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The California-based simplehuman have been known for their high-end sensor bins, but have since expanded to include many high-quality sensor-equipped products. These include products such as their smart mirrors and the subject of this review: their rechargeable sensor soap pump. It’s a product that focus not only on the aesthetics, but is also packed with many high-tech features. However, at twice the price of other sensor-equipped soap dispensers, is it worth the premium?

The following has been my experience so far.

Specifications

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The simplehuman rechargeable sensor soap pump

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The simplehuman soap pump is a high-end, stainless-steel rechargeable sensor soap pump with a variable dispenser. It’s probably one of the most feature packed soap dispenser I’ve seen. Its ability to activate and vary the amount of soap dispersed is done through a hidden down-firing sensor neatly placed behind the nozzle. The way this was implemented is ingenious: to control the amount of soap you simply place your hand close to the sensor (for a little bit of soap) and farther away for more. The sensor in turn means that you rarely have to touch the unit. The only time you’ll actually be touching the device will almost always involve pressing the power the button to turn the device off to either charge it or a soap refill., otherwise you’ll active the device by accident.

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Another problem the unit solves is one I always had with all my soap dispensers: dripping excess soap. They solved this by using a silicone valve that immediately snaps shut after dispensing soap, creating a tight seal that prevents dripping.

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Related to this is what they call the ‘’clog-free tubing pump,” which basically ensures there is a consistent flow of soap and you guessed it: prevents the tubing from clogging up. I’m not sure how the mechanism works, but judging by the picture they have on the website, it looks like there’s a spinning mechanism with three wheels attached to it. And these wheels spin and squeeze the soap through the tube, similar to how you would squeeze toothpaste out of a tube. This would explain how they could claim a ‘’clog-free’’ tubing system as these wheels are always ‘’squeezing’’ soap through the tubing, preventing any soap from becoming stagnant. Such a system would also explain how they could achieve a smooth flow: as one wheel spins and pushes soap through the tube, it would be quickly be followed by another spinning wheel behind it, creating a continuous stream of soap. Many manual soap dispensers have the problem where the first push of a mechanism would result into a consistent flow of soap, however subsequent presses would dispense a lot less or no soap at all.

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If that wasn’t enough, they went ahead and gave the dispenser the IP67 rating, meaning that it could be immersed in water up to 1 meter deep. In the real world this means that regular splashes should not be any problem to the electronics inside. In fact, it would even survive falling into a bathtub full of water or you can just rinse with some water to keep it looking clean.

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Lastly, the unit does away with having to change or buy batteries by making the use of a built-in rechargeable battery and uses a magnetic plug that charges using a standard Type-A connector.

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simplehuman have decided to go with a stainless-steel finish which is available in 5 colors: brushed, polished or white stainless steel. If you’re feeling something flashier, it’s also available in rose gold and gold. Despite the names these latter two option are still stainless steel. In the future I would love to see a matte black and a matte gun metal grey option.

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As expected, all of this tech packed into a something this small does not come cheap, with the product commanding a hefty £69.99/ $60/ €89,99. We do wish however, that they would do something about the European prices. At £69.99 and €89,99, Europeans buyer will pay almost $30 more than those who purchase in the US. That price will get you get the soap pump and a magnetic USB cable. simplehuman also generously included a sample of their own brand of liquid soap, however just about any liquid soap will do.

Design

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Design wise, the simplehuman soap pump follows their product design language, which is characterized by the lack of lines or design elements, being almost entirely covered by a clean sheet of metal and the ample use of curved lines. If there is one thing the folks at simplehuman love is the use of metals.

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The soap pump follows this design language precisely being almost entirely covered by stainless steel and uses a clean minimalistic design that’s characterized by curved lines.

It consists of three pieces: The soap compartment, the nozzle and the lid.

The soap compartment is a study in minimalism, being stainless-steel and cylinder-shaped, devoid of any lines or design elements.

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This gives the product a modern yet simple look that should fit in almost any bathroom.

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On the back of the main compartment you’ll find a power button and below it the magnetic charger connector. I like how they decided to keep buttons and connectors neatly hidden from sight, enhancing the unit’s beautiful minimalistic design.

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On the front you’ll find the simplehuman logo and a clear sticker instructing how the amount of soap is dependent on how close you place your hand to the sensor. While the sticker does the job and is subtle enough not to stand out, in the end it’s still a sticker and does take away from the overall design of the unit. The folks at simplehuman should keep the line-and-droplets-design as used by the sticker, but instead should opt for laser etching the same design into the metal.

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On the bottom of the unit they decided to skip the usual rubber pads and instead went with a clear plastic. While the clear plastic offers less grip when compared to a rubber bottom, it does match the overall design. It should also last longer than rubber feet, while giving the unit an almost floating design.

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A large part of the main body is reserved for the soap compartment which is enough to last me a month to a month and a half. However, in future version they should consider making the unit a bit taller, increasing battery capacity, allowing you to go 5 to 6 months without charging.

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On top you have a round metallic lid that attaches using suction. It’s finished in stainless steel on the outside, while plastic is used on the inside.

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I would have loved to see them use a magnetic lid as this would have been a more elegant approach. The current implementation keeps things simple and does the job of keeping liquids out. Just don’t try to pick up or carry the unit by holding the lid as the suction is only enough to keep water out, but not enough to hold the weight of the  device.

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Lastly, the nozzle protrudes from the soap compartments in a funnel shape and ends with another curve. Protruding from the nozzle is the rubber valve that does its magic in preventing dripping. The nozzle also hides a down-firing sensor that is able to detect the proximity of your hands and is able to regulate the amount of soap dispensed.

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Sitting between the lid and soap compartment is a multi-color light. It turns blue when you turn the unit on or flashes blue when charging. If you turn the unit off, it will briefly turn red. Lastly, if the battery is low, the light will briefly turn red when dispensing soap, indicating a low battery. The current implementation works, however a white light with a soft white light would have looked better.

Daily Use

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Setup was fairly easy: I filled the unit with my favorite liquid soap, attached the lid and charged it using the included magnetic cable and my e-reader’s charger (Any standard USB charger will do).

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The initial charge took a few hours, however subsequent charges were pretty fast at about 30 to 45 minutes. simplehuman rates the battery life at about 3 months, however during my usage I was able to get 2 months and 7 days before the LED light started to flash red, indicating a low battery.

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With the remaining charge I‘m sure the unit would have lasted a few more days, just shy of the rated 3 months, which is pretty close to what they indicated. While 3 months of battery life is pretty long, it’s still an annoyance to be bothered with the fact that you will need to find the cable and charge yet another device. Ideally the battery should last around 6 months, needing a charge twice a year. They could for example, make the device taller, bringing the nozzle closer to the user, all while creating space for a larger battery that should last a minimum of 6 months.

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The most unique feature is of course the ability to control the amount of soap by adjusting the proximity of your hand to the sensor. It works and works surprisingly well. By placing my hand really close to the sensor it releases just a bit of soap, while holding my hand near the 3 droplets symbol it releases a very generous amount of soap. It’s pretty reliable too, in the sense that there never was an instance where my hands were not detected. It’s so accurate in fact, that in the beginning I would activate the dispenser due to my hand accidentally coming in the proximity of the sensor. There was also never an instance where it inaccurately detected the proximity of my hand, for example by releasing a lot of soap when my hands were close to the sensor.

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While the system works reliably, it’s difficult to control it precisely. While there’s a clear distinction between holding your hands very close or far away from the sensor, things become less clear between these two extremes. From my testing, there seems to be 4 distinct steps. The farthest away it will detect your hand is just slightly above the lowest part of the sticker. This will get you the most amount of soap. The closest you can get to the sensor is about a quarter to one tenth of an inch from the valve. From my testing I found that between these two extremes the system is able to detect two additional steps. The problem is that you’re already balancing your hand below an object trying to position it right under the sensor.  By adding the added step of needing to find an exact height, this can quickly become a daunting task. Making things even more difficult is the fact that simplehuman did not mark these exact spots on the sticker. Even if they did however, it would be hard to place your hand to match a predefined height. In the real world this meant that I basically limited my self to a bit of soap by placing my hand close to the sensor or a lot of soap by placing my hands farther away. I rarely used the other two steps as this meant having to place my hand somewhere between these two ends, not knowing where it should be placed exactly. They could solve this by placing dots at these pre-defined points and by using a system where the sensor gives you a second or two for you to place your hand at a desired position and only then releases soap. The current system works almost instantaneously releasing the amount of system immediately when it detects your hand, leaving no room for adjustment.

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When the system releases soap it does so very consistently and without generating much noise. It’s even is able to do this after removing my hand and placing it under the sensor just a few seconds after the initial release of soap. It can keep doing this, without the system ever slowing down. This is in stark contrast to my IKEA soap dispenser that would require more force after the first try and would even dispense less soap or no soap at all after a few tries. I’m also quite impressed by how quiet the system operates.

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As stated above, placing your hand at the right height underneath the sensor can be difficult at times. This can be especially through in dimly lit situation, like for example after going to the toilet in the middle of the night. I would have loved if the system had a built-in light near the valve that would turn on and illuminate my hand in these types of situations. On top of the that it would simply look cool and give the unit an even more high-end look.

Due to the shiny metallic finish, the device will get dirty more easily, especially from dried up water droplets that leave residue behind. This means that it will require being cleaned quite often, however a damp soft cloth or just holding it under running water will do the trick in making it look like new again.

The clear plastic used underneath the device offered a surprising amount of grip. Not at the same level if using rubber feet, but close enough. I never had any problem would the device slipping and sliding, a very important feature for a device that is meant to be used in a moist environment.

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The lid does a perfectly good job at shielding the innards from water, even after placing the unit under running tap water. I do have a problem with the fact that the lid does not securely attached to the body. It basically uses a rubber ring and suction to attach to the body. While this is enough to keep the elements out, picking the device up from the top will almost certainly end up in you dropping the device. simplehuman should consider a screw-on or magnetic lid that’s able to hold the weight of the unit.

This is one of those devices that once you use it, you simply can’t go back to using a regular soap dispenser. In fact, I got so used to it, that after a while I would hold my hand under my faucet, forgetting that it did not have a sensor!

Conclusion

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The simplehuman soap pump is a high-end sensor soap pump that’s filled to the brim with features. It’s probably the most feature-rich dispenser on the market today. All this tech doesn’t come cheap and you’ll be being paying about twice the price of other high-end soap dispenser, but it’s well worth it. simplehuman should however do something about the fact that European buyer will pay almost $30 more than those who purchase in the US. While the they do offer plenty of color options, I would like to see a matte black and a matte gun metal grey option that should be less susceptible to getting dirty.

Design wise, the simplehuman soap pump follows their product design and looks stunning with its minimalistic design. The most unique feature is of course the ability to control the amount of soap by adjusting the proximity of your hand to the sensor. It works and works surprisingly well and is very reliable, with the sensor distinguishing 4 steps. While it’s easy to get the closest and farthest steps right, the other two steps in the middle is more of a guessing game. They use a clear sticker to indicate how the distance to the sensor affects the amount of soap dispensed. However this looks cheap and they should resort to actually etching this in the metal. The dispenser mechanism is also extremely quiet and dispenses a steady stream, even after repeated use. The rechargeable battery lasts a long time and the unit is waterproof and easy to clean. However, I do wish the battery lasted at least 6 months and the lid should more securely attach to the body by the use of either magnets or by using a screw-on lid design.

The current implementation of the built-in light works well, however a white light with a soft white light would have looked better. Speaking of light, I would also like to see a light near the nozzle to illuminate your hands in dimly lit situations. In the end, if you’re in the market for a high-end and equally high-tech soap dispenser, this is the one to get. Just be prepared to pay the price. It gets a 9.8 out of 10.

Pros

One of the most feature packed soap dispensers on the market

System works reliably

Variable dispenser has 4 steps

Rechargeable battery lasts long

Modern minimalistic design

Water proof

Easy to clean

Quiet

Cons

Due to shiny surface needs to be cleaned often

European buyers will pay $30 premium

Sticker can look a bit cheap: design should be etched into the metal

Lid is not securely attached

Suggestions

Built-in light to illuminate your hands.

Lid should attach with magnets or use a screw-on lid.

White light instead of blue

Battery should last 6 months

Matte black and gun metal grey color options