We've seen a number of unsuccessful smart refrigerators from manufacturers likeand over the years. And now Bud Light is trying its hand at connected cooling with a new app-enabled beer fridge that has Wi-Fi built right in. Dubbed the "Bud-E" (and slathered on all sides in Bud Light-blue branding), the new smart mini-fridge will be available online at Bud Light's website for $600. But first there'll be an initial test run in California where the price will be discounted by half, to $300.
The fridge underneath that coat of bright blue paint is the Linq IQ, developed by Buzz Products, a design firm with offices in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The Linq IQ is licensed exclusively to Anheuser Busch, so for now it'll only come in the Bud Light-themed design. Or, if you're in Canada, you can get it in a red Budweiser finish.
So what can an app-enabled beer cooler do for you? For starters, the Bud-E will track how much beer you're storing inside of it, thanks to magnetic rollers that slide back as you add your bottles and cans in front of them. By tracking the position of those sliders, the fridge can approximate how much beer you've got in it, then list the number of brews on the front LED display.
You'll also find that number in the Bud-E app for Android and iOS devices. The app pairs the fridge with your phone using your home's Wi-Fi network. Aside from adjusting the temperature and keeping tabs on the beer count, you can tell the fridge roughly how warm your beer is when you put it in. Doing so triggers a "Cold Countdown" that'll let you know when your beers are ready to drink. You'll see the countdown in the app and on the door display.
Other, less practical features are probably closer to the kind of novelty factor you'd expect from a Bud Light smart fridge. For instance, it can follow your favorite NFL and NHL teams and then send you reminders to pick up beer for game day. During the games, Bud Light claims the fridge will follow along and celebrate scores by playing your team's fight song, but this feature didn't seem to be up and running yet when I tested the Bud-E out at the office.
You can also enter a message into the app and set it to scroll across the display on the front of the fridge. This worked well when I tested it out, though the message disappeared after scrolling twice. An option to set your message to scroll indefinitely would have been a nice addition. On the upside, you also have the option to record a quick audio message on your phone and broadcast it through the fridge's speakers.
Even at the discounted price of $300, you'll still be paying a premium to add this fridge to your garage or rec room. The current top-selling beer fridge on Amazon is a 120-can Danby unit that can be had for $200. By comparison, the Bud-E holds 78 cans. That puts the pressure on the fridge's connected features to justify the price -- the same tough sell we've seen with every other smart refrigerator to date.
And, of course, there's the fact that this is a bright blue, Bud Light-branded fridge we're talking about, complete with the "UpForWhatever" hashtag on the bottom of its face. Change the display from the temperature to the number of drinks contained inside, and it'll list them as "Buds," regardless of what type of beer or beverage you're storing inside. All of that is well and good if you're a devoted Bud Light loyalist, but something tells me that's a fairly narrow niche among beer enthusiasts.
Still, some of those smarts are at least a little bit interesting -- particularly the magnetic, beer-tallying sensors and app-enabled cool-down timer. The smart refrigerators we've tested so far have struggled to find the practical appeal of a connected fridge, and manufacturers seem to have retreated back to the drawing board for the time being. Even if the Bud-E comes in and out of retail existence in short order, its features could offer a glimpse at the ways more mainstream smart fridges might soon try and win us over.