Samsung is updating its touchscreen fridge with new apps and features that let you control your smart home from your kitchen—but existing owners might not find it easy to upgrade.
The Family Hub refrigerator, which puts food-related apps on a 21.5-inch touchscreen, grabbed headlines when it debuted at the CES tech show in 2016. Running Samsung’s proprietary Tizen operating system, it included food management and recipe apps.
Two years later, the Family Hub has undergone two major upgrades. The newest model—which has an MSRP of $4,999 and goes on sale later this month—runs on the latest Tizen 3.0 operating system and comes with 36 apps.
• Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant (previous fridges used a version of Samsung S Voice that used "Bixby" as a wake word)
• A “virtual circular” that searches for sales at nearby grocery stores
• A Meal Planner app that can suggest recipes and control Samsung’s smart ovens
• Virtual Amazon Dash buttons for one-touch reordering of commonly purchased items
• A trivia and word-of-the-day app
• The ability to control other smart devices from the fridge’s touchscreen or through Bixby
• Shared calendars that work with Outlook and Gmail
• The ability to recognize up to six household members by voice
• Bixby Vision to auto-identify fresh foods and alert you when they expire
Family Hub will now be available on 14 fridges, including three- and four-door models, and a high-end model will feature built-in speakers from Samsung subsidiary AKG.
Owners of second-gen Family Hub fridges, sold from mid-2017 to the present, will be able to perform a free, over-the-air update to access all the new features.
But those who spent upwards of $3,000 on the very first Family Hubs less than two years ago will have to wait. At an event in early December, Samsung spokesman told Reviewed that a solution for those customers is “TBD," and at CES we were told that an update for first-gen Family Hub fridges "is in development."
We spent an afternoon trying out an early-build version of the latest Family Hub and came away mostly impressed. We’ve always thought that moving from touch to voice control makes a lot of sense in the kitchen, where hands are frequently busy or dirty. Bixby also lets users bypass some of the labyrinthine menus that vexed us in our first review of the Family Hub.
There were a few flaws: Bixby isn’t as responsive as Alexa or Google Home, and manually adding items to the food inventory management software still requires a modicum of effort. (All but the most Type A home cooks will keep mental checklists of what’s in the fridge, or rely on one of the many third-party shared shopping list apps instead.)
However, our biggest concern is continued support. The average refrigerator is designed to last about 13 years, but Samsung’s latest upgrade isn’t immediately compatible with fridges that are less than two years old.
Even if an update is available in a month, we wish that Samsung had a plan for early adopters in place before the latest launch.
No company has a foolproof strategy for this—and until Samsung shows it’s committed to supporting its existing customers, we remain as cautious of the new Family Hub as we are of all smart appliances.
This story was updated on January 8 at 11:00AM EST to include a new quote from Samsung.