In 2014, Mellow, Inc. released the Mellow for $ 399, billing it as “the world’s first intelligent sous-vide machine” – one that promised to automatically weigh, then heat and cool your specified foods for the perfect result. slow cooking, even adjust this time halfway through cooking to match your changing schedule. But now the company is taking that intelligence away from existing owners, unless they pay $ 6 per month or $ 48 for an annual subscription.
As SlashGear’s Chris Davies reports that the owners of Mellow were surprised to find that they couldn’t cook a meal this week until they updated the app, only to find that the update to the app prevented them from using most of the previously free “smart” features of the cooker without paying for the new “Premium Membership”.
Not everything is locked behind a payment wall: Mellow’s manual mode still lets you adjust the stove’s temperature from your phone remotely, but you can buy some relatively dumb sous-vide gadgets – even gadgets. well priced like the Anova Nano – for $ 129. The Mellow originally cost $ 399 brand new, and while it’s currently on sale for $ 149, it’s likely most buyers paid the typical asking price of $ 200 to $ 300 to get one.
Late Monday evening, Mellow posted a statement on Instagram explaining the rationale for his ‘premium’ plan, citing financial difficulties in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and saying that many potential investors and buyers interested in the company have walked away, and arguing that the servers responsible for the stove’s smart features are too expensive to use. The Instagram post has since disappeared, but SlashGear first saved a copy of his text:
Mellow was launched in 2014 by 2 founders from Lisbon, Portugal. Unfortunately, these founders didn’t think about the future when they built Mellow V1. Mellow was built with WiFi only and uses external servers to run its systems and software. Their [sic] is not a turning back. These servers and systems cost a lot of money each month and the bills are based on the usage of all the Mellows. Not only did the founders lose over $ 3 million of their investors’ money, they also didn’t have a plan to [sic] would pay future bills after selling their Mellows. In 2018, Mellow was going to close. If the company shut down all the Mellows that were in people’s homes, it wouldn’t help. To save the business, one of the first investors stepped in to try and do whatever he could.
After 2 years, the business was once again on the verge of closure. While a lot of progress has been made, once COVID hit potential investors or buyers the company was talking to, walked away. The new owners dug deep to try and find a way to save the business. Passionate about the product and not wanting to see everything disappear, the new team came up with the only solution. This solution was to start charging a monthly subscription to use the app. At first we were going to charge for all features, but after some back and forth it was decided to keep manual mode free and charge for other features. And that’s what was done.
We know some of you guys are really crazy and we get it. We know some of you understand and we appreciate it very much. We hope that over time you will forgive and support us during these difficult times. Thank you [sic] you to listen.
It is true that other smart home gadget companies have completely ditched their products instead of keeping them running. Logitech’s Alexa-powered Harmony Express remote is just one of the more recent examples, although in this case Logitech has offered exchanges and full refunds.
Following the update, some users left negative reviews of the app on the App Store and Google Play to express their contempt for the new paid services; one user wrote that the new premium plan was ‘bait and a change’. Some Kickstarter backers who helped crowdfund the second generation of Mellow’s vacuum gadget demanded refunds after the announcement. Mellow’s team says pandemic travel bans and restrictions also require it to delay the release of this second-generation product for six months.
Mellow isn’t the only smart home tech company trying to charge more money for things that were originally supposed to be free. In May, Wink announced that it would require customers to pay a fee of $ 5 per month to access its previously free smart home features, again citing the financial strains of the pandemic. Earlier this month, smart home company Wyze announced a pay-for-what-you-want model for accessing its AI-powered person detection feature.
You can see some of Mellow’s early promises via the Internet Archive here.