Discussion of robot vacuum cleaners that can be controlled with a companion iOS app

Hardware and Accessories

Hi guys,

I want to talk about a thing that could be a good solution for us fullblind person. I just thought about robot vacuums. Maybe you ask me: "Hey guy, why do you post this here on applevis?" The answer is easy. Most of the robot vacuums works with smartphone app on IOS. I just ask me: "hm... are this apps accessible with Voiceover? I read about robot vacuums which only works with this apps. For example you can create time plans or gets push messages on the app. Have someone expirience with vacuum robots? I just play with the idea to test the robot vacuum from neato which works also with Amazon Echo.
I hope you find this topic also interessting like me.
I'm glad for your answers.



Submitted by JLove on Saturday, March 4, 2017

I have the ECOVACS DEEBOT N78 Floor Cleaning Robot.
You cannot control it with your phone, but its small, quiet enough, and you can control it with the remote.
You can also program it with the remote or with the only button on the vacuum cleaner to run at the same time every day.
The remote also has a button that makes it go back to the charging dock by itself. It will also return on its own if the battery is low, or if you bump it out of place by accident.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Saturday, March 4, 2017

It's such a coincidence that this thread is popping up now, when the Neato Botvac Connected I ordered last week will be delivered on Monday. I have no experience with robot vacuums and their accompanied mobile apps, but the Neato app seems to be reasonably accessible. I was able to log into my account and explore some of the menus without having a robot linked to it. If the app isn't as accessible as I'd like, however, Neato does have an api available so you can write your own tools to interface with the device, and then of course there's the built-in Alexa support.

Just remember, you will need sighted assistance to connect the device to your wireless network, since the machine itself will not read its menu interface aloud and you need to connect to your network before the app will be any use to you.

Submitted by Justin on Saturday, March 4, 2017

I've been looking into the Neato botvac D5 model. there's no screen, thank god. It's just got a couple of multi-function LEDs on the top, and one big multi-function "start" button. You don't need sighted assistance with this one, as everything you need is in the app. Once you get it into pairing mode, which is enabled by pressing the start button and the right bumper and holding them for like 10 seconds, there should be a blinking blue light that means "i'm in pairing mode". Then you can connect to the neato hotspot or the wifi network, whichever you choose. From what I can gleam, the neato app seems to work well with VO, however not able to delve into the app much, as I don't currently have the botvac connected D5 model. I currently have the samsung powerbot essential. It's not honestly worth $500+. that's samsung for you, charging more for the bloody software than the robot is actually worth. It has no wifi, nor does it have an app. Nor scheduling, just use the remote and it goes round the house, mostly. The thing I hate about it is that it can't get close to walls like the botVac supposedly does, nor does it have a spinning side brush.
Lol, sorry for the long post, but I thought I'd throw my thoughts out there!

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Saturday, March 4, 2017

If I cannot get my robot vacuume fixed, I might buy a roomba, is that controled via iphoen app? And if so is it accessible?

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Saturday, March 4, 2017

About how easy is the neto botvac 5m to use? Sorry about spelling, It looks easy enough to use, maybe I might get that if it can do hard wood and get close to walls and stuff. The reason I wanted to get the roomba is I can put a geofence like thing up in places I don't want the vacuum to go.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Saturday, March 4, 2017

Once I get my Neato, I'll see if I can record a demonstration of the app.
Some of the newer Roombas do have an IOS app to control them. I know their latest high-end model does, but that thing is over $800.
Also, the Neato Botvac D5 probably comes with magnetic tape rather than virtual wall sensors. It's nice because it doesn't use any batteries, but not nice because there's actually a physical object lying around. Anyway, I say probably because I know Neato's other botvacs come with tape as well.

Submitted by bonerobot on Saturday, March 4, 2017

At first thanks to all users which posts so good thoughts here in this threat. I'm so amazed people show so much interest about this less dicussed thing. At the beginning I was a little bit afraid that no one have interest to robot vacuums.
I'm since a month an owner of an Amazon Echo. Well, i love this new invention. She do anything for me. Shortly I read about the Neato Robot vacuum which supports Alexa. So what did I do? I downloaded the Neato App and made me just for fun an acount. Well, it works. All labels are scripted and the connection looks very easy.
A big thank to Aaron Ramirez which I hope I understood it right he ordered a Neato robot. Aaron I wish you the bigest luck ever and I ask you to keep us informed about the accessibility of the IOS-app. Please test the schedule function and to chose the switch between the different modes which the bodvac connected offers. And if you have one Echo please test the work between the Alexa and the Bodvac connected.
Someone asked about the Roombar robots. Well, I have a friend which has one. He is visually impaired and doesn't use VO. But he use it on his Iphone.
And my last thanks go to the moderator who rename my topicname. I'm so sorry for my bad english it's horrible I know, but I'll do my best.
Best wishes

your Bonerobot

Submitted by Peter Holdstock on Saturday, March 4, 2017

I've just received my roomba 980 today and it's brilliant. I managed to set it up without any sighted assistance including connecting to Wi-Fi and using the app. The app is pretty accessible. Some of the buttons could be labelled better but easily understandable once you get used to what they are. Irobot have said they will get them fixed as soon as possible. I'm very impressed how the robot navigates my home. It can do the emtire level including all rooms without having to setup any walls. The virtual walls are very small and now are use AA batteries so easily hidden away. It's much quieter than I thought it would be and despite a full vacuum with my old cleaner yesterday which is a cylinder vacuum, my little roomba still managed to fill it with cat hair I missed The build quality is also excellent. I had one of the first and the plastic cracked but this one seems very durable. When it approaches objects, it touches them very gently so I don't think there will be any marks left either on the object of the robot. Impressive

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Saturday, March 4, 2017

I'm definitely glad the IRobot team is listening to accessibility concerns. I'm hoping Neato is just as open to working on it if it is needed.

@bonerobot: If I do record a podcast, I plan on demonstrating the app as well as the Alexa integration.
Maybe we should have a new category in the app directory for smart home related apps like those used to control devices like this or even the Amazon echo.

Submitted by Justin on Saturday, March 4, 2017

I heard somewhere that the Amazon alexa only supported the newest samsung powerbot robot. I'm not sure of the neato, however if it works with alexa, good.
All neato robots, from the very first, the XV11 released back in 2010ish to the current botvac D5 have the magnetic strip that is a roll of metallic tape that you cut and place on the floor to your desired size for a boundary that the robot will then not go over, hence the term boundary marker. I personally love the neato better than the roomba robots. The thing I don't like about the roomba robots is that when they return to their dock, the vacuum doesn't shut off power to the other motors for the vacuum fan and the brushes. the neato robots shut all motors off except the wheels and the LIDAR laser on the top.
The original neatly were a pain to run especially when you had to replace the batteries. Yes the originals had 2 batteries!! Anyway, you had to use the screen and fiddle with the menus, go into the support menu and click on this "new battery" then run the thing down and recharge it a few times to recalibrate the battery. the new neats don't have this, thank god! Plus they use only one Lithium ion battery, which is fantastic.
Also, if need be, you can purchase third party and/or genuine neato parts, like batteries, filters, etc on amazon. With my samsung robot I am not sure where you'd go to find replacement parts. Theres a site that sells samsung stuff, but the parts like batteries are bleeding expensive, so no replacing the battery on my powerbot, I'd rather sell the darn thing and buy the D5 neato.

Submitted by bonerobot on Saturday, March 4, 2017

@aaron ramirez:
yesterday I talked with a very gentle man from Neato support in Europe. He was very interessted and wanted to know how blind and visual impaired people work with this or this. He prommised me that he will everything what he can do to give all feedback to the developerteam of Neato if it's neccessary. He gave me his mailadress and his businessnumber if I get the chance to test a Bodvac connected.
Now few minutes ago I twittered with a Neato supporting person which sits in Caliphonia. He said that the Neato app should be working with voiceover. We sould don't get worries they have great feedback.
What I'm want to say is if some problems willl happen and we hopping not feel free to tell us all. The support from Neato is fine to hear improve suggestions.
I'm also glad to hear that VO works with roombar my congrets.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Sunday, March 5, 2017

Awesome. I will probably be contacting them with opinions in a few days, since who knows how many voice over user's they've had available to test their app.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Monday, March 6, 2017

I will be looking this thing up on amazon to see if it does hard wood flors. Does the neto return to its charger when it's done, or when the battery is about to die? or do I need to run around and find it? Lol!

Submitted by Justin on Monday, March 6, 2017

It depends on how far the robot is from the docking base. The neato can do all types of flooring.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Monday, March 6, 2017

Wow, in lookign at this I might wait until cyber Monday this year, 400 to 600 dollars is right now a bit steep. . Lol! But it sounds very good for waht it does.

Submitted by Raul on Monday, March 6, 2017

Has anyone tried the Xiaomi mi Robot Vacuum? Of course the app is in perfect chinese so I can't tell if that's accessible but the robot itself looks quite great. Similar to the Roomba 980 but priced around 350 usd outside China, there it costs around 250.

Submitted by Justin on Monday, March 6, 2017

I'd steer away from that robot. It does look good, but everything is in chinese, and I'm not sure if theres a way to switch languages. The roomba 900s look good minus the small dust bin, and I don't think the robot talks like the older roomba 600s did.

Submitted by Peter Holdstock on Monday, March 6, 2017

Hi. The Roomba 980 to speak error messages and during some of the set up but everything can be seen using the app anyway. Rgarding the small dustbin, after the vacuum had cleaned my entire downstairs, it still wasn't full. The great thing with the app is that it tells you the percentage that the bin is full and a percentage of how dirty the extractors And filters are. Because it's so easy for the vacuum to clean most days, youll find the bin won't fill up as quickly as full-size vacuum which you use less frequently. I'm sure the roomba won't be right for everybody but I really can't find any fault after having mine for two days.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Monday, March 6, 2017

I looked at that robot, but decided against it because I couldn't find much information on the company behind it, nor was I willing to buy an appliance and discover that the app was inaccessible and there was no customer support to contact.
I went with a neato because it's got very high ratings everywhere, is in the top 10 lists of robotic vacuums for 2017, and possibly more importantly, has an API open for developers, so if the app was inaccessible, I could write something myself.
I'm not a big fan of roombas because apart from their latest model, the 980, the ones before it have been blind. I want a robot that can see around it, maneuver itself around objects (if possible), etc. I also watched a video of a guy starting his Neato with Alexa, and it just sounded really cute.


Submitted by KE7ZUM on Monday, March 6, 2017

I might wait until this neato comes down in price. I saw prices from 170 new to $500 new. Alsoa lot of models so not sure which one I want to get assuming I can't get my current one fixed, the company of mien is less than helpful and it's not really that usable for me. It works but it is frustrating.

Submitted by bonerobot on Tuesday, March 7, 2017

sorry for asking but I'm so interested if your Neato is delivered and which first expirience did you have with them. Despite we're over 7000 miles along away, I'm so excited which expirience do you'll make with the Bodvac connected. Maybe it's because I want to buy me the same product :D Feel free to answer when ever you want.
Ok guys, it's 01:00P.M here
Good night!

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Yes, I received my Botvac last night. I love it! It's very good at what it does. I have a golden retriever and it's had no trouble picking up hair.
The app is 100% accessible. Even the remote to manually control the machine is accessible. It has four buttons, one for each direction, and they're all labeled and work perfectly.

Unfortunately, the machine itself is completely inaccessible, and you will need someone to help you set it up the first time. Also, if errors occur during cleaning, you can read them on the app, but you can't dismiss them from the app, so even after you've fixed the problem, unless you have a sighted person around, you will have to wait for the error to disappear from the screen before you can resume cleaning. Luckily, all of these issues are software related, so in theory, the developers can add a way to remotely dismiss notifications. Setup will probably always require sighted assistance though.

I plan to record a podcast demonstration in the next few days.

Submitted by bonerobot on Tuesday, March 7, 2017

nice to read that your neato Bodvac Connected is most of accessible. Yes, I saw it in the app that you need sighted help to took the wifi-settings. But my very improtant question is, how the app is working? Could you create time plants? Could you start pause and stop the Bodvac with VO or does exists some issues? Did you get push messages on your Iphone if the Neato is done with his work.
It would be nice if you'll could tell us this in short sentences. Oh and finally, congrets to your new Bodvac I hope you'll enjoy it.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The app allows you to start house or spot cleans (both features are accessible from the machine itself), schedule cleans, read notifications or errors that are being displayed on the screen, control the device manually, see maps that the machine has generated, and a couple of other things I haven't really played with.
And of course you can start, pause, resume, or order the machine to return to where it started (or the dock if it knows where that is) all from the app.

Submitted by bonerobot on Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I looked at the neato website and they said its possible to create time plans for your robot via the app.
For example you're working in the office or sitting in a train.

Qoute: click on the calendar icon on your robot dashboard in the Neato app and add cleaning days and times to your schedule.
I'll be really disapointed if this neccessary features will be only on screen available. If this doesn't work with vo please tell us that.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I did say you could do that within the app. I'm not sure where you were confused.

Submitted by Justin on Wednesday, March 8, 2017

do you have the botVac connected, or the newer version, the D5. Both of these machines are controlled by the app, except the D5 I don't think it has the ECO and turbo cleaning modes. Plus the D5 doesn't have a LCD screen. It just has a couple of Multi-function LEDs that tell you what it is doing and if it has an error. Usually you can dismiss the error by picking the robot up and setting it back down and pressing the start button again. If I remember correctly as I haven't used the neato robots in a while.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I have the connected. It seems like the connected is better at getting the job done, but the D5 is more accessible. That's interesting.

Submitted by Justin on Thursday, March 9, 2017

I read on the neato site that these do not work with the amazon alexa. The newest samsung powerbot does work with the amazon alexa, and not the neato robots.
Hope that clarifies things.
also with the neato D3/D5 the differences is that the D3 does not have the high capacity battery, nor does it have the side brush, which in my book are necessary for cleaning along walls. I don't think the D3 has the wall follow feature either.
Also, the D5 is easy to set up, even without sighted assistance, no menus to deal with like on the BotVac connected model.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Thursday, March 9, 2017

bonerobot is correct. The botvac connected series do work with the amazon echo.

I will be recording a podcast demonstration next week. my sister is having her wedding tomorrow so we'll be pretty busy all weekend, but I will post here when the podcast has been submited.

Submitted by bonerobot on Thursday, March 9, 2017


Be slow and don't worry we can wait. And your first impressions after three days? Do you use your Bodvac everyday? Are you pleased with all functions or does exist some issues yet?
Finally, I whish you much fun on your sisters wedding.

Submitted by Justin on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Well, just picked up the neato BotVac connected D5, so far it's looking great. Connected it very easily to the wifi network and now it's doing the house cleaning. One question however. How do you get it into the driving mode where you can drive it around manually? I can't seem to find it with VO.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Saturday, March 11, 2017

I can't write much right now as I am on my phone, but the D5 does not support the manual drive feature.

Submitted by Justin on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Uh, I read somewhere on neato's site that the d5 did indeed support manual drive. It was the D3 that didn't

Submitted by Justin on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Okay, no manual driving modes, nor does the D5 have a turbo mode, yet. I bet the turbo mode could be implemented in a future update.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Would like to use it from my iPhone 7, have a condominion livingroom, small kitchen, big bedroom and small bathroom. Short carpet and cat. Cleaning is getting to be hard due to back pain and a vacuum that does it automatic be good. I am hearing so many type such as botVac connected and another that I do not recall. Again which be best.

Submitted by Justin on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Here again, it depends on how much you can afford. The neato Botvac D5 is simple to use, and very easy to set up. It really depends on how much you ar willing to spend, as a good robotic vac is not cheap. The D5 runs around $500. The D5 doesn't have the manual drive mode, nor does it have the turbo mode like the BotVac connected which is the older model, from 2015. I think the BotVac connected costs somewhere around $700, so be prepared to spend money on these. There's another the roomba 900 series, but I won't go into detail, as I am not willing to spend upwards on $900/1000 on a roomba. From what I've seen, it offers the same cleaning style as the neato botvacs do, but is wayyyy more expensive.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Saturday, March 11, 2017

I imagine the D5 will do about as well as the Botvac Connected. The Roomba 980 is supposed to be great too, but it's $200 more, and uses a camera rather than lasers to map its environment. I read somewhere that they like to throw errors if there isn't enough light.

If you are blind and live by yourself, I'd suggest getting the D5 rather than the older Botvac connected, because the setup process is inaccessible on the connected.

Submitted by Rod on Monday, March 13, 2017

A week ago this thread made me curious about robot vacuums, and I started researching them. I finally decided I wanted one and settled on the Roomba 980. I bought it on Amazon yesterday. It should be here in about a week. The Neato BotVac Connected was a very close second, and I almost went with it. I really like the lasers that enable the Neato to work in the dark. I also thought that the Neato's Echo skill was really neat! I hope Roomba develops an Echo skill soon. The Neato also seemed to be a little better on carpets in various reviews, but I have all hardwood floors. I like that the Roomba doesn't have a LCD display; It just has three buttons. Reviews also report the Roomba gets less items tangled in its brushes and has a HEPA certified filter. The Roomba also has dirt sensors that make the robot vacuum over dirty areas multiple times, and the Roomba tends to bump into furniture and other obstacles a little softer than the Neato. Although I found some tech reviews that favored the Neato, I read more tech reviews that had the Roomba on top. Finally, the Roomba also had better customer reviews for satisfaction and durability/longevity. However, I don't feel you could go wrong with either one. I feel these two robot vacuums are the two best on the market.
Edited to add price: I purchased the Roomba 980 on Amazon for $861.97. This included shipping and taxes. This is a little less than the suggested retail price.

Submitted by bonerobot on Monday, March 13, 2017

I'm glad to read that we have two testers of two differen vaccuum robots. At first we have Aaron which tests the Neato Bodvac Connected and at the second we have Rod which test the Roomba 980. I'll glad to read and maybe hear your impression and your results of your expirience with your vacuums.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Roomba 980 was my second choice below the Neato. It's funny that you mention that people believed the roomba was better on tile; Many reviews I read said that they felt the Neato was great and tile and not so great on carpet. I'm not very picky, so I honestly doubt I could tell the difference if I could test both. I probably would have gone with the roomba but I didn't feel I could spend $200 for a difference I'd likely not notice. The lack of screen, however, is a feature I didn't consider. The D5 is also screenless, and a little cheaper than the older connected, but I wanted to have access to all of the features
I definitely noticed that IRobot's customer support seems to be loads better than Neato's, which is why I purchased my bot from Robot shop. According to everywhere I've looked, robotshop's technical support is amazing. They also have a vibrant forum I plan to post on to see if I can find tips for using my Neato. I also intend to contact Neato to see if some very basic accessibility features could be added, if they don't already exist. What I had in mind was a way to dismiss alerts, since it technically has four buttons, or a way to enable pairing mode without having to mess with the display. If you could do that, then everything but software updates would be accessible, but I'd be okay with asking for sighted assistance every 4-6 months or so to update my device.
I also have a question regarding my podcast demonstration. I really wanted to record this demonstration in stereo, so people could get a feel for how the vacuum cleaner actually sounded, but the podcast team is generally against stereo recordings because they're generally a bit larger. My question is, are any of you interested in a stereo recording? or should I just make it in mono.

Aaron, first, I would like to thank you ahead of time for your podcast on the BotVac Connected. Podcasts are one of the easiest ways I learn new things. however, I don't have a preference of either stereo or mono. The sound of the vacuum is not a huge deal to me since I hope to do most vacuuming while I'm at work. Your comments on sound will be good for me. I am very interested though with the Neato app. I would like to hear the various layouts of the screens, and how well you feel VoiceOver works with the app. Thanks again for taking the time to do a podcast .
Also, thanks for mentioning the Robot Shop's forum. I will have to check it out. Forums are great resources too.
I won't have my Roomba for a few more days and will need a little time to get comfortable with it, but I will be happy to post my impressions here. Not sure if I can do a podcast because I've never done one, but I may try.

Submitted by Justin on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Errors are easy to dismiss. Don't use the app to dismiss them, just press the start button on the robot, and your error should be automatically dismissed from the app.
I don't care about podcast if it is in stereo, it'll be helpful for some people, so they can get a better idea on what the robot truly sounds like. The update process is quite simple if using the neato app. It'll pop up something like Neato software update, BotVac software version 3.1.0 etc. Hit that, and follow the instructions in the app. It tells you to keep it on the charging dock, and not to hit any buttons. The thing I love about the neato, is that the dock has the two contact strips on it instead of little pins the robot has to run into like on the older roomba. Plus the neato shuts off the blower, and brushes when returning to dock/starting point. Is there a way to cause the neato robot to return to the dock, even if you didn't start it from there? I'm pretty sure you'll have to manually return it to it's home base, but I'd like input if you can give it.
Thanks, and hope it's helpful!

Submitted by Justin on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's me again. One thing I'd love Neato to implement on the D5 model is the turbo speed model like on the botvac connected. It's got the same blower, same battery as the connected, so I don't see why they don't have the turbo mode in it's app control. It also does not automatically adjust it's speed when on carpet.

Submitted by aaron ramirez on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I wish my Botvac's update process was that painless. For me, I have to plug a flash drive in and go to software update on the menu. Also, you may already have turbo. Perhaps what your vacuum is missing is eco?

Submitted by Justin on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hmm, that could be. It sounds like it is in the eco mode by default. I did some reading from various google things and they said the D5 had two modes, but I can't see the turbo and/or eco mode in the D5 on the app. It runs like does the bot vac connected does in the normal mode without turbo.
Anyway, I thought you could update the botvac connected thru the app without connecting a flash drive to it.

Submitted by bonerobot on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Well Aaron, I also don't care about stereo or mono. The essential thing is that we gets a demonstration of the Bodvac Connected. I'm also
interested how the app-screens looks like and how VO works with all. Again I want to give you a big thank that you'll take your time and create for us an important podcast to hear the Bodvac Connected in action. I thought much times about which vacuum I'll purchase? I decide to buy me the Bodvac d5 because it's scrennless and all things will be work on the app as far I read on Neatos website.
Finally, I want thank all community members which wrote great questions and thoughts here in this threat. Since three weeks ago I searched on Google about the accessibility of robot vacuums. And I found absulutly nothing. Than I posted this topic here on Applevis and at the first time I thought people would be say. "Hey guy, we are here on Applevis. We're only talking about Apple products!" xD But I see so many good comments here. Well, I think this thread could be one of the most commented threats on Applevis. I glad to see that so nice fokes exchange theire thoughts and expirience.
Thank You to all!!