Take a traditional slow cooker, give it home automation capabilities, and you end up with the $130 Crock-Pot WeMo Smart Slow Cooker, coming to retail this August, and the result of an surprising collaboration between Crock-Pot's parent company, Jarden Consumer Solutions, and Belkin's WeMo line of home-automation products. While I've reviewed slow cookers and Belkin WeMo products before, a mash-up of the two is completely foreign. This is the first-ever slow cooker to qualify as a smart home appliance, after all.
I found that, as a slow cooker, this WeMo-enabled Crock-Pot performed admirably, and arguably better than a non-connected $60 Crock-Pot counterpart we reviewed a few months ago. And though the connected features delivered as promised, letting me adjust the cook temperature and timer settings from virtually anywhere via my smartphone, it's hard to argue that they're worth an additional $70, even considering the this slow cooker's strong cooking performance.
Whether slow cooking needs this kind of technological updating is up for debate. I expect there are many people out there who will roll their eyes at this product. If you use a slow cooker often, and you also like the idea of micromanaging the cook and timer settings from anywhere, this connected Crock-Pot will have obvious appeal. For the majority, this will seem like an overpriced appliance that adds unwelcome responsibility to a style of cooking normally prized for its hands-off nature.
Setup and overall design
This six-quart stainless steel Crock-Pot looks similar to the $60 Crock-Pot Cook & Carry Digital Slow Cooker we reviewed earlier this year, although with a higher-end sheen. Clear effort was made to streamline this appliance and give it an updated look. I think Belkin and Jarden were successful -- insofar as anyone would be able to make a slow cooker look modern.
Jarden replaced the dated, touchpad-style buttons with a single button to alternate between high, low, warm, cooking modes and the off setting. A small WeMo logo and an LED Wi-Fi signal indicator are the only nods to the connected tech on the cooking hardware itself. You'll notice them if you look closely at the CrockPot, but they're not so obvious that they give off an overly high-tech aesthetic. A see-through lid with two vents, side handles, and a black stoneware cooking insert round out the design.
The WeMo integration is the most interesting aspect of this slow cooker. It allows you to check the status of your meal and make changes to its settings while you're away from home. No, it isn't really adding more features, it's just changing how and when you can use them.
When you go to work and run errands, you have more control. If you set a pot roast to cook on low for six hours, the Crock-Pot will auto-default to warm mode after that time has elapsed. But if you have a meeting that runs long or if you end up stuck in a traffic jam, you can extend the timer for the warm mode via the app to make sure it doesn't turn off and get cold before you do get home.
This Crock-Pot talks to your phone via Wi-Fi, although Belkin's cloud-based technology lets you send signals to it remotely via cellular network, too. I wouldn't recommend this slow cooker to anyone with consistently patchy home Wi-Fi, though. Instead of seamless app integration, you'll get error messages during Internet outages and notifications saying your food may be "unsafe for consumption."
It supports Android and iOS devices (Android 4.0 or higher and iOS 6 or higher), both of which have a free WeMo app to control the Crock-Pot. In addition to adjusting temperature and heat settings, you can set and modify timers and receive alerts when the timer is done. I've tested the app's functionality and found it to be very simple to set up and use.
I connected my phone to the Crock-Pot in about five minutes, and I was able to make adjustments to the slow cooker's settings using an iPhone 5 and a Nexus 7 tablet on Wi-Fi, 4G, and 3G. And, unlike D-Link's smart app, the WeMo app stores your connected Crock-Pot's setup information and won't make you go through the whole process again after that initial install, unless you want to connect it to a new home Wi-Fi network.
Unlike Belkin's other WeMo products, this slow cooker isn't compatible with IFTTT (short for "if this, then that"), the wide-ranging app that lets you associate devices and various internet services together to execute automated actions. You might set up an action in the IFTTT app to make your lights blink when the slow cooker's timer goes off.
Belkin says on its Web site that it's considering adding IFTTT support to the WeMo CrockPot. The smart home early adopters will miss IFTTT, but I expect anyone new to home automation would either ignore it, or find it an adds too much complexity.