The $130 Crock-Pot WeMo Smart Slow Cooker was unveiled at CES earlier this year, and will be available in US stores soon. (UK and Australian pricing has not been announced, but $130 converts to around £80 and AU$140.) I got to spend some time with one this week and thought I'd share some early impressions ahead of the full review.
Belkin and Jarden Home Brands' app-controlled slow cooker struck me as an unlikely smart home contender at first. Slow cookers are about as low maintenance as possible, so how much value could WeMo integration add to something already so straightforward?
That depends on how much hands-on time you want with your slow cooker. This model takes what looks like a standard Crock-Pot-brand slow cooker, simplifies the physical layout, adds a subtle WeMo logo, and makes everything controllable on your Android or iOS device via the free WeMo app (the same one you use for your other WeMo devices). I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is the design that will finally make slow cookers seem sexy, but ditching those dated touch-pad buttons for something less cluttered is a clear improvement.
Still, it definitely looks like a slow cooker. It has a stainless steel exterior, a 6-quart black ceramic stoneware interior, side handles, and a see-through lid. And instead of more features, the display has gone minimalist -- a single button switches between off, high, low, and warm (with labels, so you know what mode you've selected if you do decide to press the button manually). It definitely looks and feels more high-end than the $60 Crock-Pot Cook & Carry Slow Cooker, but it also adds remote access via the WeMo app.
WeMo integration allows you to check the status of and make changes to your slow cooker on-the-go. No, it isn't really adding more features, it's just changing how and when you can use them. That way, when you go to work and run errands, you have more control. If your meeting goes long or if you end up stuck in a traffic jam, you can switch that pot roast that has been cooking on low for 8 hours to warm so it isn't overdone when you finally get home.
It works over cellular and Wi-Fi channels, and on Android and iOS devices. In addition to adjusting temperature/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. It was connected in about 5 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 and 4G.
Unlike Belkin's other WeMo products, this slow cooker isn't compatible with IFTTT. That could be a deliberate decision or a forthcoming addition, but this is one time that a lack of IFTTT may not be a bad thing. "If WeMo Smart Slow Cooker turns on, then post a tweet." Not so necessary.
While Belkin and Jarden Home Brands have ushered in an intriguing new era for the slow cooker industry, I'm not sure I'm sold. My $40 model has the same options, they just aren't available to me when I'm not home -- and I'm not totally convinced that I want to be able to check in on my slow cooker throughout the day. I'll be testing the $130 Crock-Pot WeMo Smart Slow Cooker soon to find out if remote access really does improve peace of mind and equal better food.