Another year, another smart fridge by Samsung. After trying to make the refrigerator the center of the household at CES 2016, the company has now announced the second iteration of its Family Hub fridges. This year, the touchscreen and internet connectivity is rolling out to a wider range of models, with the addition of voice commands, profiles for individual family members, and partnerships with more companies for ordering food, checking news and other functions.
The basic Family Hub fridge seems like a good idea, wrapped in a cloud of questions like "But would I ever use it?" Its most useful feature are probably the internal cameras, which take a snapshot of the fridge's contents every time the door is closed, allowing users to check their stocks from their smartphone.
Where the fridge tries to earn its "center of the household" keep is through the 21.5-inch LED touchscreen on the door. Samsung describes it as a digital bulletin board, where family members, either on the screen itself or through the app on a connected iOS or Android device, can pin photos, set calendar events, write and post memos, and create or add items to lists. Through other apps, it can play music and video, display the weather and time, order groceries online and act as a virtual cookbook.
But last year's fridge could do all that. What's new is the addition of voice commands, which could come in very handy if you're elbow-deep in dinner and don't want to touch a screen to check the recipe. The interface has apparently been redesigned to make it easier to use, and each family member can now create and customize their own profile.
In a bid to make the appliance more useful, Samsung is increasing its roster of partner companies: music will soon be streamable from Spotify and iHeartRadio, food can be ordered through Nomiku and Grubhub (or EATALY and LiDL for European users), and you can even check who's at the door if you have a Ring video doorbell system. Regional differences are also being addressed, with NPR providing news for US users, while Upday updates those in Europe and Kakao informs Korean customers.
But as long as that feature list is, we're still not convinced you need a smart fridge to do all that – especially one with a US$5,000+ price tag – when a basic tablet or phone can perform most of those functions already and a magnetic case to affix it to an existing fridge won't break the bank.
Samsung hasn't given pricing details on the new Family Hub fridges, but they're likely to be in the ballpark of last year's models, which ranged from $5,600 to $6,000. The tech will been extended to 10 models of 3-Door and 4-Door French Door fridges, and the 4-Door Flex range, and Samsung is showing them off at CES this week, along with updated versions of the built-in kitchen appliances it revealed back in October.