Smart washing machines explained
By Matt Stevens
Is it worth investing in a smart washing machine now? Or is the smart money on waiting till the prices fall?
Smart new wi-fi-enabled washing machines are starting to hit the shops, but what exactly are they, how do they work and how much will they cost you? We’ve taken the opportunity to review the technology and explain everything you need to know about doing the laundry via your smart phone.
What is a smart washing machine?
A smart washing machine app allows you to set your washing machine remotely using your phone – maybe when you’re on the train to work, doing the shopping or while you’re in the garden. In fact, you'll be able to set your washing machine from anywhere you can connect to the internet.
So, if you’ve ever gone to the trouble of dragging the laundry basket downstairs, separating your whites from your colours, and filling the machine with detergent, only to forget to switch it on, a smart washing machine could come in handy for you.
Check out our reviews of freestanding and built-in washing machines – including two smart washers – and more than 40 Best Buys.
How do they work?
Your smart washing machine connects to your household wi-fi in the same way that other devices, such as tablets and smart phones, do. You then connect to the washing machine using an app on your phone or tablet, following a (hopefully quick) registration process. Of the two smart machines we tested to date, we found that registration was quicker and easier with one than with the other.
What else can they do?
You can monitor the progress of your wash via the app, see how much time is left on the wash and find out whether your machine is washing, rinsing or spinning. Wash programs can be paused remotely and, perhaps most usefully, the apps receive maintenance information from the machine while it washes to identify any problems. Finally, the app will let you know when the wash program has finished and the machine is ready to be unloaded.
Do I have to use a smart phone to set a smart washing machine?
The good news is that if you don’t have a smart phone, you’ll still be able to use your smart washing machine by setting it manually. So, if your partner has the latest iPhone but you’re still playing ‘Snake’ on your old Nokia, you won’t be able to get out of doing the laundry.
Who makes smart washing machines?
Hoover and Samsung were the first two manufacturers to launch wi-fi-enabled smart washing machines in the UK. But more manufacturers are racing to launch their own products – we’ll soon be testing new smart washing machines from Bosch, Miele and Siemens at the Which? Test Lab.
Apps for smart washing machines can help to identify minor problems that you’ll be able to fix without the need to call out an engineer, such as a blocked filter. If there is a problem with the machine, the app will be able to tell you about this and provide options for how to resolve it. Both of the apps we’ve seen also come pre-loaded with general troubleshooting information. They also identify more significant problems that will need to be fixed by an engineer.
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Safety and smart washing machines
Smart washing machines shouldn’t start when set from a smart phone app if the door is open or if the machine isn’t connected to the water supply. When we tested the first two smart washing machines to hit the shops in the UK, we found that both wouldn’t allow us to run programs when they were in this state, which was good to see.
We’ll shortly be introducing a series of tests for the smart appliances we send to the Which? Test Lab and we’ll be running both of these safety tests when we do.
Less functionality via the app
With one of the smart washing machines we tested we found that some of the wash programs and additional options, such as adding an extra rinse or spin, were off-limits when setting it through our phones.
Reducing the options available might make the app very easy to use, but it also limits its usefulness. We think it would be better for owners of smart washing machines if all of the program and setting options were available through the app.
Keeping your app updated
The app that drives your washing machine when you get it home and fire it up might not be the one that you end up using it with over the coming months. New apps are developed quickly with updated versions being released regularly for the same machine, or for use across a series of domestic appliances products from the same manufacturer.
Once you’ve downloaded the app, registered and have linked it to your machine – a process which doubles as registering the warranty – you’ll be alerted when updates are available.
How much do smart washing machines cost?
As with all new technology, if you’re keen to be an early adopter, you’ll pay for the privilege. When the Samsung WW10H9600EW smart machine was launched it was nudging £2,000, but prices are falling and it’s now £1,349. The Hoover DWTL49AIW3 smart washing machine is more reasonable at £499.
With more manufacturers launching smart washing machines soon, we can see prices continuing to fall. But before getting your wallet out and paying the smart premium, read below to see what we thought of these first two models on the market.
Smart washing machine reviews
In late 2015, we tested the running software that was available for both machines. With smart appliances, the functionality available through an app can evolve over time and with the release of newer apps. But we hope this gives you an impression of how smart these machines (pictured, below) actually were when we tested them at the Which? Test Lab.
Hoover DWTL49AIW3 £499
We like the Hoover app a lot. All of the washing machine programs were available to be set via the app including adding options after the wash, such as an extra rinse. And we liked its troubleshooter, which clearly identified problems and how to fix them. Set-up and registration was a bit fiddly, but nothing major.
Read our full Hoover DWTL49AIW3 review to find out whether it’s worth paying the smart premium and, crucially, how well it will wash your clothes.
Samsung WW10H9600EW £1,349
We like the look and feel of this smart app. It’s laid out in the same way as the touch panel controls of the machine itself. But the app we used presented a stripped-down version of the program-setting options available if you were manually setting it, which reduced some of its usefulness as a smart machine
Read our full Samsung WW10H9600EW review to discover whether £1,000 for a washing machine you can set through your phone is a worthwhile investment and to find out how well it did in our wash tests at the Which? Test Lab.