New products for grooming, gardening, and cooking can make life around your home much more enjoyable. Not every gadget is perfect for every home, but new products can be a great way to introduce new technology to your lifestyle, making your life easier or giving you added benefits. We’re willing to pay the price for products that really improve our lives, but in some cases we fall for elaborate marketing schemes that convince us to pay more than we should for items that aren’t worth the money.
In some cases, that waste of money is because of personal habits. You spend $100 or more on a fitness tracker, but never wear it. You buy a juicer with big plans to slim down by drinking carrot and orange juice, but peeling the oranges is too much work and your new juicer starts gathering dust in the back of a cupboard. Whatever it is, evaluating any product to see if you’ll actually use it is important.
However, with the following products, it’s difficult to justify their price, no matter who you are or how much you’ll use it. In some cases, the functions are too simple to justify the price tag. In others, similar products deliver comparable results with a fraction of the cost. Take a look to see which new products are hitting the market that you might want to avoid.
1. Samsung’s $6,000 smart refrigerator
Smart home devices continue to flood the market, and large appliances aren’t getting left out of the surge. Samsung’s Family Hub Refrigerator is the latest iteration of smart refrigerators that boasts a 21.5-inch touchscreen and cameras on the inside to monitor your leftovers. It’s four-door sleek build is definitely eye-catching, CNET reviewer Ry Crist attests, but perhaps is too high a price to pay for an appliance, no matter how smart it is.
Keep in mind that CNET tested a pre-production version of the refrigerator, so Samsung might be fine-tuning some aspects before you’re able to install it in your own home. Even so, Crist reports that the touchscreen — advanced as it is — still can’t keep up with the current generation of tablets. It’s an interface for the fridge apps, not an iPad, and the difference in technology advances shows.
Features like syncing with Google Calendar and streaming music are great, Crist writes. But it doesn’t have the ability to sync with Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, as promised. Let’s also remember the price tag: The estimated retail for this is anywhere from $5,600 to $6,000. Crist points out that it’s unrealistic for pretty much everyone, but the idea here is to get people to actually want a smart fridge. It might not sell many, but perhaps the idea is to figure out which type of features people actually want in a smart home’s kitchen.
2. Fancy sunscreens
Concerns about skin cancer and other damaging effects from UVA and UVB rays have prompted many people to go out in search of proper sunscreen before they hit the beach, start yard work, or other outdoor activities when you’ll be exposed to sunshine. While this will no doubt make your doctor happy, your wallet might begin groaning after a stop for SPF products.
Sunscreen is notoriously expensive, but just because you’re paying more doesn’t mean you’re getting better sun protection. A recent study by Consumer Reports found that as many as 43% of suncreens on the market don’t meet the SPF protections they claim on the label. While “natural” sunscreens that use minerals might make you think you’re caring for your skin more, chemical sunscreens do a better job of protecting you overall. According to a follow-up by the New York Post, sunscreens like Pure Sun Defense Disney Frozen SPF 50 ($0.79/ounce) and Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 ($1.31/ounce) protect better than other versions like Banana Boat, which are often more expensive.
Focus on what’s in the product, not necessarily the brand or labeling, Consumer Reports recommends. “Choosing a chemical sunscreen with an SPF of 40 or higher will give you a better chance of getting at least an SPF 30, the minimum level many dermatologists recommend,” the publication advises.
3. Withings Smart Kid Scale
Take a look at any baby goods retailer and you’ll see how easy it is to drop several grand on the “essentials” every baby needs. While a reliable, quality car seat and stroller should definitely top your list, this glorified bathroom scale doesn’t need to make it on the baby registry, CNET reports.
This smart scale connects via Bluetooth to your phone, which means you can track the weight and eating patterns of your child over time. Gaining weight is a good indicator of a baby’s health early on, which is one reason parents make frequent trips to the pediatrician while a baby is growing. This smartly designed scale offers the ability to track that growth at home.
The scale does include a removable cradle so you can use the scale for infants and for small children. However, it maxes out at 55 pounds, meaning it’s only good for young children — you won’t be able to use it for adults. It could be useful for parents whose children have significant health concerns related to weight, but otherwise is “overpriced precision,” CNET writes. “When you can buy a reliable bathroom scale for $30, it’s hard to justify spending $180 on a scale for young children,” the publication concludes.
4. Kindle Oasis
E-readers make it easy to keep multiple novels at your fingertips, making it a breeze to take your favorite book collection to the beach, on a business trip, or even your living room without toting extra pounds along with you. But while Amazon’s line of Kindle products have largely taken over the market, the latest model (called the Oasis) is was Engadget calls “the perfect e-reader for the 1 percent.”
Essentially, the newest model does improve upon Kindles of past generations. It’s incredibly light, has the backlit display you’ve come to expect, is study, and comes with a case that doubles as an extra charger (its ultra-thin design compromised a bit of the battery life). In nuanced ways, it’s better than the Paperwhite and Voyage versions, which have creeped up in price from $100 and $200, respectively.
However, the Oasis clocks in at $290. Amazon is seemingly making its case for a line of luxury e-readers, but the issue is that it’s not all that different from a few generations before it. “Unfortunately, Amazon still hasn’t made a strong argument for why anyone actually needs a high-end reading device,” reports Engadget writer Devindra Hardawar.
For an object that has some improvements but nothing earth-shatteringly new, the Oasis isn’t worth the premium price tag — unless, like other luxury goods, you want to show people you can purchase the more expensive version. “With the Kindle Paperwhite, which also packs in a sharp screen and backlight, available for $100, there’s simply no reason for most people to even consider the Oasis,” Hardawar concludes.
5. LG 360 VR
Right now, it seems like you’re doing something wrong if you’re a tech company that’s not trying to great the greatest virtual reality experience out there. You’ve got to applaud the effort LG makes with its 360 VR model, but according to CNET the results just aren’t that awe-inspiring.
The 360 VR is comfortable to wear and is lightweight compared to many other VR models, CNET authors Nic Healy and Eric Franklin attest. Part of the lighter weight is because your phone, which is used to power the experiences, is not slid into the headset (as is the case with models like the Samsung Gear VR.)
However, the lighter design also allows for more light leakage into your headset. “The open design makes for a lot of light leakage, where light seeps in from the real world. While theand Gear VR work to block out the real world, I found it really easy to peek around the sides of the 360 VR,” the authors state. Though they admit this could be a deliberate design move to operate your phone at the same time, it detracted from the experience. Bottom line: it’s more comfortable than some models, but it’s much harder to have a true “VR” experience when you can still catch glimpses of the real world.
6. Alexa app for iPhone
Despite some concerns about privacy, Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa has taken the smart world by storm. The voice-powered aspects of the technology have helped the platform rise above many others in terms of voice recognition and offering actual assistance as well.
However, the aspects that help Alexa perform so well in a speaker don’t necessarily translate well to the world of smartphones. Alexa was born out of a failed Amazon Fire smartphone attempt, and it appears that its latest versions need some tweaks, too. Alexa is enabled on iPhones through the $5 Lexi app, but still operates too much like a speaker and not like a smartphone app, Consumer Reports‘ Mike Gikas writes.
“If you ask her [Lexi] how a particular stock is doing, she’ll tell you—and everyone within earshot—but you won’t see the easier-to-interpret numbers, tables, or graphs that any halfway decent stock-market app would show you. That’s a waste of an iPhone display” Gikas says in his review. It also can’t stream music from Amazon or Spotify, and struggles to pinpoint your location if you stray too far from the programmed ZIP code the app uses for weather and local news.
“Consumers would probably like a mobile app that combined all the capabilities of Alexa with the display, critical apps, and location-based data of its smartphone host. But the Lexi iPhone app falls far short of that mark,” Gikas concludes, ultimately deciding $5 is an insult to pay for an app that’s beaten by the in-house Siri.