You can control and monitor the device through the ILife app
There is also a remote included for manual control
It can be quite a task to keep your house clean, especially now that many of us are spending more time at home. Finding the time and energy to sweep, vacuum, and mop is difficult when working from home, and many of us might be tempted to invest in gadgets that take care of these chores for us. Enter robot vacuum cleaners, useful modern products that promise effective floor cleaning with little human intervention, and practically none of the physical effort that typically goes into keeping a home clean.
I reviewed the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P recently, and was very impressed with how effective and smart the device is. Today, I'm reviewing a key competitor of the Mi Robot - the ILife A9s Robot Vacuum Mop. Like the Xiaomi product, the ILife A9s is a smart robot vacuum cleaner and mop, using a smartphone app for remote control and functionality that includes mapping, scheduling, and monitoring.
Priced at Rs. 31,700, the ILife A9s is more expensive than the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, while offering similar functionality. Find out if the ILife A9s is good enough to keep your home clean, in our review.
As the name suggests, the ILife A9s is a robot vacuum cleaner with the additional ability to mop the floor. The device is disc-shaped, with wheels on the bottom to navigate around your home. The centre of the device has the vacuum zone, and there are two brushes at the front to sweep dirt towards it to be picked up. The back of the device is where you attach either of the two fittings included in the box – a vacuum fitting with a large dirt catchment area, or a mop fitting with a large reservoir for water and a smaller dirt catchment area. The mop fitting has a removable cloth pad at the bottom which spreads water on the floor evenly.
The vacuum area has a roller with brushes, which picks up and sucks in dirt off the floor. There's also an additional rubber roller that doesn't have the bristled brush. The vacuum fitting has a high-performance filter for trapping microscopic impurities, and you also get a brush tool that comes in handy to clean out the compartments and rollers. There are a total of four spinning brushes – two to put onto the ILife A9s immediately and two spares – as well as an additional mop cloth and high-performance filter.
In the box, you'll also find the charging station, which is supposed to be placed on the floor for the ILife A9s to dock with and charge when not in use, and a power adapter for the charging dock. Interestingly, you can also plug the power adapter directly into the robot vacuum if needed, but the dock is much more convenient, since the ILife A9s is able to drive itself into position and charge without you needing to do anything.
The ILife A9s comes with separate fittings for vacuuming and mopping
You'll find a remote (and two AAA batteries for it) as well. The remote has a small display which shows the running time and standby time, and lets you control various functions of the ILife A9s. You can drive it around manually, start and stop automatic cleaning procedures, choose the cleaning mode, and send it back to the charging station.
You get one ‘virtual wall emitter' (with batteries included to power it) in the box, and it can be placed anywhere on the floor. This creates a virtual wall that will prevent the ILife A9s from crossing into or out of a certain area. This can be used to block off access to different parts of your house as needed. It's an old-fashioned method of doing things, and isn't as nifty as the app-based virtual walls that you can define for the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, but it works well enough. Additional emitters can be purchased for Rs. 1,100 each.
There is a power switch on the side of the device (which ILife recommends be left on all the time to keep the device in standby and ready to go) and a start/pause button on the top, which can be used to control the basic functionality of the device. Also on the top is a camera sensor, which is used to navigate and detect obstacles and walls. The ILife A9s has a flexible bumper on the front which allows it to safely negotiate walls and obstacles as it moves around.
To set virtual walls for the ILife A9s, you need to use the included emitter
Multiple functions, but you'll need to change the fittings manually
Like many of the popular options available today, the ILife A9s lets you both vacuum and mop your floor, but unlike the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, it can't do both simultaneously. There are separate fittings; one exclusively for vacuuming and the other primarily for mopping. Although the mop fitting does have a small dirt catchment area and the device does pull in a bit of dirt while mopping, this is basic at best and is only meant to clean up just enough for the mop to be effective.
This means you'll have to run through a full cycle twice for effective cleaning. The end result in my experience was proper vacuuming and mopping, but it naturally took longer, and I needed to swap out the fittings in between tasks. It was more time and effort-intensive than using the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, since it involved a bit more intervention on my part.
All this said, the ILife A9s is very effective at both vacuuming and mopping. A big indication of how effective the vacuuming is came through examining the dirt catchment area.The device picked up significant amounts of dirt and dust through its uniquely shaped mechanism. I also spotted tiny particles of food and similar debris. The fitting needed to be cleaned after every sweep of my 600 square-foot home, purely because of the amount of dirt being picked up.
There are two brushes to sweep dirt towards the vacuum zone of the ILife A9s
Mopping is equally effective, leaving a thin layer of water evenly spread out as the ILife A9s moved, which dried quickly leaving the hard floor very clean. The water reservoir is quite large, and needed to be filled once every three to four cleaning sessions. A bit of water did drip out of the mop fitting when taking it out or refilling it, but the fact that the fitting is fixed onto the robot from the back means this doesn't pose any risk to the electronics in the device itself.
You can set the ILife A9s to clean an entire home normally, in which case it follows a basic pattern of moving in straight lines. Alternatively, you can have it clean a specific location or focus on the edges of a room. Turning the vacuuming power up to ‘Max' results in more effective cleaning. All these settings can be controlled through the remote, and also through the companion app once you've set things up.
I largely used the ILife A9s in its regular cleaning mode, in which it cleaned my entire home and used its own systems to remember where it had already been. I also used it manually, controlling it using the D-Pad on the remote or in the app to clean specific areas. When left to itself, the A9s will clean everywhere it can reach before returning on its own to recharge its battery. When using it manually, I usually had to drive it back to within view of the charging station, as it wouldn't always find its way back.This usually happened when it was in a different room and out of visual range of the charging station.
Camera-based navigation on the ILife A9s isn't as efficient as LDS
Some of the more advanced vacuum robots use LDS (laser) navigation systems, which quickly and continuously scan for boundaries, obstacles, and drop-offs. The ILife A9s uses a less advanced method - a camera mounted at the top of the device which helps it ‘see' where it's going.
This wasn't always as effective as laser-based navigation on the Mi Robot Vacuum Mop-P. Even though it could avoid walls well enough, it didn't always spot things like the legs of chairs and sofas, or small objects on the floor such as toys or books, and often bumped into them quite aggressively. This didn't damage the device as its bumpers absorb most of the impact, but it could cause scuffs on furniture or potentially even knock things over.
Unlike the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, the ILife A9s uses a top-facing camera for navigation
Fortunately though, the device didn't drop off from any steps or ledges during my testing, thanks to sensors at the bottom. It can climb short steps such as joints in the flooring or the edges of carpets, but will obviously have to be lifted in and out of spaces where there are stairs or raised barriers. You'll also have to get loose rugs and things like footwear out of the way, to prevent anything too large getting stuck in the vacuum rollers or brushes.
If you're using the app, the ILife A9s will let you know if there are issues, including the brushes or roller getting jammed, or the device getting stuck in a position it can't get itself out of. I did run into a few of these issues during my time with the ILife A9s, but fixing these, as well as general maintenance of the device, was easy enough.
One key advantage of having a camera for navigation is that the ILife A9s isn't very tall, and could slide into gaps under low furniture that the Mi Robot couldn't access. The device also isn't as wide, and was able to clean spaces in my home that weren't very easy to reach. Having two brushes also meant that it was able to sweep dirt a bit more effectively from edges and corners, before vacuuming it up.
ILife app for smarter controls
The ILife A9s is a smart robot vacuum-mop, and can be controlled, monitored, and updated using the ILIFERobot AS app. I used the app on Android, and the connection and setup process was quite easy. Once completed, the ILife A9s is always online and ready for remote orders from the app.
Although the ILife A9s does create a map of your home when working, this is very basic, and doesn't get saved for future reference. Instead, it's only used to ensure that the robot efficiently cleans your whole home without repeating areas, and can find its way back to the charging station on its own. This means you can't order the robot to clean specific rooms or areas, and can't set up virtual walls without emitter devices.
The app lets you control the device remotely, and also adjust various settings and monitor the life of the parts
What you can use the app for is to start and stop cleaning tasks from pretty much anywhere in the world, as long as the ILife A9s is connected to your Wi-Fi, and you have Internet access yourself. You can also see its cleaning history, with detailed logs showing the time taken, area covered, and a basic map of the cleaned area. Although you can control the robot with the app, I found it easier to use the device's own remote.
You can also set the water flow for mopping, check the estimated remaining life of parts such as the brushes, roller and filter, and activate ‘Max' mode for more powerful suction. The app also shows the battery level of the ILife A9s with three levels, which only gives you a very rough estimate, unlike the more precise depiction you can get with the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P. The app isn't as detailed as the Mi Robot's, but it's enough to offer a decent level of smart control over the A9s.
Enough battery life to clean a regular-sized house
Battery life on the ILife A9s was difficult to estimate, as the only indicator is the three-level icon in the app. Both vacuuming and mopping my 600 square-foot home, one after the other, took about 60 minutes and dropped the battery from a full charge to around the 33 percent level. This suggests that a single charge can cover an area of around 1,500-1,600 square feet for a single task, or let you both vacuum and mop a home of around 700-750 square feet.
The fact that the device needs to run twice to both vacuum and mop your home is part of the reason that battery life seems a bit low compared to the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P. Running on ‘Max' mode drained the battery a bit faster, but there didn't appear to be a significant difference based on the battery readings. The device took around four hours to charge from that level back to full.
The remote is a useful addition, and lets you manually control the ILife A9s
The robot vacuum market in India is largely unorganised, with most options coming from little-known brands on e-commerce sites. Prices and availability for these devices tend to fluctuate heavily, and there isn't much of an after-sales presence either, so it's a bit of a gamble buying such devices right now. That's where companies like Xiaomi and ILife come in, offering more consistent pricing, the promise of after-sales support, and the hope of a reliable experience.
The ILife A9s is more expensive than the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, but not as smart, and needs a bit more manual intervention and maintenance in the form of regular cleaning and switching fittings between tasks. However, the device is effective at its core function of cleaning, and there are enough smarts to make it worthwhile and usable once you get used to its limitations and quirks.
Like the Mi Robot, the ILife A9s isn't a complete replacement for manual cleaning; you'll still need to sweep hard-to-reach areas and mop your floors with cleaning liquids once a week to really keep your home clean.
The big advantage with the ILife A9s is easier availability at what I consider to be a fair price for what it offers. It may well be worth the price difference over the Xiaomi Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, because it's available easily and ships as soon as you place the order.
Ali Pardiwala writes about audio and video devices for Gadgets 360 out of Mumbai, and has covered the industry for a decade now. Ali is a Senior Reviewer for Gadgets 360, where he has regularly written about televisions, home entertainment, and mobile gaming as well. He is a firm believer in 4K and HDR on televisions, and believes that true wireless earphones are the future of the personal audio industry. Ali is available on Twitter as @AliusPardius and on email at email@example.com, so do send in