SAN DIEGO — Refrigerators with embedded LCD touchscreen displays have been around for well over a decade, predating today’s ubiquitous tablets.
The earliest models were largely showpieces, with high price tags and limited functionality. But with the advent of the smart appliance market, majap makers, notably LG Electronics and Samsung, have wedded the two products into a category that appears to be gaining some traction.
Earlier this month Samsung’s RF28HMELBSR hit both HomeDepot.com and Sears.com with an average online net price of $3,509. The 28.2-cubic-foot, four-door French-door fridge features an 8-inch Wi-Fi-enabled LCD tablet that allows users to browse and display recipes, stream music, check weather forecasts and display photos, among other wireless tasks.
In a report for TWICE market research partner Gap Intelligence, home appliance analyst Christine Boersing noted that the newly positioned smart refrigerator is an upgraded variation of its base model, the RF28MEDBSR, which offers identical core specifications without the integrated tablet. The smart refrigerator with integrated tablet comes at an approximate $300 premium.
Samsung’s connected home solutions have been an area of focus leading into 2014, Boersing said, with an emphasis on energy efficiency, connectivity and the ability to monitor the power grid to avoid peak-demand periods (when the service is available from utilities).
The company’s Smart Home initiative also aims to allow consumers to utilize their mobile devices to control appliances within the home. To that end, the RF28MELBSR will allow a consumer to connect to the Internet independent of an app and download software updates directly to the fridge. In addition, the integrated tablet controls and monitors temperature settings and filter and refrigerator status.
Boersing said consumer acceptance of integrated tablets has been slow, but she believes that Samsung’s Wi-Fi-enabled system, available at a reasonable premium, “may sway consumer focus towards the model as it pairs 2014 enhanced features along with the connected technological component.”
Top contender LG made its latest-generation smart refrigerator debut in late 2012 with its LFX31995ST French-door model, which also features an 8-inch integrated tablet, and Boersing anticipates that other manufacturers will continue developing connected solutions as “software, ease of use, and consumer attention continues to support the initiative.”
In the meantime, she concluded, Samsung and LG will continue to enjoy a home-field advantage when it comes to tablet-enhanced home appliances, as “both competitors maintain strong roots within the CE and tablet industry, making the connected appliance segments a likely and strong progression for them.”