ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner review: great hardware, lacking software

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After having the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner clean my floors for the past couple of weeks, my overall verdict on it is that it is a great robot vacuum cleaner. Sadly, though, its outstanding hardware is currently held back by its inadequate app and lacking firmware. In this all-encompassing review of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, I will cover the good, the bad, and the ugly, of this little household helper.

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ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum and Mop Cleaner

  • Vacuum and mop: Supports both vacuuming and mopping.
  • Battery: A 4900 mAh battery can power the ILIFE A11 up to three hours.
  • High suction: Up to 4000 Pa of suction get rid of dust and dirt with ease.
  • Advanced mopping: By using a Y pattern, the ILIFE A11 leaves your floors cleaner than comparable products.

It is pointless for you to read this review, without knowing how I reviewed the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner. So, before we get into the nitty-gritty, a few explainers: I am not in the business of giving a product a rating in the form of numbers because what does it mean to you if the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner were an 8,7 while another robot vacuum cleaner an 8,8?

You should also be aware that I was provided this robot vacuum cleaner free of charge from ILIFE. However, no money changed hands and ILIFE does not have any say on what I write about their product.

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The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner during its review period on a hard wood floor.
I tested the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner on hard wood and…
The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner during its review period on a slate floor.
…slate floor. Not pictured here is the living room carpet.

Table of Contents

Verdict

In my opinion, you will not regret purchasing the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner. This comes after reviewing the device in my home for multiple weeks. However, if a deep integration with Home Assistant, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa is on your wish list, you should look elsewhere. You will also have to put up with an app that will occasionally freeze and lag. The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner will clean carpets as well as hard floor and does a good job at mopping too.

The good

Strong suction leads to efficient cleaning on carpets and hard floors.
Cleans pet hair and crumbs from any surface.
Comes with two dust boxes and plenty of extras in the box.

The bad

Can get stuck on objects that aren’t picked up by the LiDAR sensor.
Will try to rip curtains from the ceiling before realizing it can’t continue the clean-up.

The ugly

The app crashes and freezes frequently. It could also be much better designed.
Smart home integration leaves a lot to be desired.
There is no open API.

About this ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner review

This review will look at the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner as it is. I won’t be criticizing this product for not competing with alternatives in a higher price-bracket. As my only previous robot vacuum cleaner was the budget Xiaomi Robot Vacuum Mop 1C, which costs about half the price of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, there won’t be many comparisons to other, competing products made.

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What you will find in this review, and how I like to differentiate myself from other sites, is a report on my real-world experience. The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner has taken the place of my previous model, and I have used it almost daily since I first set it up.

I have also stopped myself from reading or watching any other reviews on the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner. Only after I had put my thoughts to paper (or should I say screen?) I searched for issues others might have found and checked if they were present in my model, too.

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Unboxing and first impressions

The unboxing experience of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner deserves to be mentioned. Instead of just including the vacuum and charging dock, ILIFE provides you with the following:

  • An extra dust filter that is compatible with both the standard dust box and the 2-in-1 water tank.
  • A rubber-only main brush which won’t get tangled with hair.
  • Two extra side-brushes.
  • And finally, two dusters for the mopping functionality.
Some of the extras you get with the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner: a duster, a rubber main brush, a side brush, and a filter.
Some of the extras you get with the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner.
The QR code on the bottom of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner
This QR code takes you to a site with links to the ILIFE VAC app.

Before charging the device, you scan a QR code located on its underside, which will take you to a site with links to the Play Store and Apple App Store. As an Android user, this step is as easy as opening up Google Lens and following the links. Why place the QR code on the bottom? As you have to flip the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner over to attach the brushes anyway, there is no chance of missing it.

Two boxes are better than one

One of the bonuses of purchasing the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner is the fact that it comes with two dust boxes. One is your standard dust box with a capacity of 450 ml. The other is a 2-in-1 water tank (200 ml) and dust box (300 ml) combo. Each box comes with a filter already installed, meaning you get three in total with your purchase of this robot vacuum cleaner.

The two dust boxes that fit inside the A11 ILIFE Robot Vacuum Cleaner.
The 2-in-1 water tank is black, the normal dust box is transparent.

The advantages of separating the two boxes are that the dustbin can be larger and thus only has to be emptied sporadically. It also makes the load the robot vacuum cleaner carts around lighter, which will have a positive effect on its battery life.

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Charging the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner

The underside of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner's charging dock.
The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner charging dock's power supply.

The first thing you will be doing with your ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner is to charge it. While it might sound boring, I do have a few pointers on this subject: The dock is very light due to the power brick being external. While this might be more convenient for the vendor to ship to multiple locations, it does have the downside of the charging dock being accidentally moved – even by the robot vacuum cleaner itself. On the plus side, there is room inside the dock to route and hide any excess cable.

The robot vacuum cleaner charges by backing in to two spring-laden metal bars. The charging mechanism is basically two large pogo pins, if that helps you picture it more easily. This system seems to work better than my previous robot vacuum cleaner, where the charging connector is on the bottom of the device. The spring and large surface make sure that the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner doesn’t have to be aligned perfectly to make contact.

The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner's charging dock.
The charging dock has two large bars that allow the robot vacuum cleaner to esaily dock.
The label of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner's charging dock, showing that it charges at DC20V.

I have read reports of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner not docking correctly, and thus not charging, even though it appears to be doing so. I have not encountered this error thus far. What is clearly the case, is that this robot vacuum does not charge quickly. In fact, it will charge slower than some modern phones using its lousy 36W power supply. A full charge will take up to three hours.

On a more positive note, I have placed the dock in a tighter space than the manual suggests, and the robot vacuum cleaner docks perfectly each time.

The suggested placement of the A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner's charging dock.
The suggested placement in the manual
The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner's charging dock in a tight space.
The placement of my charging dock

If you start a routine and during that the battery dips too low, the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner will return to the dock, charge itself until it has sufficient power, and finish the routine.

First clean with the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner

On the first clean with my new ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, I made sure I cleared any obstacles so that it could build a perfect map of the floor. And that it did. The map-building on this robot vacuum cleaner is faultless. In some locations, it did include parts of the garden, due to the full-height windows, but I can’t report any escape attempts yet.

The ILIFE VAC app showing a floor that the robot vacuum cleaner has mapped.
The vacuum selection within the ILIFE VAC app for Android.
In case you were wondering, I have decided to name my robot vacuum cleaners after the characters in Thomas the Tank Engine

But it is here that I will first have to mention what was perhaps the biggest letdown during my period with the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner: the ILIFE VAC app. Whenever you launch the app you are first presented with an image of the robot vacuum and only after you click a button will you be able to control it. I understand that this is done with those who own more than a single ILIFE robot vacuum in mind, but if it’s just one device, this step is unnecessary. With that in mind, let us discuss the app in detail.

The ILIFE VAC app needs work, a lot of work

It is always a letdown, when a great piece of hardware, such as the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, comes bundled with an app that isn’t fit for purpose. I was desperately waiting for ILIFE to improve their software, but sadly, there hasn’t been a single update since it launched.

Luckily for you, I am free to criticize any aspect of this robot vacuum cleaner – and the app certainly is part of the package. If there’s one thing that will dissuade you from purchasing the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, it will be the ILIFE VAC app. I have asked my contact at ILIFE for a timeline of upcoming changes, but lamentably, they couldn’t deliver.

Bugs that just shouldn’t be a thing

Close to every second time I open the app, I am greeted by a frozen loading icon, as seen in the screenshot. I am using a OnePlus 6 Android smartphone, which isn’t the newest, but certainly has enough power to run the app smoothly. Each time this happens, I have to close the app, and relaunch it again. It’s not like that is a difficult task, but a functioning app is something you can reasonably expect. Especially if it is crucial to using the hardware it controls.

The ILIFE VAC no longer loading and displaying a frozen icon.

Overcomplicated zone selection

A map with room descriptions in the ILIFE VAC app.
The ILIFE VAC app zone selection
A map with room descriptions in the Xiaomi Home app.
The Xiaomi Home app zone selection

Once you can open the app, you are greeted by the last used map. This is great because it is most likely what you will want to use. However, do you see that illegible squiggle in each room? That’s the room’s name. Once you click on the zoned cleaning button, a checkbox appears next to that name, which is impossible to click without zooming in to each room. This might seem nit-picky, but having to repeat the same unnecessary steps each time you want to clean a zone does get frustrating.

My comparison here is the Xiaomi Home app, where you can select any zone simply by pressing anywhere inside it, which is how it should be.

What is a setting, and what is an action?

Unfortunately, I am not done with the app yet. I hope ILIFE takes the time to read this review and takes some notes on the following: The app isn’t just buggy, but also badly designed, with seemingly no thought given to how the user will interact with it.

Buttons that will either perform an action or open a menu a strewn about willy-nilly. If I were designing this app, the records and schedule buttons would move in to the settings menu and not be in the main menu. Below the map, the actions, such as start, charge, scrubbing, and edge cleaning, would be placed. The area, manual, and spot cleaning options all change the behaviour of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner and thus should be next to the map, alongside the room selection button. Finally, the statistics can move above the map, to distance them from the actions.

If ILIFE is looking for some inspiration, the Xiaomi Home app once again does things right. They placed the action buttons below the map and the statistics above it. You access the robot vacuum cleaner’s settings by swiping up from the bottom. Additionally, they managed to reduce the number of action buttons because you can simply select a zone and start the cleanup.

The ILIFE VAC app, where the actions and settings have been highlighted.
Highlighted are the actions (orange) and settings (violet)
The ILIFE VAC app controls.
A map of a floor being displayed in the Xiaomi Home app.
The Xiaomi Home app

Where are my ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner notifications?

To wrap up my criticism of the ILIFE VAC app, I have to mention the lack of notifications. I’m not talking about the vacuum informing you whenever it docks or starts a routine, but error notifications. The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner will not inform you if it gets stuck. It will simply stop vacuuming, and the only way you have of knowing this fact is by checking whether it has returned to the dock or not.

The lack of notifications becomes irritating whenever I’m working with my headphones on. During this time, I usually want the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner to clean the dining room and kitchen. By the time I have finished working, I might want to retreat to the living room, only to find out that it wasn’t cleaned because the robot vacuum cleaner got stuck somewhere along the way.

More than one floor? Not a problem for the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner

With all of that said, the app still is functional. A feature I only become aware of after I had run the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner upstairs, was the fact that it supports multiple floors. It doesn’t just clean multiple floors, it will also map them. In my setup, there are currently three floors, between which I can change using the app.

The ability to save more than a single floor comes in handy if you want to use zoned cleaning. It also helps the robot vacuum be more efficient in its cleaning pattern.

The ILIFE VAC scheduler

Another part of the app that isn’t broken is the scheduler. This allows you to set up the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner to clean at certain times. You can define the rooms and modes using the settings.

While the scheduler is a nice addition, a more solid integration with the most common home automation services would be desirable. For example, there is no way of running the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner whenever the house is empty using just the app.

The scheduler within the ILIFE VAC app. Shown are options to run the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner on certain days and in certain rooms.

The app isn’t the only way to control the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner

The black remote that controls the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner. At the top is a display showing the current time and there are ten buttons beneath it.

If you want to forgo the app completely, there is also a little remote that comes in the box, with which you can control the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner. This remote allows you to set up the power and start mopping or vacuum cleaning.

I’ve found myself using the remote semi-frequently, mainly because it’s easier to leave it sitting next to the front door and using it, instead of digging out my phone and launching the buggy app. I do wish there were an option to set some macros on the remote. For example, have the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner clean just certain rooms at the push of a button.

How well does the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner clean?

This section does come with some cautions: namely, the fact that I am not a professional vacuum cleaner tester. But, as I’ve mentioned, I have been performing real-world tests by actually using the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner. The biggest danger of buying your first robot vacuum cleaner is expecting it to do everything. Especially at this price-point. This machine won’t deep clean your home. What it does do is help you maintain a cleaner floor. You will still have to lug out the proper vacuum occasionally, but thanks to the little household helper, with less frequency.

If numbers do mean anything to you, the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner has a maximum 4000 Pa suction, and my impression is that it gets quite loud at that level. However, there is a noticeable improvement coming from a vacuum that had a suction of only 2500 Pa.

ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner real-world vacuuming performance

There isn’t much to say about the vacuum cleaning performance of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner, except that it does an exceptional job. It removes just about anything from a hard floor, and it does it at a decent pace, too.

When vacuuming, the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner will first take a trip around the edges of the selected area. On the one hand, this allows it to later clean the surfaces without having to constantly bang in to the walls. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that debris stuck in corners will get pushed to the centre of the room during this pass.

To help me show you what you can expect from this robot vacuum cleaner, I spread some flour, rice, coarse brown sugar, and a bit of hard pasta for good measure, all around my hard wood floor. I then used the spot cleaning function to have it focus only on the area where I tipped the mix out on to.

Rice, brown sugar, flower, and pasta on a wooden floor.
Before the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner had done any work.
Rice, brown sugar, flower, and pasta on a wooden floor, after the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner took one pass over the area.
After one pass
Rice, brown sugar, flower, and pasta on a wooden floor, after the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner took two passes over the area.
Because the robot vacuum cleaner had to climb the paste, the brush didn’t touch the floor.

After a first pass, there was still plenty of flour, rice, and sugar left behind. Though, this was my error. The ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner would drive over the hard pasta, which led to the main brush to no longer make contact with the ground. As a consequence, many smaller bits couldn’t be picked up. In a second pass, this wasn’t an issue any more, as the pasta had all already been removed. It was also during that second pass, the robot vacuum cleaner managed to remove just about everything that was left behind.

Mopping: A step in the right direction

I will preface the performance review with another short bit of criticism. For some reason, the duster has to be attached on the same side as the charging port. That means that every time you want to attach the duster, you will need to roll the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner away from the dock. On my cheaper Xiaomi robot vacuum cleaner, the duster compartment can be attached without first having to move it.

To give you an impression of how well this robot vacuum cleaner mops, I have set up a scenario that occurs semi-frequently around the dining room table: on the floor there are stains from tea being spilt, and some nasty person has dropped a load of tomato sauce on the floor. As with any other vacuum cleaner, it isn’t recommended to clean up any wet foods, so I left these to nicely dry out and stick to the floor.

Stains from a coffee cup and dried tomato sauce on a wooden floor before it had been cleaned with the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner.
Before mopping with the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner
Stains from a coffee cup and dried tomato sauce on a wooden floor after it had been cleaned with the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner. The coffee stains have been removed, but parts of the tomato sauce remain.
Affter mopping with the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner

As you can see by the before and after images, the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner has no problem removing stains caused by the misplaced coffee cup. It wasn’t quite as successful at removing the red tomato sauce. While it did its best, the patch is still clearly visible. To be clear, I wasn’t expecting it to be able to remove it – and neither should you. Only the most expensive models from Roborock might have a chance removing such a stain.

A word on consumables

Just like every vacuum cleaner, this robotic one also has consumables. These include the filters and brushes. What irks me about the filters is that the dust box has a mesh filter, which will stop any large parts from entering the dust filter. On the 2-in-1 water tank, this mesh is missing, meaning it will clog up the filter much faster.

The mesh filter on the dust box catches large particles, leaving the main filter unclogged
The 2-in-1 water tank does not have a mesh filter

Ideally, the mesh filter would be located on the replaceable filter itself. The mesh will undoubtedly perish at some point, and I’m not looking forward to having to buy a whole new dust box just because of that.

Also confusing is the fact that there appears to be an active carbon mat covering the air outlet. This will remove any odours that might be passing through the ILIFE A11 Robot aVacuum Cleaner. Unfortunately, Active carbon does not last forever, but for some reason ILIFE decided to make this matt non-replaceable.

There appears to be an active carbon matt hidden behind this grill

Obstacle avoidance is not the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner’s strong suit

Earlier on in this review, I praised the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner’s mapping abilities. Sadly, though, when in use its navigation isn’t always up to the task. The robot vacuum cleaner will frequently get stuck on objects that aren’t picked up by the LiDAR sensor. I have also had to save it after getting stuck underneath the toilet bowl.

It takes some time for the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner to realize that it is stuck. It will try to pull the curtains from the ceiling before finally giving up, and I’ve also caught it continuing a routine with a small towel stuck in the main brush. This delayed behaviour is also noticeable when picking the robot vacuum cleaner up while it is running. It takes a good couple of seconds before it stops moving, even with the wheels fully suspended in the air.

Smart home integration leaves a lot to be desired

While the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner does integrate with the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, the available commands are very basic. Interactions between the two boil down to starting or stopping the robot vacuum and nothing more. To make this feature useful, it needs to allow for zoned cleaning commands. For example, if I could ask the Assistant to clean the dining room after my kids are done eating, it would spare me from having to take out the phone and launch the buggy app.

A screenshot of the ILIFE integration with the Google Assistant. The functions of the integration are listed. Using it, you can do the following: Start and stop the vacuum cleaner.
A screenshot of the reviews of the ILIFE Amazon Alexa skills. 100% of the reviewers rate it at 1 star.

Due to the lack of features, I haven’t even bothered to connect the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner to my Google Assistant – even for this review. As I mentioned, I am basing this review on my real-world experience and as it stands, this feature is useless for me and most likely many others out there.

While I don’t have any Amazon Alexa devices, the rating of the skill doesn’t make me hopeful that it is any better than the Google Assistant integration.

Can I integrate the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner with Home Assistant?

I can’t call this site Home Assistant Guide without at least giving the software a mention. As such, I must mention in this review of the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner that it is in no way compatible with Home Assistant. My contact at ILIFE has informed me that there are no plans for an open API, either. I have searched the Home Assistant forums, Discord, and GitHub and there are no custom components available yet.

Other titbits

While researching this robot vacuum, it came to my attention that it’s predecessor, the ILIFE A10, had automatic carpet detection, a feature that the A11 lacks. The ILIFE A10 uses this feature to automatically increase the suction on carpets, and lower it on hard floors. I am unsure whether this is a feature that could be added via a firmware update, or if it requires a specialized sensor. You might be thinking to yourself that this is no big deal, as you plan to run it on full blast every time. However, the lack of carpet detection does come with another downside: the ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum Cleaner struggles to move on carpets with the mop attached.

ILIFE A11 Robot Vacuum and Mop Cleaner

  • Vacuum and mop: Supports both vacuuming and mopping.
  • Battery: A 4900 mAh battery can power the ILIFE A11 up to three hours.
  • High suction: Up to 4000 Pa of suction get rid of dust and dirt with ease.
  • Advanced mopping: By using a Y pattern, the ILIFE A11 leaves your floors cleaner than comparable products.

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Liam Alexander Colman, the author and maintainer of Home Assistant Guides.

About Liam Alexander Colman

Liam Alexander Colman has been using Home Assistant for various projects for quite some time. What started off with a Raspberry Pi quickly became three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-blown server. I now use Unraid as my operating system, and Home Assistant happily runs in a Docker container. My personal setup includes many Zigbee devices as well as integrations with existing products such as my Android TV box. Read on to find out more on how I got started with Home Assistant.

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