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REVIEW – No one likes to vacuum. At least, no one that I know. And even fewer people like to mop their floors. So wouldn’t it be great if there was a machine to handle those tasks for you? One that you can control from your phone? There is! It’s the ILIFE A11 LiDAR robot vacuum and mop but comes with some big caveats.
The ILIFE A11 is a robot vacuum that maps and navigates efficiently with LiDAR (like radar, but with lasers!), that can also “mop” your floors.
The design of the ILIFE A11 LiDAR robot vacuum is very similar to most other robot vacuums; a round black plastic disk with a little smaller round black plastic disk on top. But hidden under this black plastic, this vacuum is hiding some goodies, like LiDAR navigation, a very powerful motor, and a large battery. I have two other robot vacuums, and this unit has greater suction and a larger battery than those. Both of those are key features. Another distinguishing feature of this vacuum is its ability to “mop.” I put that in quotes and I’ll discuss why later. Standard robot vacuum features are also included, like spot cleaning, scheduling, no-go areas, room designation, and (supposedly) multi-floor mapping.
One of the best features of a robot vacuum is the fact that it knows your house, and you can just tell it to go do its thing, and it does. But for it to get to know your house, it first must map it. Before it can map, you have to charge it. Setting up the charging dock is pretty straight forward. Just plug it in and set it some place out of the way where the vacuum can “live.” The ILIFE dock stores the excess wire in the bottom, which is nice.
Once it’s charged, you can start the mapping process. This involves getting the ILIFEHOME app, for which a QR code is located on the bottom of the robot. This app steps you through connecting the vacuum to your home wifi, giving it a name (we named ours Rosie, after the housekeeper from “The Jetsons”), and starting the mapping process. These are all very important steps that have to be completed before the vacuum is even remotely usable. And this app is horrible. Easily one of the worst apps of any kind I’ve ever used. I am a very tech-savy person and enjoy troubleshooting and figuring things out. This app was hard, for many reasons. It’s not intuitive. The English translations are bad. There is no “quick start” or “start here” button. When I apply the “could my tech-friendly 70 year old parents figure this out” test, the easy answer is absolutely not. And for any consumer product, that’s the wrong answer.
I was finally able to get the ILIFE A11 LiDAR robot vacuum connected to my wifi and got the mapping process started. This is always a pretty slow process and took almost 2 hours for the first floor of our house. That’s not really surprising, but what was nice is that the battery lasted that long. The resulting map was very accurate. One odd thing is that the app thinks I own 14 robot vacuums. I only connected one, but 14 are listed in “my devices.” But most of the time, when I start the app, no devices appear. I have to close the app and re-open it, and then the 14 devices appear. Rosie is always at the top of the list.
A feature of the ILIFE A11 LiDAR robot vacuum, according to their web site, is the ability to have different maps for multiple floors in your house. I have not been able to figure out how to do this, unfortunately. The intuitive thing to do would be to go into the map function, and click the “+” in the corner, which I would think would add a new map. But for some unexplainable reason, this button takes me to a history of what the vacuum has cleaned. Interesting, but not what I expected that button to do. Still no multi-floor mapping, which is frustrating, as a homeowner of a multi-floor house.
Once the map was complete, it was time to customize the map, by designating rooms and “no-go” areas. Again back to the app. Most of the time, the “edit” function would just crash the app. But on the off-chance that it didn’t, creating no-go areas and breaking the map up into separate rooms suffered from the same challenging non-intuitive poor user experience as the initial setup did. Again, no way my parents could have figured this out. I have used apps from other vacuum companies to perform the same functions with much less frustration. The app for the Wyze robot vacuum is a standout for a positive user experience.
We’ll discuss performance in two parts, focusing on the hardware, and the app.
The vacuuming performance is very good. Once mapped, the unit is a very effective cleaner. When it enters a room to do a “normal” clean, it first goes around the mapped perimeter, determines any new obstacles like furniture or shoes left on the floor, and then “mows the grass,” or just goes back and forth until it has cleaned the entire area. It really picks up a lot of dirt and seems to have pretty complete coverage of the room. It’s able to navigate effectively around obstacles, and over things like carpet joints, thresholds, and slight level changes. This navigation seems routine, but is actually very well done.
For mopping, it’s effectiveness is limited. It’s not a mop. It’s basically a robot vacuum pulling a wet rag. It does have the ability to keep the rag wet from its onboard 2-in-1 tank, but it has no way to rinse that rag. Would you mop your floor without ever rinsing the mop? That’s what this is doing. When mopping, it does more than “mow the grass.” It mimics the motion that most people use when mopping, with a back-and-forth and slightly side-to-side motion, but it’s still just dragging a wet cloth over your floors. It’s well suited for getting up dust and very light dirt, but it’s not a replacement for good ol’ fashioned mop and bucket work.
The ILIFE A11 LiDAR robot vacuum comes with a remote control. Initially, I thought this would be a great idea, especially given the struggles with the app. However, the functionality of the remote is very limited, and is actually harder to use than the app. When trying to use the remote, I felt like I was programming a VCR from the mid-80’s. The remote is really redundant with the app, but it can’t replace it. You absolutely need to use the app, because there’s no other way to set the vacuum up with the remote.
The unit does have “spot cleaning” where you can use the remote (or the app) to “drive” the vacuum to a particularly dirty spot. However, this is really hard to do on both the remote and the app. Lining the vacuum up with the dirt, is a real challenge and I found myself simply not using this function. So I struggled to really know what the remote was for.
While the spot cleaning function is hard to use, there is an “area clean” which lets you draw a box in a room (in the app) and it will clean inside of that box. That worked really well to get small messes.
The app is bad. I tried both the iPhone app and the Android app. The experience was largely the same. There are a few problems. First, the language used in the app just doesn’t always make sense. Clearly the app was not written in English, and the translation is bad. For example, the mopping function in the app is called “scrubbing.” The second problem is some of the text and features are tiny. For example, the “select room” function often just doesn’t work. But when it does, it places VERY TINY check boxes in each room that you need to check in order to have that room cleaned. Another issue is that messages appear when performing certain functions, in very tiny text at the top of the screen. This text is easily missed, but is often critical.
Another issue is that app is not intuitive. An example is an ability (or, inability) to create maps for multiple floors. Our house has two floors, but there is a small staircase between the two upstairs floors, so really, we would need three floors (because the vacuum can’t handle stairs). When going in to the “edit map” function, there is a “+” function which I assume would add a new map for another floor. But that’s not what that button does. Inexplicably, this + button takes you to a history of the cleaning that your vacuum has completed. I still don’t know how to add additional floor maps.
The ILIFE A11 hardware is solid. Once you get it set up, the ILIFE A11 LiDAR robot vacuum does a really good job of cleaning your floors. But the app is really bad, and needs to be significantly improved to be on par with offerings from other robot vacuum makers. Given that the app is mostly how you interface with the unit, this is important. The app is usable, but barely. But, it can be improved and hopefully will be soon. The hardware is solid and what is built into the vacuum itself is well done. Navigation is efficient and the cleaning is good. Mopping is still useful even if it’s not really like “mopping” as we generally know it.
Consider the ILIFE A11 LiDAR robot vacuum if you are looking for solid hardware, good cleaning, versatility depending on your floor type, and long battery life (and can wait for the app to be improved). If you are looking for a product to lead you through all the setup steps, or aren’t that tech savvy, you might want to look elsewhere, perhaps sacrificing hardware features for increased usability.
Where to buy: ILIFE or Amazon
Source: The sample for this review was provided by ILIFE.
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