Out of the box, the Nest Cam comes with a free 30-day trial that lets you see all the video recorded over the past 10 days, and lets you use other features like the ability to save videos locally, and receive motion alerts for particular areas in the camera's field of view, called activity zones.
After the 30 days, if you don't purchase a subscription you'll still get the alerts and live video, but you'll lose access to the video history and other features. That means motion alerts will only really be useful if you open the app right when you receive one, and the action's still happening. Otherwise you might be sitting at work wondering what just happened back home.
Set up, mobile app
I had a few problems setting up the camera. It's supposed to take only a minute to set up the Wi-Fi link and connect to the Nest mobile app. But at first, the review unit I was provided wouldn't connect to Wi-Fi, or it would connect and then drop out minutes later.
I tried moving the camera to a few different places in my apartment, and was able to maintain a good connection on my desk. Nest has a troubleshooting page on its website that explains the various types of wireless interference the camera might experience based on where it's placed in your home.
Once the camera makes its Wi-Fi connection, the main way you'll be accessing it is through the Nest mobile app. You can see what the camera sees, select the image quality and configure other settings. You can tell the app whether you want to be alerted for sound events, motion events, events in activity zones, or all of the above.
The app will let you set the image quality to 360p, 720p or 1080p. The 1080p mode is sharp but had a tendency to lag, so I usually had it set on 720p. I was using the app on an iPhone 6.
You can set a schedule so the camera automatically turns off and on at certain days and times. You can also manually turn it off and on from the app.
My experience with the app was decent but not great. After opening the program it usually took a few seconds to connect to the camera. It would also take a few seconds to re-connect whenever I switched between the history, live video, and settings pages. The app also had a tendency to make my phone feel hot if I watched video for several minutes.
In addition to the mobile app, there's also one for the desktop that has additional functions, like creating activity zones. You can also save video clips to your hard drive, or post them on social media sites like YouTube or Facebook. The desktop app also lets you create time lapse videos.
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