For years I've been hearing from electronics manufacturers that the average family spends a lot of time in the kitchen and spends a lot of time with their electronics in the kitchen. More than once I've heard this room referred to as the "central hub" of the house. Thus, it's natural for tablets and laptops and smartphones to hang out here, usually getting splattered with Ragu sauce.
If this meme rings true, then the product Samsung unveiled today should have some traction. The LCD refrigerator features an 8-inch screen on the front, Wi-Fi connectivity, and apps. Yep. Apps. In the fridge. The idea is that families can now replace the familiar clutter of kid's pictures, notes, reminders, shopping lists, etc. with an embedded tablet that shows off pictures, syncs with your Google calendar, has a memo pad, and will even help you cook.
Though the LCD fridge is impressive, it's not quite the refrigerator of the future we've been hoping for. You know, the one that knows how much milk you have left, if the tomatoes are rotting in the crisper, and can give you dietary advice based on how often you open the door to grab a Pepsi. None of that is going on here.
Though the interface looks familiar to anyone who has played with a Samsung device, this is not actually Android based. Samsung says it's a proprietary UI. The apps you see on the Home screen are all there is for now, though the company says they have the ability to push OTA updates that include new apps. The touchscreen is resistive, not capacitive, but that's just fine since you're not likely to do a lot of swiping, just tapping. And it means you can tap with anything, like the handle of a spoon, so you don't get the screen dirty with your flour-caked hands.
The included apps -- Memo, Photos, Epicurious, Calendar, WeatherBug, AP News, Pandora, and Twitter -- are the kind of things you'd expect from a fridge tablet. It tells you the weather, it reminds you of appointments, and it'll even show recipes based on the ingredients you have at hand. Oh, and Twitter. While I like that it syncs with Google Calendar, this feature is less useful than it could be because you can't add appointments from the fridge. It will only show you pre-existing ones. With the exception of Notes, there are few areas of input and no browser or anything similar.
Though it doesn't interface with your tablet or phone directly for the most part, the fridge has Samsung's AllShare technology embedded. This means that owners of other Samsung devices such as phones, tablets, even Wi-Fi enabled cameras, can share photos directly with the fridge. No video or music yet, though. The Photo app will also download from Picassa or read from a memory card.
For music, you'll have to do Pandora, which isn't a bad option, but I'd like to see more variety. Last.fm, maybe. Or even streaming from my computer. The tiny speaker in the water well is surprisingly loud but won't be replacing your boom box anytime soon.
Overall, I like the concept of the Samsung LCD Refrigerator well enough. Get more apps on there and we'll see if I add it to my must have list. Two of Samsung's fridges come with this feature, the 4-Door French Door model (RF4289) and the Side-by-Side model (RSG309). The price? $3,499 and $2,699, respectively. You'll be able to buy it at the usual suspects, including Lowe's and Best Buy.
Check out the apps and refrigerators in the gallery below.