In 2012, we wrote a story that showed just how easy it was to turn a fridge into an Internet fridge if you had an iPad 2. Three years later, the iPad 2 is nowhere to be found, so how can you make an internet fridge?
Why an internet fridge
These days, the internet fridge is one of those things people talk about with a sort of comedic fondness. It’s one of those products that never really took off, and yet had the potential to, partly because it was an underdeveloped idea that loosely consisted of a screen paired to a fridge.
In a way, it’s a little like Comic Sans, a font that is ridiculed these days, though we suspect (and hope) the internet fridge is a little more useful, and a little more respected.
For instance, you could use the internet fridge to control your music or look up recipes with an interactive recipe book.
You could also use a tablet to order food from a supermarket, and given that both of the major Australian supermarket chains offer online ordering (and have for quite some time), this is easily possible. At one point in time, TCL was even developing a play on this idea, with a translucent tablet built into a concept fridge that you could keep an eye on food with and order more replacement ingredients.
Running out of soft drink? Order some more. Need more veggies? Do it from here, too.
You could even set the tablet up to control some home automation, if need be, because if you’re using WiFi lightbulbs, motion triggers, or cameras around your home, why not trigger them from the place you pull out your breakfast or change settings while you’re fetching a morning cuppa.
Generally, though, the internet fridge has been about controlling music and light web surfing when you’re in the kitchen, and while you might look at this as a sort of a “why bother” moment — we all have phones, after all — there are logical realisations.
Not everyone in your home has a phone or tablet that they want to use freely in the kitchen, and that they wouldn’t mind getting a little messed up with greasy fingers. An internet fridge, however, is a sort of “everyone can use me” device, allowing information to be seen and shared easily, so you don’t have to mess up that device you spared half your day on.
Another realisation actually comes from IKEA, which has said earlier in the year that the kitchen was likely to be the new central room of the home, as people shifted their focus from the TV in the living room to life in the kitchen.
“Over the next few years there will be a rise in what we call ‘social furniture’, which will be things like multifunctional kitchen islands that allow for food prep, socialising, working, watching TV or spending time with the family,” said Richard Wilson, Sustainability Manager at IKEA Australia.
When you look at how smartphones and tablets are changing the world now, and changing how we view entertainment, it seems as though we’re pulling away from the TV in the living room. While many of us still have one, and are still buying bigger models, we’re less dependent on sitting in front of this box as we once were, now that more mobile devices serve these purposes.
It won’t necessarily be the kitchen that takes up the place of the living room, either, but rather a combined effort between the kitchen and the dining room, because where the food is prepared and subsequently served will likely be the new centre of the home, as that’s where everyone will be to talk, dine, and even deal with a bit of entertainment.
Before that happens, however, you can turn your fridge or even a wall near the fridge into a piece of the future, provided you have a spare smartphone or tablet that you’re not doing anything with, or even one purchased for the occasion.
Once you have that, you’re nearly ready to go, so how do you go about building an internet fridge?
How to make an internet fridge
The iPad was only in its second generation and Android tablets were only just getting ramped up, and so your easy way of making an internet fridge wasn’t cheap, and was pretty much limited to mounting one device to your fridge.
When we wrote that article in 2012, the tablet you wanted to use was the iPad 2, and the accessory in question you would be using to make it happen was the Belkin Wall Mount, a two part solution consisting of a magnetic plate to latch onto the edge of the iPad 2 and a backing plate to hook onto this section and the fridge by way of 3M Command strips.
It was easy to use an a fantastic way of making that fridge into an internet appliance in a jiffy, or even a wall if you wanted to use that instead.
In the three years since then, however, much about the tablet world has changed.
For instance, the Apple iPad — easily the most popular tablet out there — no longer relies heavily on the magnetic edge. Up until the iPad Air design rocked up, Apple used the magnetic edges for covers, which Belkin used as a way of holding the iPad in on the Wall Mount.
On the current Air, Air 2, and iPad Mini models, the design has changed, and while a magnet is still found in the model, it’s mostly there to switch the screen on and off when a cover is open or closed.
As such, the magnet won’t hold the tablet up if Belkin were to use the magnetic mount on its wall mount options.
Not that it would if it could, because Belkin has stopped selling the model in question, telling GadgetGuy earlier in the year that “this is now an obsolete product, and while some may still be in market, we currently don’t have any plans to refresh this item”.
So you can’t buy the accessory for your fridge that supports a tablet you can’t buy anymore.
What do you do?
Depending on what device you want to attach to your fridge, you’ll find roughly three solutions, and they’re all pretty much bang on the same.
First is one produced by LifeProof, makers of ruggedised cases and sporting accessories for smartphones and tablets, with the company’s QuickMount.
This is essentially a little flat square adaptor you can mount to the back of any device, though typically it should be mounted to a casing if you have one. LifeProof’s QuickMount can be paired with various accessories such as an armband, a belt clip, or even a suction mount for your car.
Or, alternatively, a wall or fridge with the multi-purpose mount.
The multi-purpose mount is exactly what it sounds like, with a small circular block that can be mounted using adhesive to a wall, or even with screws if the surface you’re attaching it to can support it.
When the mount is in place, you simply need to attach the QuickMount to the device you’ll be using, and then attach the two.
LifeProof’s QuickMount offers a fairly stable system for phones, though tablets bigger than 7 inches may feel a little wobbly on the mount. In the testing we’ve done, the mount has definitely held for a few days, with us taking the tablet off to recharge it during this time.
The QuickMount’s small size does mean a tablet doesn’t feel right to type on, however, because it wobbles. It will be fine, that said, but it might work better with a big phone or a small tablet.
Possibly the best thing about LifeProof’s QuickMount is that you can attach multiple ones to various devices — and even bring in multiple mounts around the home — and then attach these in different ways.
Say the tablet you normally use for your fridge is being used, but your phone has a QuickMount on the back. If this is the case, it can be mounting to the fridge mount simply by snapping it in.
This method of snapping in a device and building your internet fridge doesn’t just exist for LifeProof, though, with Australian company Studio Proper also offering similar solutions in the form of the X-Lock and M-Lock mounts.
Each of these is based on a design shaped like an “X”, with Studio Proper making accessories only for Apple products, so if you have something with Windows or Android involved, you’ll have to steer clear and go back to LifeProof, as this won’t be useful to you.
If you do have a spare iPhone, iPad, or iPad Mini, Studio Proper is thinking of you with these solutions, which are very, very similar to what we’ve just seen from LifeProof.
The X-Lock and M-Lock are very similar, though one is a physical locking mount, while the other is magnetic.
Simply put, the X-Lock is a physical X you mount to a wall or fridge destined for tablets, while the M-Lock is a magnetic edition of mount made for phones.
Both rely on cases for the device you’re attaching, such as an X-Lock case for the iPad Air 2 or an M-Lock case for the iPhone 5 or 6, and when these are equipped, you can attach your device easily using the lock.
The Lenovo way
When it comes to tablet design, there’s a fairly basic concept out there that most manufacturers tend to adhere to, and it’s this: take a flat plane and give it a screen.
In general, that tends to make most tablets kind of look the same. For instance, the iPad Air 2 is a flat screen you carry around, and so is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, as is the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, and the Acer Iconia A-insert-any-number-here, and so on and so on and so on.
They’re all roughly the same design because the reality is there are only a few ways you can make a tablet look, and most of them appear to be flat and minimalist.
Now there’s nothing wrong with this, but one hardware company appears to be trying to change the formula slightly, and it’s Lenovo.
For Lenovo’s stab at the tablet market, its Yoga devices tend to sport an all-metal body with a curved almost wrap-around hinge complete with a stand in place. As such, this design tends to make it a little difficult to mount to a wall or fridge, so it comes with a different trick up its sleeve.
Rather than mount the actual body to a surface, Lenovo includes a hole cut out of its stand to let you hang the tablet almost like a picture frame.
This might seem like a bizarre inclusion, but this means if you’re using a hook in the kitchen for utensils or pots and pans, you can hook the tablet over this and have a kitchen-friendly tablet, even if it’s not mounted to the refrigerator.
The importance of software
Getting your device onto the fridge is only one part of the equation, though, because it’s obviously going to need to do something when it’s up there.
If you have an iPad or an iPhone, you’ll likely just move the apps over to the first page of shortcuts you’ll be using, leaving the most commonly used apps within reach when you’re using your new super special internet fridge.
You don’t have to stop there, though, because you can turn your internet fridge tablet into a status board.
“A status board?” I hear you ask yourself. “What on earth is a status board?”
Unsurprisingly, a “status board” is exactly what it sounds like: a board that shows the status of events happening around you, such as the time, weather, news, and anything else you want to behave. It is very much like what you might see when you walk into a building with displays mounted to the walls, and is kind of reminiscent of what big shiny new buildings keep in their big shiny new elevators.
You too can have this running at home with one of two apps, using either Panic’s “Status Board 2” or Tamper’s “Morning”.
The first of these — Status Board 2 — is free, though if you want more than RSS news feeds, time, weather, and a few others bits, you’ll need to fork out a little over $10 to gain access to the app, which is iPad only at this time.
On the other hand, Morning is under $2 and works on both iPhone and iPad, making it a status board that can work on whatever device you happen to be freeing up. You can also opt to leave it running at all times if need be, though keep in mind this will probably chew up your battery life dramatically.
Unfortunately, neither of these apps allows you to map shortcuts to other apps, so while they may look nice, you can’t jump into Sonos or a web browser directly from them.
Android owners have a little more freedom when it comes to making their internet fridge into something like a status board, and that’s because Android has always been fairly open to letting you tweak and customise the look and feel thanks to launchers.
For those who haven’t heard of what this is, a “launcher” is essentially a replacement to the way your phone loads the home screen and app menus, with launchers also called “home screen replacement” apps because that’s exactly what they do: they replace the way your manufacturer has made your Android look.
There are numerous launchers out there all serving various functions, from the clean and locale-friendly to ones that feel like they’re pinching Apple’s iOS and plonking it on an Android tablet.
In the revision of our internet fridge, we wanted a minimalist experience in comparison to the icon-heavy thing we had going with the iPad 2 for so long.
What we did here was load up Nova Launcher, one of the more customisable launchers, modifying the interface to load only the apps we’d need in the main shortcut dock, and only throwing up a few widgets, providing a highly controlled status board.
This meant we could use HD Widgets for the clock, with this sitting next to the Sonos widget for controlling music around the house.
At the bottom was our shortcut dock, and here we used Macronos to export Sonos favourites into shortcuts, with Nova’s icon editing feature able to be used to change the icons into something more representative on each of the stations in question.
All of this resulted in a custom status board and internet fridge interface, with shortcuts to Chrome and Sonos easily viewed, as well as the Muzei live wallpaper that would randomly pick up on pictures of ours and blur them, creating a light trip down memory lane.
You can, of course, decorate your internet fridge tablet any way you wish, but for us, customising a launcher as easily controlled as Nova meant an experience that was made just for the household it was being used in.
How to be a cheapskate and make an internet fridge
While the ideas in this guide require a little bit of money to work, it’s not a requirement.
In fact, beyond that of a spare device — beyond that of a spare phone or tablet — you don’t need a special mounting gadget to make an internet fridge.
If you really want to do it on the cheap, you can always grab velcro or some duct tape, though we have some reasons as to why these may not be the best ideas.
One is stability, because while velcro and duct tape may well get the job done, sticking the device on a surface, it may not be the most stable way of holding a device weighing anywhere between 90 and 900 grams on said surface.
Some velcro is very good at this, and we need to acknowledge this, and duct tape can hold practically anything in place, but this possibly dubious stability lends itself to another problem you’ll have to deal with.
Simply put, it’s charging, as you’ll need to take down your device every so often and plug it back in, reviving the battery and returning it to glory so it can serve you as that internet fridge, status board, music controller, or whatever else you happen to be using your spare gadget for.
Needing to charge every few days means needing to take the device off the surface on a semi-regular basis, and that means holding it up with duct tape may not be the best bet due to how often you’ll be taking it down, putting it up, and so on and so on.
Velcro could handle this a little better, though it will depend on the size of the gadget in question and how will you’ve placed the velcro on the surface. If you’re good at putting the device back, you might be fine, though we’d find some particularly strong and stable velcro.