The Mila Air Purifier Is Smart Tech Done Right

Quarantine demands clean air — but not all purifiers are made equal

Photo: Mila

With the pandemic keeping us cooped up inside for the foreseeable future — and the cold weather meaning no more open windows — I’ve started to wonder about indoor air quality.

I stumbled across a New Yorker article from 2019 that pointed out the danger of hidden pollution indoors and decided it was time to invest in an air purifier. But, as I’ve found in the past, the recommendations I found online focused on raw functionality over aesthetics or ease of use: They didn’t necessarily consider how a device would fit into my living space.

My research eventually led me to a new entrant in the space: Mila, a certified HEPA air purifier with smart features that just graduated from Kickstarter pre-orders in late 2020. (That HEPA certification is important: Not every air purifier has it, and without a HEPA rating, some devices can potentially do more harm than good.) The Mila purifier ($299) stood out with punchy branding, looked like something I’d be happy to have in my house, and its smart features seemed genuinely useful, so I ordered one on a whim.

For the last month, we’ve been using the Mila purifier in our home. Not only does it look great, but it’s also surprised me by being a fantastic example of how smart technology in home appliances can push beyond gimmicks and actually make everyday devices more useful. It’s packed with sensors for things like PM2.5 and VOCs, all of which can be tracked individually in the app. Still, it simplifies a complex, jargon-laden space into something anyone can understand using Air Quality Index (AQI) as an overall score.

Unlike the competition, which often looks like a medical device or giant iPod Shuffle, Mila blends into the home with its slick design. On top, it’s equipped with a cute display that tells you the state of your air quality both indoors and outdoors in your area (using the nearest available Purple Air sensor), alerts you to sudden spikes, and makes general recommendations like closing the windows if it can’t keep up. If the air quality is good, it’ll show a little smile, but when it gets bad, it turns into a frown.

Rather than using the app to duplicate basic functionality like setting the fan speed, as many smart gadgets do, Mila does things a little differently. Most of the time, the air purifier runs in “automagic” mode, which ramps the fan up and down based on the AQI score. If the air quality plummets and sends the AQI soaring above 200, which happens when we cook, the fan ramps up to clean it as fast as possible. Other air purifiers have automatic settings, but they don’t explain the shift in speed like Mila’s app does.

It’s not always practical to have the fan blasting at full speed, of course — when you’re sitting next to it on a call, say. Flipping Mila’s app into manual mode allows you to set the speed yourself, which calculates how long it will take to reach the target AQI in the room at that rate.

Just a month into owning a Mila, I’m already considering getting a second one for upstairs to cover the whole house better.

The app, which is well designed and easy to use, is packed with useful features. There’s a “quiet mode” that uses a proximity sensor in the Mila to detect when you’re in the room and turn the fan down to whisper-quiet speeds until you leave, as well as a “housekeeping service” which blasts the fan to clean the room when nobody’s been around for a while.

For those that want a purifier in the bedroom, a sleep schedule can be set that quiets the Mila when it’s time to hop into bed—or a separate white noise mode sets its fans to a nice, steady pace for a sound sleep.

There are many other features in the app, and what’s striking is how they’re all focused on helping the air purifier get out of your way. When it comes to smart devices, it often feels like they simply add another thing to manage or waste time tinkering with, and their apps often don’t do much more than you could by just pressing the buttons on the device with your actual fingers.

As for cleaning the air in our home, it feels like it’s made a big difference so far. The company offers a range of different filters, from a basic option to more expensive choices like the “critter cuddler” for those who have pets or the “over reactor” with a hospital-grade certification. I ordered the critter cuddler because we now have two floofs at home, but I also wanted the more aggressive filter to help purge cooking air from the house. The range of filter options is great, though their replacement costs are higher than those of competitors — Coway’s filters cost around $40 — which adds up quickly when you’re expected to buy a new one every six–12 months.

We rent an older townhouse without a proper extractor fan above the stove, which leaves the house smelling like food or oil for hours, but with the air purifier, the smell is gone quickly and the general air quality is much better. If the Mila is allowed to blast its fans, it generally has the air back at a much lower AQI score within an hour.

Just a month into owning a Mila, I’m already considering getting a second one for upstairs to cover the whole house better. For those living in places affected by bad air quality from things like wildfires, it’s a no brainer.

As a new entrant into the connected device space, Mila is a breath of fresh air because it’s smart done right and it doesn’t get in the way constantly. Now it’s time that other device makers follow their lead.

Developer, accidental wordsmith. OneZero columnist trying to debug the why behind tech news. Follow: https://twitter.com/ow Blog: https://char.gd

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