Nespresso has quietly launched the Prodigio, a new machine for brewing its espresso capsules that connects to your phone or tablet over Bluetooth. A companion app — which is supposed to be released later this week — "allows you to brew, schedule a brewing time, monitor capsule stock, receive maintenance and descaling alerts, and more," a Sur la Table product page says.
The new brewer comes in the middle of a heated moment for the multibillion-dollar global coffee pod industry, which is led by Nestlé, the maker of Nespresso, which first launched in the mid-1980s. As a Wall Street Journal report notes, Nespresso faces stiff competition, legal challenges, and increasing frustration over the wastefulness of the pods themselves, which are an enormous environmental concern unless recycled properly. The German city of Hamburg recently banned the use of pod machines in government buildings, a trend that will likely grow in the years to come.
Like its competitors, Nestlé seems to be leaning hard on "innovation" to stem the tide; that innovation includes Bluetooth connectivity, apparently. (The Prodigio isn't the first machine with a connected phone app — Saeco's GranBaristo Avanti, for instance, can also be set to brew from afar — but it's the first with Nespresso capsule compatibility.) The company also recently released its VirtuoLine system, which uses new, incompatible pods capable of brewing larger coffee sizes — a play to the American market and a likely effort to diversify from the original pods, whose patents have expired. Keurig has changed its pods for similar reasons.
But what's the actual advantage of the connectivity with the Prodigio? Brewing a pod using the app is only helpful if you have a pod already loaded, which you need to physically be at the machine to do. (Let's not forget you'd need to be there to pick up your brewed espresso either way.) And if you can't tell how many pods you have left, you... just need to look at them. The machine doesn't have any other special features, making it no more useful than the Inissia for $100 less — and there are still those environmental problems, if you're not properly and consistently recycling the pods.
Then again, if your overpriced toothbrush has Bluetooth, maybe your coffee machine needs it too.
Verge Video: The smart home of the future is almost here