Samsung is releasing a new update for its Family Hub refrigerators that brings Samsung TV Plus — the tech giant’s free, ad-supported live TV service — to its fridges with a tablet built-in.
At its second annual Bespoke Home event on Tuesday, the company said the update (which was first announced last year) will arrive this July on Family Hub 2.0 models (2017 and later). The live TV option is only available in the U.S. and Korea.
Currently, users of Samsung’s smart fridge can watch television on the fridge’s built-in touchscreen by mirroring a Samsung TV to the fridge or content from a Samsung smartphone. But without one of those devices, your fridge just had to be boring.
I have attempted to watch TV on a Family Hub and it’s not a great experience — it can only use a small horizontal area in the middle of the fridge’s vertical 21.5-inch screen. A Google Nest Hub Max or Echo Show 10 makes a better kitchen TV, but those take up counter space. Samsung’s fridge does also double as a smart speaker, with Amazon’s Alexa and Samsung’s Bixby voice assistants co-habiting in the device, a rare coupling.
An overview of the new features coming to the Family Hub in July. Video: Samsung
I’ve also attempted to watch Samsung TV Plus on a Samsung TV and while there are over 200 channels of free, ad-supported live TV as well as on-demand content, it’s a wholly random assortment of stuff. Yes, there’s CBS News and CNN Replay, plus lots of food channels and kids’ channels, but there is also a channel that just plays Baywatch 24/7, and another one for Antiques Roadshow.
Another feature Samsung is porting from its TVs to its smart fridge is an art mode. Family Hub fridges will get access to an app called Art Gallery that turns the device’s screen into a piece of art. It looks very nice on the Bespoke line of Samsung Family Hubs, also announced late last year. These come in a variety of colors and have a bezel-less design for the screen so the art blends into the fridge door. Plus, you can choose your own custom style.
As on The Frame, Samsung’s popular TV that masquerades as a piece of art when not in use, the art mode on the fridge camouflages that bright, attention-grabbing screen when it’s not in use. The Art Gallery service will be free at launch and won’t require a subscription.
Samsung also upgraded the internal camera technology of the fridge that can scan food labels to allow for better food and drink identification and management. When you put things in, the cameras scan them and then suggest recipes on the touchscreen, based on the ingredients it sees. The update brings enhanced camera coverage as well as an improved food recognition algorithm and food catalog to identify more items.
The Family Hub fridge doubles as a home control center for SmartThings, Samsung’s smart home platform. And while Samsung has said that it will enable Matter as a Controller on all its smart appliances, including the Family Hub fridge, there was no mention of that in this update. Matter, the new smart home connectivity standard Samsung helped develop with Apple, Google, Amazon, and others, is set for release this fall.
Samsung did announce that its SmartThings Home Life suite will launch in 97 countries later this month. The service is already live in the U.S. and Korea but is now going global.
Home Life is part of the SmartThings app and provides centralized and integrated control over your Samsung appliances helping you connect them together through six SmartThings services: SmartThings Cooking, Energy, Clothing Care, Pet Care, Air Care, and Home Care. You can read more about these features in my interview with the head of SmartThings US.
Update June 8, 2:15 PM: Added which Family Hub models will receive the July software update (2017 and newer), the name of the art mode app (Art Gallery), and more details on the improvement of the fridge’s food recognition capabilities.