Available from November 2nd on amazon.com for US$59.99
Today we’re looking at a bit of a ‘first’. The product I’m looking at today is the world’s first smart diffuser on the market that works with HomeKit, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. I know you probably don’t care too much for the last two systems, which his fine, as we’re all about HomeKit here, but I can tell you this is one unique device.
I won’t spend a lot of time on the box itself, as assuming you’ve read other reviews by me for other Vocolinc products, you’ll know they place a lot of emphasis on good, strong packaging, and this carton is easily very strong, providing more than enough protection for the Flowerbud diffuser itself. As the Flowerbud is quite a large device, this is a large box (obviously), so bear in mind the possibly higher delivery costs, should you not qualify for free shipping.
As already stated, there’s ample protection provided with the box, and inside, once opened, you’re presented with the manual, and some very strong material to protect the top of the Flowerbud. After this is removed, you get to see the device itself, which is placed inside an inner protective layer of card. There’s also the first of three HomeKit codes provided, with the first one on the inside of the box flap. Besides the Flowerbud, you’re provided with the aforementioned manual, which also contains the second of the three HomeKit Codes, a small customer service card, the power supply, and a small plastic measuring jug capable of holding 100ml of water.
Let’s start with explaining what exactly the Flowerbud is, and what it can do. If you know what an aroma diffuser is, then this is the ‘smart’ version of that, but if you’re not aware of diffusers at all, these types of devices basically ‘diffuse’ essential oils around your room, creating a pleasant smell, while some will also humidifying at the same time. The most basic type of diffuser is the candle-based heat diffuser which simply heats a small dish containing a mix of water and essential oil. The Flowerbud is different in that it diffuses the oil/water mix via an ultrasonic transducer, which doesn’t require the mixture to be heated, instead simply vaporising the mix, which is nearly instantaneous. Diffusers are also used in aromatherapy and other recreational ways.
So looking at this device, I can tell you that the ‘Flowerbud’, as it’s called, is larger than I expected, standing at 249mm high, and at it’s widest, 167mm. So, this isn’t something you would conveniently hide behind the sofa as such, and if you look at the design, it’s clearly meant to be seen! The design is based on a flower bud that is still waiting to ‘flower’, hence the name.
Taking a more detailed look at the Flowerbud, at the top we have an opening for the ‘mist’ to emanate and spread around the room. On the front of the device, on the base, we have two physical buttons for quick access to the two main functions of the device – the ‘mood light’ as it’s called, and the diffuser part, labelled here as ‘mist’. As you can see by the images, this device already has one up on a basic diffuser, with its built-in LED light. Once added to HomeKit, this is labelled as ‘Mood Light’, but of course you can rename it as you see fit. The first lab-tested version of the Flowerbud I was provided with, appeared as ‘Flowerbud’ by default once added to the Home app. This second Flowerbud, came up as ‘Aroma Diffuser’ when I added it to HomeKit, but of course, you can name it anything you want.
The Flowerbud comes in two halves, with the base, containing the water reservoir that you add your mix of water and essential oil, and the top part that is mostly the funnel for which the diffused water/oil vapour is channelled. The whole unit isn’t overly heavy and the plastic used, while light, doesn’t feel in any way cheap. Overall, including the power supply, the weight comes to 578g/1.27lb. The outside has a slightly textured feel which allows for it to largely remain fingerprint resistant. On the underside of the base of the unit, you have the an instance of the newer style QR-based HomeKit Code, an air intake that allows the diffused mixture to be pushed up, a simple cannon style DC socket and a small drainage outlet, in case the device is overfilled.
The reservoir holds 300ml/10fl oz of liquid, and to make sure you don’t exceed this, there is a water level on the inside of the base with the words ‘MAX’ to indicate the maximum water level. on the floor of the reservoir, you have the atomiser itself that does all the work of creating the mist, along with a water level detection sensor and an air outlet (not pictured). The Flowerbud also comes with a measuring cup, that can accommodate 100ml at a time. The Flowerbud has a maximum recommended continuous running time of 8 hours, although from testing this device for the last two weeks at various times and lengths, I’ve found that in our living room, running for one hour is usually more than enough to make the place smell nice. This brings me to another point; I did post a picture of the Flowerbud on a few forums to get some quick feedback, and one complaint I heard a couple of times was that these diffusers have to be refilled very often, in fact someone claimed they need filling every half hour or so. I can categorically say this is nonsense, at least in the case of the Flowerbud. I filled it to the maximum level, and had the diffuser running for an hour at a time, at various times for each day and I only decided to refill it after 5 days, not because I needed to, but because I had to do some photography for this article, which meant I had to empty the water that was still in there. Of course, it all depends on how often you use it, and for how long, but it certainly lasted for me, and refilling was achieved without any fuss whatsoever, so the negative points I heard just aren’t valid enough excuses to me and don’t really stand up to scrutiny for average use.
As already mentioned, the base part of the device has two physical buttons, one for the ‘mood light’ and the other for mist. Pressing the ‘light’ switch merely turns the light on and off. If you perform a ‘long press’ on this button, you can cycle through a few basic colours – just press and hold the button, then release once you hear a beep, and the mood light will change colour. The mist button offers a little more functionality, so when pressing it, you cycle through three states; one is for low level diffusion, then another press will give you a higher level of diffusion, with a third press turning the diffusion off. According to the sticker that comes placed around the buttons, a long press on this button will cycle through preset times for the diffuser to be on, with 2hrs, 4hrs and 6hrs. Whenever you press either button, the Flowerbud emits a short ‘beep’ to let you know your press was registered. If you ever need to reset the device, holding down both switches together will eventually reset the device to factory settings. We’ve talked about the use of essential oils being used with this device, but it’s important to note that you should use 100% natural water-soluble essential oils ONLY. Other oils that contain chemical ingredients, flavours or impurities may cause damage to the device.
You can see that the device contains coloured LEDs, which really makes this device an eye-catcher in the evening, and I would say a good conversation starter when having guests, with it’s unique shape. The shape is the kind of thing that some people will love or hate, and to me that’s a good thing. If someone has no opinion at all, then it’s not getting noticed. In a dimly-lit or darkened room, the light is more than adequate to earn its title as a mood light, but you wouldn’t really be able to use it as a fully-fledged light like the Hue Go. It’s bright enough as a night light though, and the brightness, as well as the colour, can all be adjusted in the Home app as well as Vocolinc’s own LinkWise app. In the manual, the mood light is described as a ‘Rainbow Spectrum Mood Light’, but it’s actually capable of the standard 16 million colours.
Onto what you can do in the Home and Linkwise apps; In the Home app, you get two tiles, one for the ‘mood light’ and one for the Flowerbud/diffuser. The mood light is simply like any other colour light you find in HomeKit, with the ability to change the hue and brightness of the light, so nothing out of the ordinary in this respect. The other tile shows a symbol to represent a humidifier, which the Flowerbud is too essentially.
If you go into the settings for the Flowerbud you have two separate panels to choose from initially, one of which is a slider to set the desired humidity, and another to turn the humidifier part of the Flowerbud on or off. The main settings panel just shows you the current humidity in the room you have it located in, which means it has a rudimentary humidity sensor of sorts. Aside from that there are no other specific settings for the device itself. When you set the diffuser to on, you set the level of humidity you want, and it will rise to that level and then stop. As it makes its way to the desired humidity level, it will show ‘Rising to 86%’ for example and on reaching that level, it will change to ‘Set to 86%’ on the tile.
In the LinkWise app, by Vocolinc, you have a few more available options. You have five levels of output for the humidifier/diffuser part, including off. from the same page, you can set a timer for how long the device stays on for, from 30 minutes up to 8 hours. Like the Home app, you can adjust the colour and brightness of the mood light on this page. You can set timers for when the Flowerbud turns on or off, but of course you can also do this in the Home app, but the other thing that you can do with the mood light has to do with certain light effects that work across all Vocolinc colour lighting products.
So, you have the colour picker as standard, but you also get three special lighting effects – Breathing, Flashing and Smoothing. Breathing goes from one colour to the next, but dips to off before going into the next colour. Flashing is the same, but there’s no fade out, just one colour to the next. Smoothing is the same as breathing, but there’s no dip in brightness to off, so the colours transition from each other smoothly. Now, I wouldn’t normally go for any of these effects, certainly not light bulbs for example, but I do use the ‘breathing’ effect on my Vocolinc light strip, which is situated underneath a TV cabinet, and as it’s closer to the ground, it’s more subtle. With the Flowerbud, its just as good, as it adds to the ambience with a light that isn’t too bright, and sort of goes along with the diffuser part of things. Perfect for meditation I’m guessing, although you’d not catch me doing yoga! All three of these effects can be customised, from how slow the transitions are, to the overall brightness, along with choosing which colours you’d like to include in the transitions, so if you only want to go from green to blue and back again, you can do this. Using the Linkwise app for the Flowerbud is one of the rare occasions where I prefer it, as the settings are more comprehensive. Whether this is a limitation of the HomeKit framework I’m not sure, but at least you can still do the basics with the Home app, regardless.
The unit is powered by a simple adaptor and is designed to work in both 110-120v and 220-240v countries, so if you buy this in the UK or EU you’ll get this with the appropriate power supply, not the one pictured above, which is suitable for North America, Canada, Taiwan, The Philippines and Japan.
So, after all this lengthy explanation of what is does, what’s my verdict? Well, I’d be lying if I said I’d always wanted a Smart diffuser. When I lived in the UK, I bought a bread machine, and soon after the novelty of making my own bread wore off, I stopped using it, and I imagined this would be the case with the diffuser, but actually, the opposite was true. I found that I wanted to make the place smell nice (we’ve got two beagles who do their best to make the house smell less than fresh…), and I wanted to create a nice ambience. I think if it wasn’t for the design, which personally I love, and the additional mood light, maybe I wouldn’t use it, but the great thing is that as it’s smart, unlike the bread machine I had, I don’t have to think about it too much or really do anything beyond making sure it’s topped up with water. I can create timers so that it comes on for an hour each morning, so we wake up with a nicely fresh smelling living room, and I can automate it so that if the humidity gets too low (not often in Taiwan), then it will kick in until the desired humidity is reached. All of these things set it apart from other things that become a quickly forgotten novelty.
It’s worth looking at the design too though, and as I mentioned before, this is the kind of thing that some people will love and some will hate. I like it and it sort of makes me think of this as the successor to the legendary Lava Lamps of the 60s and 70s. It has a sort of retro, curvy design that may not work for every scenario, but the fact that it can change colour – or even be turned off if you wish – makes it quite amenable to a lot of situations. In terms of the colour aspect, I love that Vocolinc have decided to not restrict the light to just the upper section, so you get a thin line of colour around the middle as well as highlighting the two buttons at the front. When I first got this delivered I liked it immediately, as I could feel that it took guts to go for not only a unique design, but also a niche product. Honest opinion – buy it – if you want something a bit different from the run-of-the-mill smart stuff, this is top of the list in my view.
Full disclosure: Vocolinc provided HomeKit News with the Vocolinc Flowerbud Smart Diffuser for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was made or requested.