CNN —  

In terms of Amazon products that work with Alexa, we’ve seen smart clocks, microwaves, wall plugs and, now, a smart soap dispenser.

It’s helpful to a degree, but it’s also a reminder that not everything needs to be smart. Let’s break down why.

The latest Alexa gadget

So what does a smart soap dispenser do? Well, it detects motion to provide a bit of soap hands-free, has LED dots on the top that count down the time and can connect with an Echo to remind you that 20 seconds is how long you should be washing your hands.

What we like about this smart soap dispenser

Our favorite thing about Amazon’s Smart Soap Dispenser isn’t the Alexa integration or even the design — c’mon, it looks like a modern soap bottle — it’s the automatic dispensing of soap. You hold your hand under the nozzle and soap is dispensed. It’s all about delivering the convenience of a public bathroom within the cleanliness of our own apartment. And whether you’re alone or in a busy household restroom, it’s nice not having to push down to pump the soap out.

A small motion detector under the nozzle recognizes your palm and then the device dispenses a predetermined amount of soap based on how close your hand is. At first, we held our hand pretty close and were surprised with a pea-sized amount, but holding your hand lower will have it dispense a larger amount of soap.

You’re probably wondering what makes this device smart, and that’s the very top of its lid. It has a ring of circular white LED lights that count down 20 seconds. This is the CDC-recommended minimum amount of time to wash your hands. When the soap dispenser detects motion, an Echo smart speaker can play a snippet of a song for 20 seconds. This works in tandem with the lights on top to ensure you’re washing for the correct amount of time. There’s also a musical note with a line through it, which you can tap to disable the Alexa routine.

Alexa integration needs some work

Jacob Krol/CNN

The promised magic of the Smart Soap Dispenser — the Amazon Echo integration — wasn’t that easy to set up. It took us about three tries for an apartment filled with Echos (fourth-gen Echos and Dots, a Show 5, Show 8 and a Show 10) to find the Smart Soap Dispenser successfully. And while the Alexa app walks you through all the steps and even creates the routine, it’s an extended setup for a smart device. We also found that routine hard to trigger, and while it worked sometimes and successfully played a track, it just didn’t the other times. Luckily, the countdown LEDs on the top work separately and we didn’t experience any issues with those. Every couple of times, we’d see the lights and then not hear anything from the nearby Echo.

The truly smart integration is that the Smart Soap Dispenser can alert you when you’re running low on soap. It can send you a ping through the Alexa app or an email to let you know it’s close to running out and you can even have Amazon intelligently order more soap for you. You can also factor in the extra amount of soap you have on hand to refill the dispenser before you need to order more.

This feature is pretty handy and Amazon actually sells the dispenser with soap bundles.

  • Smart Soap Dispenser with 34 ounces of Method Sea Minerals ($60.98, originally $61.98; amazon.com)
  • Smart Soap Dispenser with 33 ounces of Mrs. Meyer’s Geranium ($63.38; amazon.com)
  • Smart Soap Dispenser with 24 ounces of Seventh Generation Mandarin Orange & Grapefruit ($73.52, originally $78.33; amazon.com)

It gets pricey fast, though, and none of these bundles include our favorite Tea Tree Hand Soap.

Why does this have a Micro USB port?

You’ll charge the Smart Soap Dispenser through a port behind a rubber door. The weird thing is that it’s a Micro USB port — a port that is being phased out. Most of Amazon’s other devices use a proprietary jack or USB-C.

Yes, Amazon includes a Micro USB to USB-A cable in the box and you won’t need to charge it often, but it seems like an odd port choice for a smart home gadget being released in 2021. The upside is that the battery life is pretty long; Amazon says it should last three months. We’ve had it for close to a month and haven’t seen any loss in power.

Bottom line

Jacob Krol/CNN

Amazon’s Smart Soap Dispenser is a really unique product, but ultimately a niche and costly one — $54.99 for a soap dispenser is a lot of money and it doesn’t even pack a truly unique design. Unless you’re an Alexa-obsessed household or just want a physical reminder of 20 seconds to wash your hands, we’d ultimately pass on this gadget.

For those who do want a soap dispenser, we’d look for one that is automatic and has a refill line on the inside. You don’t want to be like us and fill it up just to find out that it will overflow when you put the lid on. This $28.48 automatic dispenser with a viewing window to see the soap level seems like an excellent option.

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