For a few years, Samsung has been hoping to make the fridge more than just a fridge by adding touchscreens on the front. The model we tested out in 2014 had Wi-Fi capabilities and an 8-inch LCD display. It had calendar and weather widgets and worked with the Epicurious app, allowing you to find recipes. Fun and useful but not necessarily something that everyone was going to go out and buy — especially with its $3,000-plus price tag. Now Samsung is hoping its 4-Door Flex Refrigerator with Family Hub, with its larger 21.5-inch HD LCD screen — will make a bigger impact.
Debuting at CES 2016, the fridge is meant to bring more than a little convenience to the kitchen. Samsung says it has improved the calendar app with the help of startup Sticki. You’ll be able to sync it with your other calendars, and you’ll also be able to choose what shows up (dinner with the neighbors instead of your noon work meeting, for example). Whereas typical stainless steel fridges, with their non-magnetic faces, don’t really have a place for photos and other paraphernalia of familial life, the Family Hub can display your phone’s pics or a memo (“dinner at 8”). “There isn’t that public space anymore,” said Justin Reinke, Director of Refrigeration Product Marketing at Samsung, in a call with reporters. He says the screen lets you add a bit of personalization back onto the silver surface.
These features aren’t so different from the older touchscreen fridges, but the large display makes it a little more suitable for entertainment. It can mirror your Samsung TV, so you can keep watching the game if it comes back on while you’re still making your snack. If you walk out of the kitchen, the screen will go to sleep, and will then turn back on when you come back in, thanks to proximity sensors. While it has a browser and some third-party capabilities, the fridge, which runs on Samsung’s Tizen platform, also has a lot of features that are controlled through the appliance’s app.
Some of those third-party functions include grocery ordering. The Instacart app will be available on the touchscreen, as will a new offering, Groceries by MasterCard. Through FreshDirect or ShopRite, users will be able to get food delivered from the app when the fridge rolls out in the northeast in May. The advantage there is that you can compare between the stores; if one doesn’t have your favorite brand of almond milk, the other might.
The companion app will let you do a barcode scan to add items as well, and while your child might seek to pile on one Gogurt after another, as the master controller, you can approve or deny the additions. And while your child may not learn her lesson, the “intelligent cart” might. “It will start to build intelligence about what your habits are, and start to make recommendations as well for you,” Betty DeVita, chief commercial officer of MasterCard Labs, told Digital Trends.
With a price of over $5,000, Samsung wanted it to be more than just a smart fridge combined with a tablet. “We don’t want to take a tablet and glue it to a refrigerator,” said Reinke. “We want to make this useful and have a reason to be on the refrigerator.”