The future has arrived. Last week we accepted delivery of a Samsung RF4289HARS, Android-powered refrigerator replete with “built-in LCD screen, special apps, attractive design, large capacity and superior ice production and storage.”
Finally, our fridge will better manage its energy consumption, let us know when we’re running low on staples, assist in managing the grocery list, and for fun, allows us to stream photos from our phones to the kitchen in real time. Okay.. not exactly.
The RF4289HARS may be the best example I’ve seen of adding a product feature just because it’s possible. And I understand, being one of the first to market with a “smart-fridge” is important. But unfortunately, Samsung missed an opportunity to find out exactly what users want and bring true innovation to the market through a product that intuitively integrates with my day.
I can’t add to my grocery list from the fridge and have the list available on my phone for those unplanned trips to the grocery store. I can’t remove the default photo album which contains stock photos of various foods. The slideshow of my kids is intermingled with random pictures of salads, eggs and pies. Twitter for the fridge is a stretch in general unless the fridge is tweeting vital info to me, “the door has been open for 10 minutes, close it!” But with no web browser to click through links, most tweets are useless. The list goes on and on, apps that were familiar from our smartphones have been purposefully and destructively scaled down.
In reality, this would have a been a simple product to prototype, test, and iterate. Watching even a sophisticated user struggle to set up the photo album would have been eye opening. Does Samsung have the desire to innovate in this way or did they just need to check a box? “Shoehorn Android tablet device into latest fridge – check!” If they do have the desire, they may not have product development process agility enough to react and adjust to validated customer learning. What the newest breed of startups and enlightened established companies have learned is that user experience comes first and implementation details, i.e. the realities and possibilities of technology, follow.
Our new refrigerator has a great industrial design and my wife loves it (most importantly). But I’m not willing to go as far as to call it “smart” just because it has an onboard computer.