Since the introduction of the App Store, we’ve covered a number of products that previously would have been hard to imagine pairing with Apple devices. The latest somewhat surprising addition to that list is a slow cooker — the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo ($130), a Wi-Fi-equipped collaboration between Belkin and Jarden, owner of the Crock-Pot brand. The six-quart device is very similar to traditional slow cookers, combining a removable stone basin, a glass lid, and a metal outer body. What sets its apart, and makes it something that falls within our purview, is the Crock-Pot’s Wi-Fi connection, which allows it to be controlled through the WeMo app for iPhone.
To anyone familiar with slow cookers, this model looks pretty much the same from the outside, and works the same way. The outer layer is a shiny silver basin, with plastic handles on either side that allow it to be carried without the risk of burning the carrier. A 27” power cord extends out from the back, and can be tucked in when not in use. The black stoneware basic and glass lid are both dishwasher-safe. We cooked a corned beef brisket over the course of about eight hours and found the cooker to work just as expected.
The front of the Crock-Pot is equipped with a very simple control panel: consisting of only one button, it allows the temperature to be toggled from off to high to low to warm. Your selected setting glows green, or in the case of warm, orange. Underneath is a Wi-Fi symbol, which indicates if you’re connected to a network. Like all WeMo products, setting the device up is relatively easy. With the app installed, you switch your Wi-Fi network to the listing for the Crock-Pot, and then the app takes care of the rest. Once it’s connected, the Wi-Fi symbol glows a steady green.
With WeMo, the Crock-Pot’s temperature can be toggled from anywhere. As long as there’s a data connection on your phone, it can adjust the setting. Much like the physical button on the cooker, you tap a button on the display until it’s at your desired level. Cook timers can also be set, and progress tracked. A cooking summary screen shows how long the Crock-Pot has been on, it’s temperature setting—not the actual internal temperature—and when the meal will be ready.
A quick search of Amazon shows the top-selling slow cooker to be a comparable six-quart Crock-Pot, with a list price of $60; it actually sells for $20 less. This unit is programmable, letting you set cook times directly on the cooker itself, but of course there’s no Wi-Fi connection. To add remote monitoring and control, there’s essentially a $70 premium added to the MSRP—that’s 116 percent of the price.
Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo is a solution in search of a problem, earning our C rating. While it does everything Belkin claims it’s supposed to, the actual functionality is of questionable value at best, and the price is simply crazy. The best use cases the company can come up with for remote control feature are adjusting the temperature “if you get held up at the office or stuck in traffic.” Is that worth the huge price difference? From where we stand, it’s not. There seem to be few times in which the remote control would be truly useful. We don’t fault Belkin for trying to incorporate another piece of technology into its ecosystem, but the company can’t expect to charge such high prices without adding truly valuable functionality.
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Compatibility: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touches (iOS 5.0+)