Not all smarthome devices make sense to buy. Many are expensive, hard to use, and offer little if any benefit compared to a typical “dumb” device. Do you really need a smart pillow or a smart fridge? No, you don’t.
Smart Fridges Go Obsolete Quickly
When you buy an appliance like a stove or a fridge, you usually expect it to last many years. They are significant investments and typically expensive, so you don’t want to replace them every two or three years. Smart fridges only add to that investment, and in some cases cost $800 more than their “dumb” equivalent.
You might be able to justify the extra cost if the refrigerator lasts as long, but manufacturers have a terrible track record when it comes to maintaining the software in a smart fridge. Because of that fact, your expensive refrigerator may not even last a decade. And the features they provide, like a touch screen interface or voice assistant, can typically be replicated by a tablet. You’d be better off buying a normal refrigerator and mounting a tablet to the door. At least then if the tablet becomes obsolete, you can throw it out and keep the fridge.
Your Toilet Doesn’t Need Bluetooth
Even at first glance, it’s hard to get behind the concept of a smart toilet. And the recommendation against buying one is a perfect example of too much complication and expense for not enough benefit.
Consider what smart some toilets offer: heated seats, night lights, remote controls, Bluetooth speakers, and adjustable water temperature. Some offer touch screens to set preferences; others boast better water usage.
But you could replicate some those features, like the Bluetooth speakers and night lights, and still use a standard toilet. You’d save money too; smart toilets can cost anywhere between $900 and $8000. And that often doesn’t include the cost of installation, which may call for an electrician if you don’t have convenient wiring for your toilet.
Smart Pillows Aren’t Even Pillows
Smart pillows are an odd offering. They promise to do everything from track your sleep, to measuring your heart rate, to even stop you from snoring. But they’re not inexpensive. A smart pillow will often run in the $200 range.
Paying for a good pillow that you can fall asleep on and wake up the next day without neck pain is worth an extra expense. But there’s a problem with smart pillows—they’re usually just an insert.
Since the devices are just inserts, you’re expected to provide your own pillow and insert the tracking device. So that means you need to spend $200 on a gadget and more money on a good pillow if you want a decent night’s sleep.
You may already own another device that makes similar sleep tracking promises be that an Apple Watch or a FitBit. Considering the money for your watch is already spent, you’d be better off using that to track your sleep and using the extra money left over to buy a nicer pillow so you can get better sleep.
Smart Water Bottles Are Completely Unnecessary
Smart water bottles exist on a basic premise. “You probably aren’t drinking enough water.” Some will even tout the old wisdom of drinking eight glasses a day. There’s a problem though—the eight glasses of water a day rule is complete nonsense. You don’t need to drink that much water.
Some smart water bottles try to change things up by making suggestions based on your weight, activity, and the like, but the truth is no conclusive studies exist that accurately portray what a person should drink per day, even based on weight or exercise.
Worse yet, your body gets water from other sources. From drinks like coffee and soda to foods like soup and fruit (or any food, really), you’re putting water in your body. And a smart water bottle can’t track any of that, so it can’t be a good method for monitoring your hydration level.
You do, however, already have a mechanism to help with that decision making progress: thirst. As long as you are regularly drinking, especially when exercising, you should be fine. And your body will tell you, through thirst, when you truly need to drink something now.
So paying extra for a bottle to tell you something your body already knows is entirely unnecessary. Especially when you consider that you can buy a standard 32 oz water bottle for less than $10, and yet spend over $50 on a 12 oz smart bottle.
Smart Robot Companions May Lose Their Personality
A few companies have tried to make smart robot companions for your home, and thus far they all have a few things in common. They tend to be cute, voice-activated, and eventually, the company folds, and the robot becomes a paperweight.
That last one is the problem. Right now, most (if not all) the smart robot companions that have made it to homes work much like Alexa or Google Assistant. The hardware in your house doesn’t have much intelligence. When you speak to it, it reaches to the cloud, which ultimately gives the robot its personality.
Unfortunately, as seen with Jibo and Vector, making robots profitably is very hard. The companies behind both announced shutdowns, and when they go, so do the clouds powering the robots. Jibo famously sang a final song as his personality died. And as for Vector, his character remains intact as of today, but Anki hasn’t been clear how long that will last.
In a statement, Anki said it contracted employees to maintain Vector and its cloud servers, but without a better source of revenue, it’s hard to imagine that will last forever. Worryingly, you can still find Vector for sale, although the listing is transparent about the shutdown.
A smart robot may seem like an excellent addition to the home, and we adored our Vector robot, but right now, the market is too unstable to recommend one for your smart home.
Finding the Good Smarthome Tech
Valuable smart home tech does exist. We love video doorbells, for instance. While they do cost significantly more than a standard doorbell, the additional features do justify the extra cost. Smart bulbs are a worthwhile investment since they add convenience, like voice controls, while staying in the range of inexpensive.
And for an excellent example of added features for minimal cost, take a look at smart air filters. For $5 more your filter will monitor itself, let you know when you should replace it, and even order a new one for you if you allow it.
When it comes to smarthome tech, you should take a look at a mixture of things. How much does the smart version cost versus the standard version? How long has the manufacturer been around, and how well does it support products? What conveniences and features do you gain? And what complications will you introduce?
No single answer to the above questions is always a deal-breaker or a good reason to buy. It’s how everything comes together that really separates the smart water bottle from the smart filters or the bad from the good.