John Honovich, Published Aug 10, 2015, 12:00am EDT


The most popular consumer camera has suddenly become one of the most hated.

Just add Google.

In this note, we examine the four main complaints and what this means for the consumer market.

Dropcam vs Google Nest Cam

Dropcam first came to market ~5 years ago in 2010, using an Axis cube camera. However, it was not until 2012, when they launched their own HD camera, that they really started to take off. And Dropcam quickly gained rave reviews, across the Internet and on Amazon. Combined with major funding and massive marketing, it lead to a $555 million buyout from Google / Nest.

Now, the first new 'Dropcam', post-Google acquisition, has been released. The Dropcam brand was killed, replaced with 'Nest Cam'. As our Nest Cam test results showed, the 'new' camera is 90%+ like the old camera, with the biggest improvement being enhanced analytics and secondarily 1080p max instead of 720p.

Changes in Perceptions / Reviews

The previous Dropcam generated 54% 5-star reviews and 12% 1-star reviews on Amazon.

Now, the new Nest Cam has less than half of those 5-star reviews and more than triple the 1-star reviews (i.e., 26% 5-star to 39% 1-star).

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Indeed, the most recent customer reviews show a string of angry customers:

Terrible Support

Dropcam offered quick and real human phone support, an important element for a consumer hardware business.

Google is famous for its scheming to never let customers speak to a Google employee. Nest evidently is not much better:

  • "Terrible customer service. Even their billing is screwed up."
  • "My cameras don't work and the customer support is untrained and very rude."
  • "I also called Nest customer support and they were clueless as to why the camera is delayed"
  • "I realized that things were bad when, in my second week, the customer service waiting time was over 30 minutes."
  • "I have spent 3 days and 5 hours on the phone with them. Each person is friendly and totally incompetent. They keep telling me it will be resolved shortly and nothing gets done."
  • "I have tried CS phone support several times and have had waits, with no human answer, beyond 30 minutes each time. Emailing is a Catch-22. The response is "we are happy to help so call CS with your address for a replacement." Despite several emails stating CS on phone is difficult to reach they refuse to proceed via email."

Google / Nest Centric

Many complained about Google / Nest trying to more tightly integrate / depend on their other products.

For example:

  • "Nest has removed the option to enable and disable the camera when you leave or arrive with your phone (Geo Fencing). Their solution is to use the home/away feature of the Nest thermostat or log in manually to the Nest Cam site and enable / disable every time you need to turn on the camera" This was bemoaned repeatedly by reviewers.
  • "You MUST have Chrome browser or you cannot add, update or change a credit card on your Nest account. I got an email yesterday saying my credit card needed updating (it had expired) so I logged in and tried to add the new information. I have internet explorer and also Firefox and neither would work. So I called them today and she said I'd need to use Chrome, so I tried it on my tablet which has Chrome installed."
  • "Their website does not work completely in Internet Explorer (IE) or Firefox and they have no intention of fixing it. They just say that I need to use Chrome."
  • "The communication feature only seems to work on my Android app and not on my wife's iPhone."

Repeat Customers Burned

Worse, many of their most loyal customers, who had been buying Dropcams for the past few years are angry and upset, due to a combination of the degraded support, lost features and issues migrating:

  • "Dropcam was the epitome of a good product. It was easy to use, quick to set up, and a cinch to manage. Plus, it worked great! I bought two (2) Nest Cams the day they came out and have been disgusted"
  • "We have a Dropcam Pro that we love. Super disappointed that this camera is a major step back. I concur with the other reviews, but by far the most irritating is the alerts. The Pro would welcome me home and turn off the alerts. This camera doesn't do that, so I get alerts all day, every day."
  • "I much preferred the Dropcam over Nest Cameras"
  • "I am so disappointed in this latest camera. I have had a Dropcam Pro for over a year and had been very happy with it."
  • "I took my Dropcam Pro back and picked this one up. Get home, set it up and realize it's not an upgrade, but a downgrade! Many of the features I used on my Dropcam were removed from this new camera such as email notifications, location-based actions, the ability to share your camera with others without making it public and the ability to subscribe to public cameras"

Complaints About Recurring Cost Specific Issues

Though this is not fundamentally new with the Nest Cam, the complaints about having to pay to get alerts or recorded video look to be building:

  • "You HAVE to pay the at least $10/month to have the Nest Aware subscription. Otherwise this is a glorified (EXPENSIVE) webcam. They force a 30 day free trial on you, so you won't get to see how crappy its "functionality" really is until afterwards. Build the extra $120/year into your purchasing decision."
  • "They should give this camera away since it is essentially useless without their monthly subscription. I was expecting that I would be able to review the footage that triggered a "Motion Alert" post free-trial, but that is not the case. If you do not opt in to their $10/month, you get a live-only-camera. You will still receive motion and noise alerts, you will just be unable to see what caused them."
  • "It's worthless unless you pay for video subscription of $100 or $300 a year. I'll be switching to much more capable system for about the same price after this gimmick."
  • "Unfortunately this camera is nearly worthless unless you pay for the $10 a month subscription."
  • "By itself it won't even show you what motion was JUST detected. So I'll get an alert on my phone from the Nest app that motion was detected, I'll swipe the alert, and usually the live feed will take minutes to load with no way to see 20 second clip of what caused the alert."

Indeed, the Nest Cam hardware itself costs ~$199 USD, which is at the high end of the market for consumer cube IP cameras.

Big Opening For Competitors

Google / Nest's poor service and desire to more tightly integrate it into the Google ecosystem have clearly killed the momentum of the former consumer favorite.

Moreover, the rest of the market is catching up and now there are numerous options that provide similar setup / access to Nest Cam at similar price points.

On the plus side for Google / Nest Cam, none of these companies have really delivered a great solution so far, but none of this is rocket science. Plus, since this is a large and growing market where rivals can take advantage of SD card recording to reduce or eliminate recurring costs, means the consumer IP camera market is wide open now.

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