Not even the bathroom is free from technology these days. Now it's becoming the iBathroom.
As bathrooms overtake kitchens as the nation's top remodeling priority, more consumers are going high-tech: steam showers with built-in speakers, medicine cabinets with integrated TVs, and toilets with MP3/phone docking stations.
Pricey new gadgets are making it even easier for people to stay connected. Already, three-quarters of Americans say they use their smartphones in the bathroom, according to a survey this year by marketing firm 11Mark.
"They're for the guy taking his iPod into the bathroom anyway," says Home Depot bath merchant Jennifer Hartman. What's on tap?
•Programmable steam showers with built-in speakers for music from personalized playlists, offered by Kohler and Steamist.
•Tubs that vibrate with the rhythm of music from invisible speakers. "It's like you're at an underwater concert," says Kohler's Travis Rotelli of the $3,000-plus VibrAcoustic Bath, launched last month. MTI Bath also makes one.
•Mirrors that double as flat TV screens, offered by Seura and Electric Mirror, speakers that attach to existing medicine cabinets or cabinets with an integrated TV. "It's really slick," Tony Sweeney says of the $2,200-plus Robern TViD in his remodeled Chicago bath.
•Toilets, dubbed iPoos by critics, with automatic bidet-like cleansing, heated seats, built-in speakers and smartphone docking stations. "It's completely unnecessary but just fun," Sweeney says of his $6,000-plus Kohler Numi. Inax's Regio Smart Toilet has similar features.
Not all are buying. Jerry Levine, a Washington, D.C.-area remodeler, says many clients want to upgrade their bathrooms — the most common remodeling projects in a survey this month by the National Association of Home Builders— but still struggle with cost.
"We're still seeing more interest on the practical side," says Home Depot's Hartman. She says $20 to $40 non-slipping toilet seats sell well, adding: "You never have to worry about the seat shifting again."