A decade ago if someone told you that your washing machine would be connected to the internet so you can control it via your phone you would probably laugh, but by gosh a lot's happened since then. And the Samsung WW9000 is here to show off what's possible.
In those 10 years we've had the rise of social networks, smartphones, tablets, and more importantly for your humble washing machine, the rise of something called the Internet of Things (IoT).
This flagship Samsung washing machine not only promises to get your clothes clean more efficiently than the competition, but allow you to set a wash using an app too. We've been living with the new Samsung WW9000 for over a month to see how it coped with a family of five.
This is the most space-aged washing machine you will have ever seen. Iconic in its design, we're sure designers will be talking about the minimalist approach here for years to come.
That's heavy praise, but well deserved. The design looks like something out of a futuristic Sci-Fi movie and that's more because of what Samsung hasn't included rather than what it has.
There are no control knobs, no array of buttons, no LED status display, no slide-out detergent draw. Instead you get a huge circular tinted glass door, which is clean, polished, and looks the business; a large touchscreen colour display above this that's the size of a Samsung Galaxy Note 4; and just two buttons to control power and pause/commence if all else fails.
Around the sides the utilitarian design continues with scalloped wave patterns to reduce noise and vibration - they work, as it's incredibly quiet - while around the back is a single cold water pipe (as this washing machine heats its own water). It was an easy install.
The only break from the smooth lines is an emergency hatch at the base of the front that allows you to empty the machine if needed, and access the debris filter.
Opening the incredibly wide door, which can be opened flat on itself to let you really get big items in and out, reveals two things. Firstly the large 10kg-load-capable drum is complete with a light so you can see inside, secondly the detergent and softener auto-dispenser pops up from the door's moulding.
Buried within the door, this easy-to-load reservoir holds around 18-20 washes worth of detergent and softener, which is around two weeks of washing for a family of five in our case. The idea is that rather than having to guess how much detergent or softener to put in, or in our previous case a nominal glug here or a pour there, the machine determines how much to use based on a number of factors like water used, programme selected, and even the level of dirt within the load. As you can imagine this not only makes it much easier to chuck a load on, but also cleaner and more efficient.
Having lived with an auto-dispensing system for a month now it's hard to imagine going back to using a washing machine without it. Think of it like your car and a tank of petrol: imagine having to fill up your car with the exact amount of petrol you think you need for a specific journey. It sounds crazy that way doesn't it? You'll always err on caution and overfill, a bit like lumping a whole tab/cap into the washing machine when that's to excess. The WW9000 makes detergent usage more efficient so you'll save money over time.
Washing via touchscreen
There might not be any dials on the WW9000 but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of options to choose from. In total there are 24 different washing cycles available, ranging from Cotton, Outdoor Care, Wool, Delicates, and plenty more.
Once you've found a couple of cycles you like you can use the touchscreen to select your favourites to save you swiping to find them each time. The WW9000 also helps you by marking the most used so you can just press an on-screen button and be done with it.
If that wasn't enough Samsung also offers a range of specialty cycles. Those include things like Gardening which concentrates on removing grass and mud/dirt stains or Active Kids which Samsung describes as "most children's clothing", before detailing that it will concentrate on things like food, fruit juice, drinks, mud, soil, ink and crayon stains. Although there seems to be a setting for virtually everything, there is no dedicated "Towel" setting. Strange - we would have thought that would have been a one of the most requested ones.
There is also a complete manual option that levels you control all aspects of the wash cycle, so if you want to take things into your own hands you can start playing with individual settings within the washes like spin cycles, temperature, and rinse options too. The best way to think about this is like a DSLR camera: you can either go for the pre-determined scene modes or go full manual, with the later offering you more control and power for specific needs.
Auto Optimal Wash
The touchscreen approach makes mincemeat of the dizzying array of options available without at any point making it look complicated or over the top. But when you stop to think about the amount of choice you have, you could get overwhelmed. We've yet to use the Hygiene Care setting for example, which is said to be good for getting rid of skin oils and blood stains.
By far the easiest option to use is Auto Optimal Wash which adjusts the detergent amount and the course cycles according to the laundry weight and contamination level. The WW9000 has four sensors that it uses to analyse the load: a weight sensor, dirt sensor, water sensor and detergent sensor. Combined these adjust the amount of water and detergent appropriate for the weight of the load.
It's clever stuff, and saves you from having to set the machine going for cycles longer than you need because you haven't completely filled the drum. In some cases we've noticed that this can reduce the wash time by over an hour. That's a huge saving of time and energy. The WW9000 does achieve the top-tier A+++ rating in the Energy Efficiency Rating chart too.
Other eco-friendly features include the company's Ecobubble tech which mixes detergent and water before they hit the clothes to better penetrate the materials and, therefore, require lower washing temperatures.
Going online and washing via an app
One of the key selling points of the WW9000 is that it's connected to the internet to allow you to monitor and control the washing machine when you aren't standing right next to it. Connecting the machine to your local network is the easy part, however the rest is somewhat complicated and frustrating, especially given the cost you are paying for the machine.
Like most gadgets these days, the WW9000 comes with an app available for both Android and iOS that gives you some functionality. But the iOS experience is a shambles. The setup is complicated, you have to make sure you get the right app (Smart Home not Smart Washer) and even then we were plagued by error messages that made no sense ("this device is not supported at this time"), constant requests for passwords (as much as we wouldn't want control of our washing machine falling into the wrong hands), and a general lack of help apart from notifications to tell us the cycle had finished.
The Android Samsung Smart Home app is far better, but still clumsy. First you have to download the app, then update the app within the app (if you choose the Samsung Store at this point you get an error because it doesn't exist in that store), then jump through a couple of hoops to get everything connected.
Once within the app you can set the load going, as long as you've remembered to enable the Smart Control feature physically on the washing machine. If you have, you can and then monitor your washing from the app. For those really watching the time you get constant feedback of how far into the cycle you are, and how long you've got left so you know when you can leap off the sofa to hang your washing out or transfer it to the dryer. It could also be useful to know if there's time to put a wash on before heading out for lunch or whatever it is you do with your daily time.
Considering how good the WW9000 is at washing clothes, we've felt let down by the internet connectivity experience - aside from using the networked connection to update the software. While we can understand Samsung's reluctance to support iOS (and there's no Windows Phone support), we would have preferred it to be absent from that platform rather than a hobbled experience. We are surprised there isn't an Android tablet version of the dedicated app either, just the general Smart Home app which can be used to control additional appliances and lighting, as applicable to your install.
Clothes feel softer and cleaner
Regardless of app control, the WW9000 is first and foremost a washing machine designed to clean your clothes. In that respect it's brilliant at getting the job done.
We don't benchmark here at Pocket-lint and we aren't about to start with specific dirt samples, but anecdotally we've noticed that the clothes we've been washing over the last month feel softer and are cleaner - they don't have detergent marks or stains. We suspect that has a lot to do with the auto-dispenser feature.
The Samsung WW9000 is an outstanding washing machine. But the big elephant in the room is the price, which at an eye-watering £1700 in the UK makes it among the most expensive washers on the market.
For that significant sum you get a huge drum, very quiet performance, that touchscreen display, auto-dispensing efficiency, app control, and a space-age design that will look cool in any kitchen - overly cool in some cases.
Even so, trying to justify the spend will be hard in most cases even if all the above will have you gagging to show your friends and family as soon as they step into your home.
But for all its good as a washer, the most frustrating thing is the lack of precision and expertise on the app front. It's one of the main "cool" features and for it to be anything but flawless will annoy the kind of customer that will want to buy this machine. The good news for Samsung, and for current or future WW9000 customers, is that the app integration can be solved with future updates, while new programmes, features and connectivity support can theoretically be added via that internet connection too.
It's a shame though that the app experience is currently poor, because in every other area the WW9000 is a stunning washing machine that really shines.