At CES 2018, Samsung and LG continued their tradition of debuting new connected refrigerators that are less about keeping your food cold and more about becoming the center of not only your kitchen, but your life.
Samsung unveiled its new set of Family Hub fridges, which feature a built-in touchscreen and a host of connected features that offer smart-home integration and meal planning as well as information and entertainment services.
The company has expanded support for the SmartThings connected home platform (which Samsung owns). Standing at your Family Hub fridge, you will be able control your smart thermostat and lights, or check video feeds from your connected cameras.
The new Meal Planner feature provides users with recipes based on food preferences, dietary restrictions, and, using the fridge’s internal cameras, the food you already have. A new Deals app helps you find bargains and save them to a shopping list. And the View Inside app lets you remotely check what’s in your fridge, so no more forgetting if you already have broccoli at home while you’re at the store.
Samsung’s voice assistant, Bixby, is built into the fridge and can now recognize more than one voice. So it can tell apart different family members when they speak and bring up personalized information such as calendars, news, weather and updates, depending on who’s talking.
The Family Hub screen can also mirror Samsung TVs, stream content from phones, and access audio and video content like music streaming services as well as HomeAdvisor, Pinterest and Buzzfeed’s Tasty.
LG’s touchscreen adds a bit of magic by turning transparent if you knock on it twice, so you can see what’s inside your fridge without opening the door.
The ThinQ fridge also recommends recipes based on the food you have inside it. And once you’ve picked a recipe, the Alexa-powered fridge will guide you through it on-screen. Then the ThinQ fridge will automatically talk with the ThinQ oven to preheat to the proper temperature, and to the ThinQ dishwasher to select a fitting wash cycle for all those dirty dishes you create making the dish.
The ThinQ also allows you to “Smart Tag” foods in your fridge with information like expiration dates, so your fridge will know when something is about to go bad. Finally, it lets you remotely access the internal camera when out shopping.
Pricing information wasn’t provided, but a quick look at Home Depot shows that existing Family Hub fridges start at $3,000, and the previous generation of LG smart fridges start at $3,600.
That ain’t cheap. But the bigger issue with purchasing a major smart appliance is that technology moves quickly and companies want you to buy into a bigger ecosystem beyond just one appliance.
Most people don’t buy a new fridge every year, let alone five or even ten years. So smart fridges like these beg the question, what happens when the smarts of your fridge get outdated and can no longer run the latest version of of your favorite streaming service? And heaven forbid that your fridge gets bricked.
Then there’s the question of diving into an ecosystem. With the Samsung, you have to use Bixby, not Alexa, so you lose access to that (ubiquitous) Amazon integration. And while the LG makes use of Alexa, if you want it to talk to your oven or your dishwasher, you’ll have to pony up for those LG-branded devices as well.
We love smart kitchen devices here at The Spoon, it’s just that when it comes to major appliances, we like to be extra smart about what we buy.