I'm not entirely sure I'd agree, and I'm bored enough to write the essay below (sorry).
I bought the Nest thermostat because my existing thermostat died and I wanted an intelligent thermostat that potentially saved me money. I wanted something that would learn the characteristics of my house and not fire up when I was out, as well as doing other clever things - but primarily I wanted something that would save me cash.
I was essentially weighing the initial cost of purchase of it vs the ongoing cost of cooling and a/c.
With the cost of gas and electricity, it was worth paying the premium over a regular thermostat in order to make those savings automatically.
Sure, I could micromanage a regular thermostat myself and get the savings - at the cost of my time and effort. And probably still not do it incredibly well, because I'm not an HVAC expert.
By the way, if you've a regular LCD menu driven thermostat, look up the manual, then go into service mode. There's a lot more options than you think there are, and unlike irrigation controllers (unless you REALLY screw up), they can potentially cause thousands of dollars of damage. BUT, like irrigation controllers - you're not dealing with mains electricity, so it is something the vast majority of people can replace without the aid of a professional, especially if most of the complex operations are hidden away.
I bought the Iro because my existing controller died, and I wanted an intelligent sprinkler system that would keep my grass alive, preferably make it greener and nicer, and more preferably still - save me money.
Sure I could micromanage a regular controller myself and get water savings...but I've got the opposite of green fingers (and I've already proven to myself this is the case).
So, if I wanted a better lawn, I'm either looking at a lawn service, or an intelligent controller where some service, preferably free, is making recommendations for me, based on location, soil, weather and so on.
With both devices, I was primarily attracted to the results - savings, better lawn, etc.
Sure the idea of being able to control it from your phone appeals, and is a god send for maintenance, but that's almost a fringe benefit.
Now, with the Nest, there were a couple of alternatives, and I went with the well known brand, both for the recognition of it, and subsequent recommendations, and for the ease of install and the knowledge that they've been around for a while. I saw it when it was a start up, and wasn't interested at the time, because it looked like a fad - there were no other products competing with it.
With the Iro, there were, and are quite a few alternatives. Most around the same price point, most start ups, most offering a similar feature set.
The options that have been around longer are the homeseer type options - irrigation caddy, opensprinkler and so on. The really geeky products.
I read the manuals, and they're clever, but...they're a great deal of work to install, configure, and maintain. They might give me what I'm looking for, but at the expense of a great deal of work.
That's not appealing, unless you're a geek. And a gardening geek, too. I'm the first, but not the last.
The other options are similar. In the end, I went with the Iro because if people in Colorado can't help my lawn in Colorado, who can? - and it's cheaper than a yard service, while almost certainly using less water than a service would recommend (when the water saving features are all up and running automatically).
It's also a simple and easy to install product - and in order to capture the market for people who are ok with a thermostat swap but not with mains voltage, it needs to be on a par with nest. And that's where I think the market is - people like me, who are looking for a product that will save them money, preferably while doing clever stuff, that they can show off to their friends, that isn't a complete swine to install and get working.
So far, it's looking good. Both the product, and my lawn.
@chris, how about a poll on why we bought the Iro?