'Smart' Things We Like Better When They're Dumb

Close-up Of An Oven With Voice Recognition Function


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Close-up Of An Oven With Voice Recognition Function

Let's Not Overthink This

There are plenty of smart devices in the marketplates that are useful. Smart thermostats can bring big utility-bill savings, and who doesn’t love a good smart TV that makes it easy to binge watch the latest Netflix sensation? But lately, it seems like some tech wizards have gotten carried away trying to hook up everything we own to the internet, including some we much prefer in their simplest forms.

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Sunglass on white background


“Gee, I wish my glasses would provide yet another way for me to waste time on social media,” said no one ever. And yet, you can buy $300-plus Ray-Ban Stories, manufactured in partnership with Facebook, which have integrated cameras, speakers, and touch controls that make “staying connected” to Mark Zuckerberg’s data-collecting empire that much creepier. We’ll stick to our $10 Target sunglasses $5 drug-store reading glasses, thank you.

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Water Bottles

Look, no one drinks eight glasses of water a day. But there are smart water bottles to remind you — nay, harass you — into quenching your thirst, over and over. The HidrateSpark even send notes to your smartphone and light up your bottle like a Christmas tree when it thinks you need a drink. Of course, you need to remember to charge it first.

Withings Body


If connecting a scale to the internet is supposed to make weighing ourselves more of a pleasure, we missed that memo. The Withings Body, for instance, immediately syncs up with more than 100 health and fitness apps, making it impossible to pretend we didn’t inhale an entire package of Oreos over the weekend.

BSIMB 10.1 Inch Digital Picture Frame

Picture Frames

We won’t deny the appeal of a smart frame that can let users scroll through thousands of photos, but hear us out: There’s something satisfying about committing to one image — the one that tells a particular story the best, and is special enough to make it out of the digital world — and displaying it for posterity. And it’s also nice not to worry about plugging in a picture frame.

Crock-Pot Slow Cooker

Slow Cookers

There’s a reason we still love our slow cookers, even in the age of multifunctional Instant Pots and other gizmos: They’re the very definition of set-it-and-forget-it simplicity. Still, there is a $143 Alexa-enabled Crock-Pot that requires you to set temperature settings and adjust cook times with your phone or smart speaker. “Are we really living in a world where we can’t turn on a Crock-Pot with a button, but we have to use our phones?” says one bewildered reviewer. “That’s just crazy.”

pile of diapers


Lumi by Pampers diapers have a spot for a sensor that not only tells you how well your little angel is snoozing, but send an alert to your smartphone when he or she is feeling, well, a little less than fresh. Of course, anyone who’s ever had a baby is aware that dirty diapers are rarely a mysterious affair that need any sort of electronic assistance. We’ll pass. 

close up view of smart toilet seating with washing, cleaning, drying functions and ability to use it for child and women


With all due respect to Kohler, which makes the Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet, the last place we want to talk to Alexa is while we’re on the toilet. And yet, our Amazon overlord is ready to assist us with everything, from warming the seat to setting the exact level of soothing ambient lighting that can help you, er, take care of business. When first unveiled, it retailed for $7,000, but it's unclear whether Kohler is still selling the Numi. Kohler does offer a couple of other less intelligent toilets, but, alas, they aren't Alexa enabled.

The texture of the teddy bear that is stacked together

Stuffed Animals

Who thought taking the most traditional of toys and hooking it up to the internet was a good idea? One night, your granddaughter is using her teddy to sweetly tell a far-away family member goodnight; the next, she’s an unwitting pawn in a hacker’s plot to destabilize the U.S. government. (We’re not completely off base here: Just read about the downfall of CloudPets and you’ll see why.) 

High sided cat litter tray, bentonite absorbent and scoop on floor background. Sorbent from clay lumps in plastic
Svetlana Sultanaeva/istockphoto

Litter Boxes

We won’t argue that scooping the litter box is the least appealing part of cat ownership, but here’s what we don’t want: Smartphone notifications about Mr. Tinkles’ daily bathroom habits. But that’s exactly what you get with the $599 Litter-Robot 3 Connect, which will also ping your smartphone when the waste drawer is full (yep). Last time we checked, our nose lets us know that for free.

Smart refrigerator isolated on white background


Back in the good ol’ days, appliances were relatively simple — and they lasted. Today, most experts say you’re lucky to get a decade from most of them, so we’re not sure why anyone would want to complicate matters by connecting a fridge to Wi-Fi. Sure, fancy-schmancy Samsungs and LGs may have cameras so we can use our smartphones to peer inside remotely to check how much milk we have, but making a list before leaving the house works pretty well, too.

Electric toothbrush, dental and oral care concept


We’re not the only ones who roll our eyes over smart toothbrushes, which promise to give you way more information on your oral-hygiene habits than even your dentist cares to know. Smart toothbrushes “don’t offer enough features for the added cost for us to recommend them for most people,” Wirecutter says. Smart toothbrush features vary, but primarily they automatically track your brushing habits, something, Wirecutter notes, that can be done with an app and can be used with regular power or manual brushes.

time concept

Wall Clocks

Don’t get us wrong: We see the appeal of a smart alarm clock, with timers, tunes, and night lights we can control with our phone. But we’re perplexed by Amazon’s Echo Wall Clock, which syncs with Alexa. It lets you visualize timers, but you still need an Echo device to set them, so that hardly seems like much of a bonus. And then there are reviews like this one: “It runs either a few minutes fast, or slow, depending on the day. So it doesn't even do ‘clock’ in a useful way. Overall, it's shocking that this made it to market.” 

Yellow chicken egg in the tray

Egg Trays

We’re not making this one up: A smart egg tray exists, and here’s proof. The Quirky Egg Minder connects to your phone and tells you how many eggs you still have and whether they’re fresh. Granted, this strange little gizmo is only $10, but the reviews aren’t exactly stellar. We think we’ll stick with the free carton, which comes with a convenient expiration date printed right on it.