Would you pay more for a kettle that boils to 80 and 90 degrees as well as 100 degrees? Appliances with lots of fancy features are making their way into our homes, but do we really need all the bells and whistles?
I don’t think I’d pay more for a kettle that boils to different temperatures. Boiling water has worked just fine for the 30,000 or so cups of tea and coffee I’ve brewed so far. So Heston Blumenthal’s new range of kitchen gadgets, which includes an automatic tea-maker and a smart kettle, are unlikely to make it to my kitchen. But am I in the minority?
Fine without the fancy features
I have pretty basic needs when it comes to appliances. They need to do their job well, whether it be washing my clothes or cooking my food. And they need to be reliable. But I’m not really interested in special programs or features.
But there are exceptions to this rule. For example, when I buy my next oven, I’ll definitely go for one with pyrolytic cleaning. I hate cleaning the oven, and paying a bit more for an oven that does it for me seems like a very good idea.
A recent episode of BBC Watchdog highlighted some of the more complex appliances out there, including a tumble dryer with a ‘cuddly toy’ setting, a microwave with a ‘chaos defrost’ function and an iron that offers ‘small steam particles for tough creases’.
Satisfied with extra settings
Making products with a raft of special features is nothing new for manufacturers, but many of those settings will languish unused. However, some of them are definitely useful. For example, Which? researcher Jess Carson told me:
‘The buttons on the new Heston Blumenthal range are actually really simple – the toaster buttons labelled ‘a quick look’ or ‘a bit more toasting’ strive for really plain, simple functions that add value.’
Products with the kind of features Jess mentions above are taking inspiration from the way we actually use our appliances, with positive results. My colleague Victoria Pearson owns a temperature-control kettle and loves it. She told me:
‘My husband loves a range of different Chinese teas, which all need different temperatures to steep. The more “fermented” your tea, the higher temperature you use. The black tea that you’ll find in a tea bag needs blasting to get flavour out of it, but green teas become bitter if overheated.’
Are you turned on by feature-heavy appliances, or can you live without them? Could the automatic tea-maker ever take the place of your kettle and teapot in your home?