LG and Samsung’s newest smart fridges sport some fancy new features, and they’re a lot more affordable than older models. Still, smart fridges aren’t worth buying, even if you can afford one.
Smart Fridges Are Overpriced, Short-Sighted, and Vulnerable
We understand the appeal of smart fridges. They make it easier to shop for groceries or read recipes, and their giant displays can act as a sort of family calendar or whiteboard.
But we don’t think that they’re worth your money. And the issue isn’t that smart fridges expensive—it’s that they’re smart, and smart products experience a very limited lifecycle.
For reference, a $900 “dumb” fridge should last you around 15 years. But a $2,000 to $6,000 smart fridge (which is basically just a fridge with a built-in tablet) will only stay “smart” for about as long as a smartphone, tablet, or streaming stick. In the end, you’re left with a functioning fridge that has no smart functionality and a severely diminished resale value, and doesn’t that defeat the purpose of buying a smart fridge?
At a very basic level, old smart fridges won’t have enough horsepower to run new websites, applications, and UI (that’s why Sonos’ discontinued support for its outdated speakers). But we should also consider the fact that smart fridges are “connected” devices. They rely heavily on cloud-based services, like Google Calendar or your favorite digital recipe book. These services will eventually shut down or drop smart fridge support (it’s happened before), leaving your smart fridge with (at best) limited access to offline apps.
And this isn’t just an issue of “my old smart fridge kinda sucks now.” As tech grows older, it becomes more and more vulnerable to hacking. Smart fridges (which are already a little vulnerable), contain an array of cameras, sensors, and microphones, so they’re prime targets for any hacker who wants to brute-force their way into your home.
These problems should be covered under your fridge’s warranty, but they aren’t. As of right now, Samsung and LG have no hardware upgrade plans in place, and their firmware update schedules are already a little spotty.
2020’s Smart Fridges Are Neat, But Problematic
We saw a few smart fridges at CES 2020. They were neat, and they featured some cool food-recognizing AI. But Samsung and LG are still avoiding the lifecycle issues that their products face. In fact, they’re loading more cloud-based apps into their smart fridges, like Samsung’s Whisk, a fancy “connected” meal planning app.
In our mind, 2020’s smart fridges are only special because they cost less than 2019’s smart fridges. When I wrote about smart fridges last year, the cheapest units that I could find were around $3,800. Now, LG sells a smart fridge for $2,000. That’s just $1,000 more than a dumb fridge of the same size, and a tempting offer if you’re a well-to-do tech nerd.
If this trend continues, Samsung and LG will eventually manufacture a smart fridge that costs just as much than a “dumb” fridge. Hell, it may even cost less. There’s nothing stopping these companies from shoveling ads, data-mining algorithms, and crapware into their smart fridges. After all, that’s what they do to their smart TVs.
But Samsung and LG need to resolve their product’s lifestyle issues before they sell a dirt-cheap smart fridge. Otherwise, people will be encouraged (not necessarily forced) to replace their fridge twice as often as they do now. That’s terrible news for your pocketbook, and it could be devastating for the environment.
(Get ready to hear a lot about e-waste this year. First-generation smart products, like Sonos’ connected speakers, are just the beginning of a very ugly trend).
Buy a Tablet or Smart Display Instead
Still tempted to buy a smart fridge? There are a few alternatives, and they shouldn’t cost you any more than $100 or $200.
The simplest alternative to a smart fridge is a smart display. These things absolutely kick ass in the kitchen. They’re great for playing music, reviewing your schedule, reading recipes, watching YouTube videos, or reviewing footage from your smart cameras. And hey, they cost $1,900 less than the cheapest smart fridges.
But if you want a fancy display on your fridge, then you’re better off buying a tablet with a fridge mount. Any tablet will work with any smart assistant, but we suggest sticking to a popular tablet that supports your favorite smart assistant. (Or buy a used iPad. They still receive regular firmware updates, and they aren’t too expensive).
Smart displays and tablets can replace most smart fridge features, especially when they’re paired with smart cameras or programmed to listen for wake words. Plus, they can access to a lot more apps and services than smart fridges, and (as of right now) they receive more consistent firmware updates than LG or Samsung smart fridges do.