British Gas launches new Hive 2 thermostat plus a bunch of connected home gadgets

And this time it actually looks good, courtesy of serial gadget designer Yves Béhar. No smartwatch support yet, but that may follow…

British Gasknows very little about great tech design.Yves Béharprobably doesn't know much about supplying gas to the consumer marketplace. Put them together, however, and you have red hot, thermostat-based artistic synergy.

What we're saying is, Hive and Yves yesterday announced the launch of Hive 2 which, with the greatest of respect to whoever designed the first one, you have to say looks just that teensy bit nicer. You don't believe us? Hmm. So this is the new one… Quite tastefully presented, no?

And that's the old one. See, it's so hideous, they actually made the app much bigger in their promo shot. A solid enough thermostat, for sure, but it is to good looks what Jeremy Corbyn is to good looks.

We went to the launch and while we wouldn't go so far as to call this a hands on, we had a bit of a play, and a chat with Yves Béhar.

Our conclusion: yes, the Hive Active Heating 2 (to give it its full name) looks very tasty, but it's also easy to use and has a decent enough app that, rather ambitiously, will also control all of the new Hive suite of connected home products (see below).

It's got a smear-resistant, mirrored finish that hides a display optimised for viewing even by the visually impaired. It's also easy to programme, has big friendly buttons on top for an instant "boost" to your hot water, heating or both, plus a tactile knob and a choice of 11 coloured surrounds plus a "wood effect" one for people with no taste.

As usual with your modern day thermostat, you can control it from outside your home and it'll alert you if you go out and leave it on. Textbook.

Also unveiled were a whole new range of Hive products: motion and door/window sensors and smart plugs, with lightbulbs to follow and, according to Hive's spokesperson, "You can infer that we're planning a full range," potentially to include smart cameras.

All the Hive products are Android and iOS controllable and able to send notifications, including over 3G/4G. So you can turn off your hair straighteners if you've left them on, be alerted to the fact you've left the window open, and that a burglar/a cat, has broken in/come through the catflap and is ransacking your possessions/having a snooze. Again, textbook.

At present Hive's "Honeycomb" eco-system is yet another closed eco-system, ready to compete with Belkin's Wemo, Nest's Works With Nest, Apple's HomeKit and the rest, but the "intention" is to open it up to third parties at some point.

So with all this stylish design and techy innovation, you'd expect the new model Hive to support Apple Watch and Android Wear, right? Well, no. Another Hive spokesperson told us, "Our customers have other more important priorities." When we said, "Yes, we can imagine," she slightly cryptically added, "…But you'd be surprised what they like. They're a broad church." We took this to mean that wearable support will follow at some later point.

Existing Hive customers will get much of the new functionality via an app update, and existing Hive Hubs are compatible with all the new Hive connected home products. Hive Active Heating 2 will cost £249, with upgrades for existing Hive users at a reduced rate of £99 "for a limited time". Pricing on the Hive connected home products is all TBC.

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.