Is Tado still worth it?
A bold question to ask I know, but with Tado introducing a subscription, it's important to ask: is Tado still worth it?
(Update 2 (25-Oct-2018): Tado have now updated their pricing information, thus the below information is outdated. See my update article ‘Tado Pricing Update’. )
(Update 1 (5-Oct-2018): one reader pointed out that you could use Homekit or IFTTT to automate Tado rather than paying the subscription. Whilst this is true, the control would be much more crude compared to Tado. Tado adjusts your heating in a granular fashion based on your distance from home, which is much better than a simple home/away on/off approach. )
Before we begin, it's important for you to know that I have no connection with Tado. I receive no payment or sponsorship from them. I've received no free gifts or demo units. All the Tado equipment in my home I bought myself, with my own money. All the opinions I have to share are my own.
So, why am I asking this question? Well, Tado recently unveiled a new version of their smart thermostat. This 'version 3' hardware looks very much the same as the previous version, but comes with a few new features including air quality monitoring to help you maintain the most comfortable climate.
However this isn't the focus of this post. You see, alongside the new hardware, Tado announced a new subscription package dubbed 'Auto Assist'.
Costing £2.99 a month or £24.99 annually, this subscription includes the following features:
Automatic adjustment of heating based on user geo-location
Open window detection
If these features sound familiar, it's because these are the core features of Tado (especially that first one) that existing users already enjoy for no fee. This brings us to an obvious question...
Do existing users now need to pay?
Short answer: No.
I reached out to Tado via Twitter to clarify this point, and was told very clearly that existing customers can carry on using Tado, and all their current features without needing to pay a subscription.
First bit of good news.
There is a caveat here.
Along with the new thermostat hardware, Tado also built a new version of the app.
Rather than publishing this new app separately in the stores (which would lead to them having two apps, one classic and one modern), they simply built the new app experience into the existing app, and the one you see will vary based on the following factors:
If you are a new customer buying the new version 3 thermostat, you get the new app experience
If you're an existing user, you'll soon be able to 'upgrade' into the new app experience.
The subscription is tied to this new app experience. So, if you're an existing Tado customer, you'll be able to upgrade, but you'll then lose access to those features mentioned above until you subscribe.
Note that if you do upgrade, there's no way back! New customers buying Tado for the first time with that new hardware don't get a choice. They will see the new app experience.
You don't have to upgrade of course, you can stick with the classic app experience and not pay anything, but that then begs an additional question...
Do I get 'left behind' if I stick with the classic app?
Short answer: No, at least not yet.
The beauty of smart home products is that they get better over time through software updates from the manufacturer. So, will Tado continue to deliver updates and new features for you if you stick with the classic app experience? Again I reached out to Tado on this, and was told that yes, they absolutely plan to do this.
Of course, I can well imagine that the time will come when Tado stop focusing on the classic app experience for the development of new features. However for the foreseeable future, classic users can still look forward to new features.
If you do choose to upgrade ('opt-in’) to that new app experience (or if you get it because you’re a new customer buying a version 3 thermostat), you’ll then have to choose whether to pay the subscription. That then brings us to the next question…
What do you get without the subscription?
Arguably the key feature for Tado is location based heating control. Without Auto Assist you can still do virtually everything you can do now, including setting very granular schedules, make use of the 'early start' feature, and control your heating from anywhere.
What you won't get, is automatic adjustment of heating as people leave, turning the heating down or even off, and then warning things back up again when you're coming home. You'll have to do these things manually without the subscription. If that doesn't sound like a big deal, then you can perhaps avoid paying for the subscription.
If you do choose to pay, or are in the market for smart heating....
Is Tado still worth it?
Back to the central question. To answer it, we need to ask whether you're going to save more than you spend. Are you going to save more than £3 a month by using Tado?
The answer is that most likely, yes you will. Even with the most conservative estimate your looking at saving more than that, probably pretty easily.
It's difficult of course to get exact figures on such things, and everyone's circumstances will be different. However if a system like this can't save at least £3 monthly, then it wouldn't have been worth the money even before these changes.
Won't this slow down my payback? What about the competition?
It's true that there are competing products out there like Nest that don't demand a subscription (currently).
This is where we have to expand things to compare more comprehensively though. Nest may not have a subscription, but they also don't have products like radiator controllers for sophisticated room-by-room control.
I'd argue that such capabilities give Tado extra energy saving opportunities vs Nest.
However, be careful what you spend. If you buy lots of Tado radiator controllers on top of the main starter kit, the cost of your smart heating system will rise. That's going to put your 'break-even' point a bit further into the future than you might like.
Speaking of break-even, subscription costs are going to slow that down a little, but probably not by a big degree. Your savings should still be pretty good here.
My advice? Don't count Tado out because of the subscription. You still save more than you spend, and their system works extremely well, with the radiator controllers adding extra energy saving potential. Just be careful to target your deployment of such extra components to areas where the biggest difference can be made.
Why are Tado doing this?
I didn't cover this area directly with Tado, but it's most likely down to the cost of their cloud services that power the system behind the scenes.
Such services cost money, and it's likely that as Tado have accumulated more customers, so their cloud costs have risen. I’m not trying to make excuses for them here, but it would be naive of me to view Tado as a philanthropic endeavor. They’re a business, and businesses exist to make money.
What do I really think? Will I pay?
I'm philosophical about this one. The 'buy once, get services free forever' model was never going to last. As mentioned above, it would be naive to think otherwise. Tado is a business, and whilst some may find a subscription disappointing, it’s not a high price. £3 a month is hardly profiteering.
It's easy to compare against the myriad of cloud services that are free, like Nest, Alexa and others. However in those cases there's always a much larger company behind the scenes, with far deeper pockets to foot the bill.
Maybe some other sugar daddy will eventually swoop in and buy out Tado, maybe that would lead to the removal of the subscription service. For now however, I'm likely to take the upgrade when it's offered, and start paying the subscription.
Tado works, so yes, it's worth it.
It would seem you have the choice to pay monthly or annually. The latter represents a saving but ... No offence to Tado, I only need heating 6 months of the year!
As such, why not subscribe only during those months when you use your heating, then cancel when warmer weather returns?
Something to think about! ;)