Products + Test-drives

The "world's smartest air conditioner" is kind of dumb

By Virginia K. Smith  | August 5, 2014 - 12:59PM

Summer may be nearing its close, but when it’s muggy outside and you’ve got a shoddy air conditioner, a month can feel like an eternity. And with ads plastered all over the subway pushing the Aros—"the world's smartest air conditioner"—we thought we'd take it for a spin.

Developed by Quirky, a start-up-y offshoot of General Electric, the unit can cool a sizeable room of up to 350 square feet, and has three modes, including a power-saving "eco-friendly" option. (To add to its tech-world cred, Uber ran a promotion delivering the Aros earlier this summer.) Its biggest selling point, though, is that it can be controlled via the Wink app, meaning you can use your smartphone to schedule when you want your room cooled down, monitor your usage (and approximate ConEd charges), and turn the system on while mid-commute. If you use it long enough, it can even adjust to your schedule and preference, turning off when you leave for work, on when you're headed home, etc.

Sounds pretty impressive. But is the Aros really one air conditioner to rule them all? After a few weeks of using the model (and quite a few phone calls with tech support, unfortunately), here's what we we learned: 


  • An air conditioner really has one job, and the Aros does it well—the unit got my sweltering room much colder, much faster than my clunky, dust-filled hand-me-down A/C, and the ability to set a specific temperature is handy. 
  • For a unit with so many bells and whistles, the Aros is pretty well priced, and runs for about the same cost as other energy-efficient models. Currently, it's marked down from $300 to $279 on the company's website, and can be found for even less on Amazon.
  • The “eco-friendly” mode is a great option, both to keep your electric bills from getting out of control and your room from getting frigid after a night of full-blast air conditioning (it will re-adjust its speed and cooling once the room has reached your desired temperature). 
  • I'll admit, the app itself is pretty cool. While I can't see myself getting too into the automatic scheduling feature or seriously curbing my A/C habits in response to its cost estimates, it allowed me to do two things I'd only ever dreamed of: cool down the room before I got home, and change the temperature without leaving my bed. That is, once I actually got the app to work (more on that below).


  • Be warned: the paper instructions that come with the unit are missing a crucial step, which tells you how to attach the wing clips, without which the adjustable wings on each side of the unit won't stay in place. The only place to find a correct version of the instructions is a correction on their website, or through the instructional video. (Even online, the PDF of the full instructions still omits the key step, oddly enough.) Mistakes happen, but it’s a fairly unfortunate oversight for anyone who doesn’t find installing, then un-installing, fixing, and re-installing a heavy A/C unit to be a particular joy. 
  • More set-up problems: I could not, for the life of me, get the app to install on my phone. The Aros requires specific changes to router settings in order to connect to certain types of wireless networks, which the A/C needs to reach in order to link up with your phone—something I wouldn't have known had I not called tech support. ("Oh yes, we get questions about this all the time," I was told by a technician after my first call.) I made the necessary changes, but after a cumulative hour and a half on the line with their (very pleasant and helpful) support crew, it was decided I should give up, and try it on someone else's phone or tablet. Lo and behold, the app worked when I tried it on an iPhone 5 instead of my slightly older iPhone 4. 
  • To add insult to injury, when I first started trying to get set up, this adorable, infuriating error message is all that I found on the app's FAQ page:

  • In addition to a new air conditioner, you'll also be getting a de facto night light. The display on the Aros glows a very bright blue that could be off-putting, depending on its location and your sleep habits.
  • For such a sleek, power-saving appliance, this thing is loud. Much louder than the aforementioned hand-me-down A/C unit, and noisy enough that I've taken to watching Netflix in bed on my laptop with closed captioning. When I've got the Aros running, it's loud enough that I'd miss half the dialogue otherwise. Even in the eco-friendly mode, it powers up and down loudly enough that I've actually been woken up by it once or twice.

The verdict: 

Hold off. Especially with just a few weeks of summer left, we'd wait on re-considering the Aros until at least next year, or until they've released an updated model. For what it's worth, Quirky reps were helpful and very apologetic about all of my issues (and claim that they aren't actually inundated with calls about the wireless problem), but regardless, it seems pretty likely that this product was rushed out in hopes of selling it in time for summer. While the idea is a great one, there are a lot of kinks that need to be worked out.


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