The Airbubbl is a neat product that can improve the air you breathe while driving – but it can be fiddly to install and the app needs some work.
- Effectively cleans your cabin’s air
- Easy to use
- Comes with dual USB charger
- Not that easy to fit in all cars
- Quite noisy
- Doesn’t display air quality readings
- Review Price: £299.99
- Bluetooth control via iOS and Android apps
- Two speed modes
- Dual USB charger
What is the Airbubbl?
Home air purifiers, such as the Dyson Pure Cool Tower, are growing in popularity, yet the most dangerous air we’re likely to encounter is in our cars. Fumes from other vehicles penetrate our cars, exposing us to dangerous levels of toxicity. The Airbubbl is designed to combat this, cleaning a car’s cabin of harmful particles and gases.
Airbubbl – Design and build quality
The Airbubbl looks like a huge Bluetooth speaker. At 310 x 120 x 120mm, it’s about as wide as a car seat and is designed to clip over the back of the driver’s headrest. There are vents on either side of the unit, designed to suck in dirty air and blow out purified, clean air.
A single rubber strap is all you need to get the Airbubbl onto the back of your car’s headrest. Well, that’s in theory, since the design of your seat has a lot to do with how easy this job is. On my BMW X3, the curved seat “horns” made it difficult to clip the Airbubbl into place. In the end, I had to raise the headrest and clip the strap around the headrest’s two metal supports.
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Even so, I had the rubber at full stretch, which made clipping the two ends together hard. A design with adjustable straps would have been better.
With the Airbubbl in place, you next need to power it. This is achieved via the bundle USB-C cable, which terminates in a traditional Type-A port. My car’s internal USB port wasn’t powerful enough for the air purifier, so I had to use the provided cigarette lighter adapter instead. This provides one 2.1A USB port for the Airbubbl and a spare 1A port for other devices, such as charing a phone.
Thoughtfully, Airbubbl provides a few sticky cable clips that you can attach to the back of your seat for a neat cable run. Although the Airbubbl is quite a smart-looking bit of kit, it is noticeable in-situ. Jutting out from the back of the seat, the air purifier doesn’t blend particularly well with the comparatively cramped interior of the car. At least, being mounted at head height, it doesn’t interfere with a passenger’s leg room.
Airbubbl – Features
The Airbubbl features a single button. Tap it once and it springs to life on Auto mode, which runs at maximum speed for five minutes, before dropping down to a slower speed for a maximum runtime of 120 minutes, after that shutting down automatically. When the Airbubbl goes off, you can restart it. The power button also lets you cycle through the Boost and standard speed modes.
Alternatively, the Airbubbl can be controlled via a phone, using the app and a Bluetooth connection. Strangely, the Android and iOS versions of the app are quite different. With Android, the app just connects to the Airbubbl; with iOS, you’re asked to create a user account first.
I couldn’t get my iPhone to create an account and repeatedly received an “Unexpected error” message. It turns out that there was an issue with Airbubbl’s servers, which has now been fixed. Even so, it’s easier to use Android, since it doesn’t require that you create a user account.
Even so, while the Android app is easier to connect to, it didn’t prove to have the most reliable Bluetooth connection; it would sometimes fail to connect.
From the app, you can start a cleaning cycle, and view how long until you’re due a filter replacement. Airbubbl states that filters should last for around six months, although to that will depend on how often you use your car and the Airbubbl.
The app counts the minutes of operation and warns you when it’s time to make the change. Replacements cost £39.99 each. You can also see a pictorial representation of how much air your Airbubbl has cleaned, based on its run-time.
There are no sensors inside the Airbubbl to tell you how clean the air is, or to denote the current level of pollutants. The best air purifiers include this information, showing you if your air is clean or not. With the Airbubbl, you can turn it on and let it run, but you won’t know when your air is at its purest.
Airbubbl – Performance
Airbubbl has been certified to remove 95% of nitrogen dioxide and gaseous pollutants, plus dust, pollen, bacteria and capturing PM2.5 and PM10 particles (ultra-fine particles that can cause respiratory problems).
To see how well it could cope, I set it up in an enclosed room and lit a smoke pellet, which burned for 60 seconds. I then turned on the Airbubbl on Auto mode and timed how long it took for the air to clear, using a Nest Protect returning to Safe mode as a guide, alongside visually noting when the smoke had been cleared.
Initially, it was easy to see the Airbubbl at work, since it pulled in smoke from the air and visually made the room less smoky. As the smoke cleared, it became more difficult to determine what was going on. I timed a complete clean at 13mins 46secs. That’s a few minutes slower than the larger Dyson Pure Hot+Cool.
Although the Airbubbl can’t tell you how clean your air is, it’s certainly capable of removing harmful toxins.
While your car will be clean, I didn’t find the Airbubbl particularly quiet. Inside my car, measured from where my head would normally be, I measured the Airbubbl at 62.8dB on maximum power. That’s loud enough to hear and, in my opinion, a little distracting. On low power, I measured it at 57.2dB, which is better, but you’ll still hear the rush of air.
More irritating was that I could feel the vibration of the Airbubbl through the seat. I put this down to the tightness of the straps, pulling the Airbubbl right against the back of the seat, due to it not fitting comfortably. Extendable straps could help alleviate this problem.
Why buy the Airbubbl?
Cars are dirty places to be and the health effects can be serious. If you want a purer environment, then the Airbubbl will maintain a clean-air cabin for you on trips. For those who spend a lot of time in their cars, or live in particularly congested areas, the Airbubbl is an interesting product.
Yet it’s fiddly to fit, quite loud and I found that I could feel its vibration through the car seat. With no sensors to let you know how clear the air is and less than perfect apps, the Airbubbl feels a few places off the pace. It’s an important health device for sure, but it needs a bit of polish to widen the appeal.