Are Amazon’s new stick-on Wi-Fi buttons a forgetful shopper's or busy parent’s dream? Or are they just a luxury for the lazy? We picked up a few Dash Buttons and did a little one-touch shopping to find out.
When they were announced on the eve of April 1, I gave the Amazon Dash Buttons a close look before writing up the news story.
It seemed reasonable and in line with Amazon’s recent moves, but there was a slight hint of an April Fools' Day gag in there. I didn’t want to get caught out on that one.
Sure enough, these things were real – one-touch, connected buttons that would allow re-ordering of household essentials for Amazon Prime customers without laying a finger on another device.
The idea behind these Wi-Fi-enabled buttons is to ensure you never run out of the things that are easy to forget at the supermarket. Stuff like laundry detergent, toilet roll, razor blades, etc that you mean to buy, but instead get distracted by the liquor aisle and half-price offer on tiger prawns.
With a Dash Button, you simply push the button when you notice you’re running low on something, then the product of your choosing – providing it's from one of the "partner" brands – shows up at your door a couple of days later via Prime.
Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Well I ordered a bunch of Dash buttons to see how they worked in practice.
Choosing the Dash Buttons
There are currently about 15 options from which to choose, from most of the big US brand names. You’ve got Tide laundry detergent, Bounty kitchen roll, Huggies baby stuff, Gillette razor blades, Gatorade and Smartwater, Cottonelle toilet rolls, Maxwell House coffee and Kraft Mac & Cheese, among others.
There are a few lesser-known brands, like Wellness petfood and Izzle sparkling juice, but it’s mainly the big names. All of the buttons are limited release and cost $4.99 (about £3) each.
First up, I decided to grab the most important Dash Button – the one for delivering fresh toilet roll. After all, one can go an extra day without a shave, and make do without kitchen towels or Gatorade, but the absence of toilet roll can be a tad messier…
Setting up the Dash Buttons
I was quite enamoured by how easy the thumb-sized Dash Buttons were to set up. After grabbing the most recent version of the Amazon shopping app for iOS, it really was a doddle.
It was just a case of opening the Dash Button section, confirming my home Wi-Fi connection and then holding the Dash Button until the blue light flashed. Then came time to pair the button to the phone, which made a neat sci-fi/dial-up-internet-style buzzing sound and completed its task in a couple of seconds.
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Next you choose which product you want to associate with the button every time you press to reorder. I selected my item, confirmed payment and shipping information, then affixed the button – there’s adhesive or a rung to place on a hook – next to my toilet. (I mean, where else, right?)
The first order
After pressing the button for the first time late on Friday night – yes, I spent my Friday night ordering toilet roll from the internet – I instantly got a notification through the app and an email confirming the order. Pretty nifty. There are a lot more high-tech items in my house, but this felt pretty cool and futuristic even though the tech behind it is relatively simple.
32 Cottonelle toilet rolls showed up at my front door, first thing on Monday morning. That saw me through to Friday. Job done.
Changing the settings
Once you’ve set up the product of choice, it’ll be ordered every time you press the button, until you change the default product.
There’s a failsafe within the app that doesn’t register a second push, which is handy if other members of the household happen to press it around the same time.
Even if you do switch on the "allow multiple orders" setting, you’ll still get a notification asking you to confirm that you do actually want to add 32 more rolls of toilet paper to your ever-expanding mountain of absorbency.
UPDATE: I was taking some photos of the buttons this morning and accidentally ordered both Gatorade and Bounty while affixing the buttons. These things are sensitive!
The other Dash buttons
This was where I gained most of the insight. I waited until after the weekend before setting up the other buttons, but soon realised how little the Gillette, Bounty and Gatorade buttons would be of use. My wife and I aren’t really slaves to particular brands when it comes to household stuff. We just buy what’s on sale, regardless of the name, as most people on a budget do.
The Bounty kitchen rolls were way too expensive. The best deal was $22 for 8 rolls? Practically $3 a roll. They could be as moisture-sapping as the Sahara and I wouldn’t be paying that.
I have long strayed from buying Gillette razor blades – check out Harrys.com if you haven’t already – because it’s an absolute racket. I’d consider buying the shaving foam with the button, but the Dash only offered exorbitantly priced blades for the various razors.
Gatorade was a strange one. To be honest I’m not sure why I picked that button in the first place. I like a nice, refreshing, replenishing sports drink after a workout as much as the next bloke, but have never felt the need to batch order. Besides, of all the millions of varieties, there are only four options. Perhaps if I had sired a house full of teenagers who’re constantly out sportsing it’d be a different story.
I soon realised I’ll probably never use any of these, unless I get around to one of these awesome hacks…
So who are the Dash buttons for?
After setting up the Dash buttons and browsing the selections, I thought, “If these aren’t for me, then who are they for?”
Many of them would be good for parents with babies or children at home. Nappies, laundry detergent… A new parent can’t really go without those.
There are also those folks who are too busy to get to the store and too busy to care about how much more expensive the bigger-name brands are. Business folks, and the like.
What about the forgetful types who’re always running out of stuff? Well, these are a great solution for ensuring they’ll have enough washing powder to wash their work clothes at 11pm on a Sunday night.
As for me? I’ve got no children, I try to buy cheap and I don’t need 12 Gatorades, especially when there’s no money to be saved.
Amazon Dash Buttons: The Verdict
When I told people about the Dash buttons, their first response was “Can you program them to order anything?” The answer, of course, is no. But wouldn’t that be something?
If these were ubiquitous and could be programmed to order anything, having a few of these around the house would be damned handy.
For the guitarist who's just strung his spare set, for the gamer who just popped in his last set of AAs, for the amorous couple who’ve noticed they just used the last one in the box. The home brewer who always likes to have extra yeast on hand. Socks. Most people need more socks most of the time, right?
This is a trial with a few select brands, but we'll probably get there eventually. Until that point… Anyone need a few spare toilet rolls? I’ve got enough to last until Christmas.