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 Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan 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."