An upstart American company I had never heard of called SmartMow has launched a new line of robotic lawnmowers starting at $999, but is on special for ***$749*** for preorders. Looks like iRobot has been thoroughly beaten to the punch on producing an affordable robotic lawnmower by another American robotics company. (Robot Stock News reported earlier that iRobot has filed for a patent on its own robotic lawnmower designs.)
The SmartMow looks to me like a fairly cheap knockoff of the Robomower, and it will be the cheapest robotic lawnmower on the market by several hundred dollars. It features three blades, a self-charging home base, anti-theft card, lithium batteries and enough power to mow up to about 1/3rd of an acre. It features conventional perimeter wire technology used by other robotic lawnmowers such as the European Lawnbott or Israel's Friendly Robotics Robomower to prevent the robot from say, going into the street, or into the neighbor's yard, etc., but SmartMow says it takes about an hour to install the perimeter wire with the included pegs. (The innovative $1,299 Lawnbott LB1200, which is the first robotic lawnmower to not need a perimeter wire due to grass sensing technology, has been sold out for months in the U.S.) I'd be worried a bit about the use of Lithium batteries since they usually start wearing out after a year of use, at least the ones in my iPhone and MacBooks do. The Robomower uses sealed lead-acid batteries, so SmartMow says their batteries are more environmentally friendly. There is a 2-year warranty, but not on the battery. (UPDATE 12/24: After the tremendous response to this post, the manufacturer is now including the battery in the 2-year warranty. That makes this a pretty smoking good deal.)
According to Smartmow.com, the company has 1,000 units in stock "manufactured by Robolabs Inc." -- another company I've never heard of, although it is headquartered in suburban Philadelphia according to its snazzy web site. They want $175 upfront to reserve your robot and $575 in the spring when it should be ready for delivery. There isn't much other information on the web site, although there are a few instructional videos.
The overall design appears very, very similar to iRobot's Roomba. Also of note is that this mower is MUCH lighter than a typical Robomower, which can easily approach 100 pounds. The SmartMow is just 17 pounds. Lithium helps with that, certainly. Although with it so light, I'd probably want to be extra careful to make sure children are not playing around it, although SmartMow says they have auto-shutoff safety technology if someone lifts the mower while it is operating. (And all robotic lawnmowers tend to be safer than the regular types, which regularly send thousands of people to emergency rooms with lopped off toes and fingers and the like.)
At any rate, I'm thinking of going in for one. My neighbor spends about $30 a week getting her lawn mowed, and I lug around a Sears mower every week as it belches exhaust. If it lasts a couple of years under the warranty and I get my time back, that's a pretty good return. That is of course, if this company is still in business in two years. Who knows in this economy?
My guess is we'll be hearing a lot more about SmartMow once they start shipping.
Here is a YouTube video (it had only 25 views at last check):
Tags: iRobot, robot, iRobot, SmartMow, robomower, lawnmower