The definition of the word "smart" as it applies to appliances is still finding itself. Breville considers its Smart Oven smart because adjusts the active heating elements based on which preset you use. Microwave ovens from various manufacturers have used sensors to measure temperature and humidity for years.
The definition also forks if you narrow down "smart" to meaning "connected." Dacor's high-end Discovery IQ oven and Samsung's RF4289HARS refrigerator both have large touch screens and Wi-Fi connectivity, but no companion mobile app.
Most smart appliances, though, do have an accompanying app. All of those apps are available on iOS, and, to varying degrees, Android (Samsung restricts its washer and dryer app to iOS and to Samsung's Galaxy mobile devices, not the rest of the Android universe). For those of you contemplating a new iPhone purchase, and interested in using it for some degree of appliance control, here are your choices from some major appliance manufacturers.
LG Smart ThinQ LFX31995ST
LG Smart ThinQ LFX31995ST refrigerator features an 8-inch Wi-Fi-enabled LCD screen. While LG has stocked this fridge with lots of neat organizational features, this touch screen and its connectivity give it another edge. You can connect to the refrigerator via the LG Smart ThinQ app, which works with the screen to help you manage your fridge inventory. The app will tell you the internal temperatures of both the refrigerator and freezer, as well as whether they're in energy-saving mode. The two also work together so you can make grocery lists and automatically update your inventory once you've checked an item off the list. In addition, you can search for recipes on the fridge based on what your fridge has in stock. Finally, in the event the fridge stops working or performing efficiently, you can also use LG's app to run a diagnostic and communicate that information to tech support.
Whirlpool WRL767SIAM Side-by-Side Refrigerator with 6th Sense Live
Whirlpool's 6th Sense Live-equipped WRL767SIAM refrigerator doesn't feature a touch screen, but it transmits information directly to the free app on either your smartphone or tablet. Whirlpool's app can let you know, via what Whirlpool calls Nudges and Alerts, if the refrigerator door is open or if there has been a power outage. It won't tweet and it won't play music, but the kind of sensible connectivity offered by the WRL767SIAM is welcome and feels like just enough. Whirlpool has also enabled this refrigerator to connect to the smart grid if it's available in your area, which will let you monitor energy usage through its app.
GE Profile PT9550SFSS Built-In Double Convection Wall Oven
The PT9550SFSS is a double wall oven set with convection that impressed us with its practical smarts. The game-changer here is GE's Brillion app, which turns your phone into a remote control for the oven. If you are connected to your home wireless network (and that is a requirement), you can set the temperature, mode, and time for both ovens independently and turn them on. This could be useful if you're occupied in another room and need to preheat the oven. GE isn't playing at transforming your lifestyle with this oven, but the app offers utilitarian features you might actually use.
LG Smart ThinQ LRE3027ST oven
The LG Smart ThinQ LRE3027ST is a range with smart-ish capabilities. I say this because even though appliance connects with your smartphone or tablet via the Smart ThinQ app, LG still has work to do in terms of design and overall accessibility. The app will allow you to search for recipes and then cue up the cook time and temperature accordingly, but you still have to manually press start on the oven itself. If you have to be in front of the oven to press the Start button anyway, how much more time would it take to input your time and temperature info? It feels a bit clumsy. But I do love that the LG app allows you to run diagnostics on the range to make sure that everything is running as it should be.
LG Smart ThinQ WT6001HV Washer/Smart ThinQ DLEX6001V Electric Dryer
LG's Smart ThinQ washing machine features a gorgeous touch screen and connects to LG's Smart ThinQ app via your smartphone or tablet. It doesn't have a smart-grid function like some other washer/dryer apps, but it's otherwise similar in that it lets you check your wash cycle status and run diagnostics.
Samsung WF457 Washer/DV457 Electric Dryer
Samsung's WF457 and DV457 are an elegant-looking washer/dryer pair, each featuring an 8-inch LCD touch screen as its control center. They both connect to Samsung's Smart Washer app, which allows you to check on the status of a wash cycle or start, stop, or pause a run, all from your smartphone. The app also includes a diagnostic component, which allows you to scan your washer to determine it is running well or, if not, how you might fix it. The app is also supposed to send notifications to the app to let you know when your wash is done, but we didn't find it that reliable. Between that dodgy connectivity and start presentation, Samsung's app needs polish in general.
Whirlpool WFL98HEBU Front Load Washer/WEL98HEBU Front Load Electric Dryer with 6th Sense Live
The Whirlpool washer and dryer each come with the manufacturer's 6th Sense Live technology, which lets them communicate with an app you can use to check the cycle status, and run diagnostics. The app will also send you notifications when your wash is done, and if you live in a smart-grid area, Whirlpool can also tap into that information to let you monitor your energy usage and run the machines at off-peak energy times.
Whirlpool WDL785SAAM Dishwasher with 6th Sense Live
Whirlpool's WDL785SAAM Dishwasher also comes loaded with the manufacturer's 6th Sense Live technology. The idea is that the 6th Sense Live app will send you notifications when the dish cycle is done and allow you to check on the status of the cycle at any point. Similarly to other apps, 6th Sense Live also lets you run diagnostic scans on the dishwasher, and offers smart-grid data, where available.