iLife Group is a medium OEM/ODM manufacturer based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China. Their “orientation” is (according to their official site): Professional supplier of high-quality life products. Although the company was started more than 10 years ago (I think it was back in 2005), they evolved rapidly, from making tablets to many other electronics, including robotic vacuum cleaners. iLife owns a top 5 brand in China called Chuwi, which is why some of their products have been sold under this name. Today, they offer a plenitude of mobile robot vacuums, specialized on all kinds of floors. Since I’ve reviewed several models produced by this company, and since I like to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of young companies such as this, I believe that iLife brand deserves a spot next to the other vacuum cleaner producers which I’ve reviewed on my blog.
Their robot factory can accommodate a production of 80,000 units per month, which is a good base for expanding internationally. They are already trying to acquire market segments from US and Europe. Here is a picture with their facility, which I’ve scrupulously taken from their site:
As a side note, I’ve never been to China. So I’ve tried to use Google Maps to peak around the factory. Unfortunately, Street View is not available over there.
iLife robot vacuums comparison chart: V5 vs V5 PRO vs X5 vs V7 vs V7S vs A4
Since I’ve already covered 3 iLife models, and since a lot of people are asking me about the differences among them, I have spent the last 6 hours building a comparison chart, similar to the one which I’ve implemented for the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away models. Here it is:
iLife vacuum comparison
|Types of floors|
|Noise (at max. suction)|
*Note 1: For those of you subscribed to my blog, you have to actually visit this article to see the chart, you can not see it directly in your email.
*Note 2: If you’re interested in purchasing an iLife, check out these coupons.
All the robots share some common features which I’d like to talk about.
The battery is one of the most important parts of a robovac. A low-quality battery will utterly force you to replace your bot. Don’t be naive to think otherwise – from my experience, after the battery breaks, most consumers prefer to change the entire product, instead of replacing only the power supply. That is why you need to get a unit with a good battery. Although it may not seem like it, all robots produced by iLife use the same 2600 mAh Li-Ion battery. It would be difficult to variate this part, since building better batteries requires a ton of money. E.g. Dyson plans to invest in battery technology over $1b in the next couple of years. iLife certainly can not compete with this budget, but it doesn’t have to. The batteries used on the current robots are powerful and reliable.
Sensors and navigation algorithms
Because the iLife bots don’t come with ceiling cameras or fancy laser sensors, they can’t build and store a map of the environment in which they operate. This is the reason why they can only act based on a real-time decision process. For example, if they encounter an obstacle, they will choose the necessary avoidance maneuvers and continue to operate in the environment. If somehow they encounter the same obstacle again, in the same position, having the same dynamic parameters, they will compute the whole path planning process again. They have no prior memory of their first encounter. This is why they navigate semi-randomly. I’ve written “semi”, because they do have some heuristic mechanisms which allow them to e.g. follow the wall line, or perform a spot cleaning. Based on the fusion of the input provided by the proximity and cliff sensors, the bots wander around in predefined ways, trying to cover as much space as possible, without knowing if they succeed. That being said, it is worth mentioning that with a bit of programming skill, even this way of navigation can cover most of the floor areas, and in a quite short amount of time. It’s a function of time, bot speed and probability, but sooner or later, you’ll end up with floors completely clean. And until 2 years ago, all the robot vacuums where doing the same thing, including those produced by e.g. iRobot.
All iLife robot vacuums are significantly more quiet than many of their counterparts. The noise produced by the units is directly proportional with the power of their vacuum pump. The more suction your bot has, the noisier it will be. That is why iLife A4 e.g. produces the highest sound – because it’s also the most powerful. Of course, you can schedule all these bots to work while you’re away, but again, from my experience, only 20-30% of consumers use the bot scheduling functions. Thus, owning quiet robovacs is a good thing.
All vacuum cleaners produced by iLife come with 1 year of warranty. You may ask yourself, How would I benefit from this warranty, if the producer is located in China? The fact is that you will most likely be purchasing these units from a certified online wholesaler. This company is, by law, the one to whom you will address, if you unfortunately end up with a faulty unit. In many cases, these companies are trying to either make or maintain a good name for their business. That is why you will most likely get the service for which you paid. And from my experience, there are several US-based producers which may not even offer the same level of support as some of the China-based wholesalers, so if it happens to encounter problems, it will happen, no matter the location of your supplier.
Many put this on the first place. I’ve left it for the last, not because it is not important, but because this point leaves a lot of room for debate. Generally speaking, robotic vacuum cleaners are expensive. More expensive than standard vacuum cleaners. This is one of the reasons why robotic vacuums were not considered essential, especially when it comes to cleaning. It was difficult to bring good products on the market, in a society in which some still use brooms as their main cleaning tools. Here is where iLife saw opportunity. Offering a good price/quality ratio is the way you enter such a market. And IMO, they did it.
Robot vacuum cleaners may not be as demanded as much as standard vacuum cleaners, but it’s a fact that this market hasn’t reach maturity. iLife has a huge potential, and if they continue to improve from one product to the next, they will most certainly evolve into a top company. Until now, they’ve showed that it is possible to pay a fair amount of money for a quality bot. I’m only wondering what will they show us next. What’s your take on this? Do you have any experience with one of iLife’s robots?
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