Samsung's 2019 smart fridges go back to the drawing board
Samsung has been sticking touchscreens on fridges since 2016, adding a few new features every year. Right on cue, the company unveiled the latest Family Hub fridges at CES 2019, with the main new addition being a Family Board screen dedicated to posting photos and messages, and support for the latest version of the Bixby voice assistant.
The annual updates to the Family Hub are fairly incremental, but the basics of the smart fridge stay the same. There's a 21.5-in touchscreen built into one door that lets users peer into the fridge without opening it, share photos and messages with the family, get news and weather updates, set reminders, play music and video, add items to a shopping list, find and follow recipes, and keep track of expiration dates.
Installing the Family Hub app onto everyone's phones makes it even more useful. If you're at the supermarket and wondering if you have eggs at home, you can take a live look inside the fridge to check. Not going to be home for dinner? You can write a note and virtually pin it to the fridge for everyone to see.
For the 2019 models Samsung has added Family Board, a new screen devoted entirely to pinning photos, notes and doodles drawn on the touchscreen itself. These functions were on the older fridges but were spaced between other icons. Photos can be customized with different styles, and the background color can be changed to better fit the kitchen's decor.
There's also a new screen saver that can flip through photos or default to info like the weather. And, like Samsung's recent TVs, an Ambient Mode can be set to make the screen more subtle, blending into its surroundings rather than look like a big black rectangle when it's not in use.
Minor tweaks have been made to the Food Management side of things too, including the ability to fine-tune recipe searches for criteria like healthiness. If you have a smart oven, you can now also preheat it straight from the fridge screen, to a given temperature in the Recipes app.
The Family Hub has been updated to make use of Samsung's "new Bixby," the updated version of its voice assistant. New Bixby is apparently smarter and more conversational than old Bixby, allowing it to essentially run a whole smart home from the fridge via voice commands. Keeping things in the family, users with Galaxy phones can mirror the screen to the fridge without booting up the Smart View app on the fridge.
And finally, Samsung says it's bringing the Family Hub tech to more models and styles of fridges in 2019.
It's always hard to decipher exactly what's new about each iteration of Samsung's Family Hub fridges, but overall the long feature list makes them seem like a decent Internet of Things option. The fridge is a logical place for a smart home hub (as opposed to something like a rangehood), but you could do most of the same stuff by just sticking a tablet on the bench.
There's no pricing or availability details just yet, but the 2019 Family Hub fridges will likely be released in the next few months and, if prices from the last few years are anything to do by, they'll probably run you upwards of US$5,000.