Nest releases slimmer, smarter version of learning thermostat

The Nest learning thermostat has taken a page from the Apple playbook, with a new hardware and software release roughly a year after the original device's debut. And that's no surprise, given that Nest was created by Tony Fadell, who oversaw the design of Apple's iPod.

Nest is a smart thermostat that learns the user's behavior over time, and adjusts its temperature automatically. It can also adjust temperatures when it senses that no one is home, and has a built-in Wi-Fi that allows it to be controlled over the Web and through mobile apps. Nest claims that users can save up to 20 percent on their energy bill if the unit is properly trained.

The new Nest is 20 percent thinner than the first-generation model, and has a stainless steel outer ring that reflects the pattern and color of the surrounding wall. Instead of a sensor grille on the bottom of the Nest's front panel, there's a smooth lens that doesn't break up the device's pattern as much.

The new Nest, shown on the right, is 20 percent thinner than its predecessor.

In addition to those aesthetic improvements, the new hardware also increases compatibility. Nest now supports nearly all heating and cooling systems in the United States, with support for second-stage cooling, third-stage heating, dual-fuel, emergency heat and whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers. A full compatibility guide is available on Nest's website.

On the software side, the new Nest ships with updated software, which will also be available for first-generation thermostats. Nest's 3.0 software has a System Match feature that adjusts behavior based on the type of heating and cooling system, and it has an improved Auto-Away feature that's better at knowing when users are out of the house, the company says. Nest's Heat-Cool mode (formerly called “Range”) now supports automatic temperature adjustments as well.

Nest has also tweaked its Android apps to make them faster and more reliable, and has added compatibility for all Android tablets, including Amazon's Kindle Fire.

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