Hands-on test: Smarter iKettle 3.0
With the Smarter iKettle 3.0, at last you can simply say: “Put the kettle on, Alexa, I’m parched!”
The third generation of the iKettle boasts all the internet-connection functions of previous models but also IFTTT (If This, Then That) support, which means you can hook it up to voice controls such as Amazon Alexa. Out of the box, our first impression was that it’s awfully big. A regular kettle footprint, but rather tall. Attractive, in brushed stainless steel, with clean lines.
Our second impression was that it was awfully hard to set up. In fact, after downloading the app we drank three cups of tea – made with a regular kettle – just in the time it took to fail to connect it to Wi-Fi. Our very finest moment was when, in a fit of desperation, we hit the button on the base of the kettle in case it would help. The kettle (dry as a bone) immediately started to heat up. Oops.
The website wasn’t much help. Eventually, the app confessed that things weren’t working out on all sides and yielded a support phone number, at which point things looked up. A nice woman explained that we needed a different app for the third generation version: an app called Smarter 3.0, not iKettle. In time, this will come top of "iKettle" search results in the app store, just not right now. This could, and should, have been signposted better.
Uninstall, download, set up account, add device - things were getting easier. Not easy, but easier. After two attempts, we got the app and kettle talking to each other. You give the app your Wi-Fi details, then pair it with the kettle, not via Bluetooth but by putting your phone screen up against the underside of the kettle base and the phone screen flashing at a sensor. This seems overly complicated.
Second time around, though, it worked. The novelty of being able to sit in another room and check the water level or set it boiling is quite fun. You don’t even have to boil water; you can set the iKettle to heat to any desired temperature (with a maximum of 100°C, obviously) and optionally you can instruct it to keep warm for a certain amount of time.
There’s also a mode for boiling water and then setting it to cool, for making baby formula milk, and a wake-up function that can either automatically boil at your chosen time or wake you and ask if you’d like a cuppa in the morning. Dumb question: our answer would always be a resounding yes.
Next it was time to add Amazon Alexa voice control to work with our Echo speaker. This is not the zipper-less process to which you may be accustomed, where you search for an Alexa Skill from a menu. Instead, you must go into the Smarter app and set it to work with IFTTT, then register at ifttt.com and create your own applet. You simply set your Alexa trigger words (“put the kettle on” in our case, but they could equally be “boil kettle” or even “help, I need coffee”) and then the desired action (set the iKettle to heat to 100°C).
The whole process is sort-of logical, but it did take us more than an hour to set up the various accounts and apps to play nicely together. And even then “Alexa, put the kettle on” didn’t work. It turns out you must say, “Alexa, trigger, put the kettle on” to get it to call up IFTTT.
This felt a bit clunky so we changed it to “Alexa trigger kettle” to boil it. We then created another applet “Alexa trigger coffee” to command it to heat the water to a perfect 96°C. This was suddenly becoming fun.
You can set the desired temperature and whether or not you want formula mode. You can even trigger a limited number of IFTTT events in the other direction – for example, when the iKettle boils, it could send you an alert or even flash your smart home lighting or play a particular song - but options are limited. Frustratingly, it won’t alert you when there’s too little water or tell you the current temperature, but maybe these features could be added at a later date as the information is already available in the Smarter app.
The setup process was far harder than it should be. There should simply be an Alexa Skill or a shared IFTTT applet that you can add. Once the various bits and bobs were mastered, we finally had our voice-controlled kettle experience and it was childishly good fun.
Don’t judge the iKettle – and don't judge us – until you have experienced the simple fun of voice commanding your cuppa for yourself. It’s completely pointless, but it’s good pointless fun.
Sage Smart Kettle
No app or voice control but good old-fashioned buttons let you select temperature (from 80 to 100⁰C in 5⁰C increments) and there’s a 20-minute keep-warm function.
InSinkErator Steaming Hot Water Tap
Add this tap to your kitchen sink setup for instant water at 98⁰C, courtesy of a 2.5-litre tank, tucked out of sight below. Replaces your kettle, fills itself automatically, speeds up cuppas and cooking.
Belkin WeMo Switch
App and Alexa-controlled mains socket lets you power devices on and off. It’s not fancy, but you could at least plug in any old kettle and press the ‘Go’ button to prime it, then use this to remotely make it boil.
Similar features to the iKettle but available as an Alexa Skill, so adding voice control should be easier. It’s less sleek looking, but buttons on the base and windows in the sides let you see water level and control temperature manually as well as via app.