Android Central

I’ve been using the core set of the Philips hue light bulbs for a little while now, and they’re pretty great. For those unfamiliar, these are Wi-Fi-enabled LED light bulbs that can change color through an Android or iOS app. Many of the color schemes are prepackaged with the app, based on photos fed into it, though you can can input and color pick from your own pictures too.

There are a few presets that are “scientifically proven” to enhance concentration, relaxation, reading, and energy. This is all enabled through a hub that you plug in directly to your Wi-Fi router, which  communicates to the light bulbs over ZigBee, which is a decentralized, low-energy, low-speed wireless standard. Setup is super-easy; just replace your lightbulbs, plug in the hub, start the app, and hit the button on the hub in the pairing process.

I only used the original core set, but Philips recently launched two more sets of light bulbs built for overhead lighting, which is in addition to their less conventional releases before that, LightStrip and Bloom. If you’re sold on the idea of the system, you can easily end up spending a lot of money on these. The core app was recently updated with a scheduling tool, so you can set lights to go on, off, or switch themes at certain times. You have full remote control over individual lights, including color scheme and brightness. Unfortunately, the geofencing triggers aren't available on the Android version just yet. 

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Though the bundled software is great, I was equally impressed with the app ecosystem that hue has spawned. I tried out f.lux, which changes the color temperature of my PC display based on the time of day and when the sun sets in my area, and they’ve recently extended into hue so your home lights can change in the same way. The Hue Pro mobile app that offers home screen widget, a funky lava lamp mode, and soon an option to pulse the lights in time with your music. The connection to IFTTT is a pretty big deal, allowing you to do stuff like change the lighting scheme based on the weather, or blinking when you get tagged in Facebook. I would be particularly excited to get this working with the Belkin WeMo motion sensors, so rooms could calmly glow on and off in time-appropriate colors as you move throughout your house.

Philips hue hub

Now, my Wi-Fi has been out of whack for a little while - well before I set up the hue lights. Wi-Fi connections cut out to PCs and devices around the house regularly. I’ve tried switching routers, without avail, so now I’m on the brink of switching ISPs. This has been a big hurdle for the hue system: it adds not one (the app), or two (your Wi-Fi router), but three (the ZigBee hub) potential points of failure for something as simple as switching off your lights. I had a lot of instances of having to reconnect the app as if I was doing so remotely, which meant booting me out to the browser and waiting for the pairing process to run through again. This is a hassle when you’re on your way out, and you want to make sure the lights get turned off. I’d chalk that up to my personal situation rather than a fault with the hue system itself, though judging from the Play store reviews, I'm not alone in stability issues. In any case, it does highlight that if you’re having Wi-Fi problems around the home, then it will also mean you’re having lighting problems. 

The biggest hurdle with the hue system is the price. $200 is a lot to pay for three light bulbs and what can easily be dismissed as a novelty. Having used them day-to-day for awhile now, I can say that the color and intensity of light has a pretty strong effect on mood - popping on the concentrate mode and putting it up to full brightness really does make me feel more awake in the morning. Setting the living room to some dark blues and purples is a perfect backdrop for watching scary movies. Moreover, being able to bring the lights back up to some cozy warm colors when the credits are rolling is an interesting transition that you don’t really get anywhere outside a theatre. It’s hard to say if the investment is worth it until you actually get one.

As a holiday present, Philips hue is perfect for gadget fans, since it’s not likely something they’ll spend money on themselves, it’s something they can show off, and in the scope of a one-time, special occasion gift, $200 isn’t that bad. Besides, there aren’t really any alternatives out there; Spark got relegated to a developer toy after a failed crowdfunding campaign, and while Lifx is about to ship, it isn't any cheaper, and lacks a supporting suite of products. 

If you've got the money kicking around, Philips hue can dramatically change the atmosphere of your living space at the flick of a switch, but don't try to fool yourself into thinking that this is anything more than a luxury purchase. 

There are 21 comments

nofiz says:

like to try it.

Sweeet1102 says:

50$ for a sinle bulb, a bit to expensive for me...

TonyHoyle says:

Ouch. About 50x the cost of a standard low energy bulb then. OTOH I have so many of those now that I won't run out for decades (damn out cheap offers!).

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dancing-bass says:

Thanks for the heads-up on f.lux. I'm gonna try it out!

Timelessblur says:

Great toy but I would like to point out something missing from the review you will see I'm the reviews of the app. Android users do mot get access to all the same features as iPhone.
Besides the cost which I do not find unreasonable my issue is for the price I would expect good support and features to stay in line with iOS. Not lagging behind by a large margin.

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Jonneh says:

" Unfortunately, the geofencing triggers aren't available on the Android version just yet. "

Last part of the third paragraph in this review.

Mr Bigs says:

We always seem to get half assed versions of the iOS apps,why?

Seems cool. Definitely going to buy one for my room.


spock123 says:

I have 9 HUE Bulbs and they are super great. Really love them and will never ever be going back to the old fashioned bulps.

The price is steep - yes - but you save a lot on the electricity bill, and they are just worth every dime you spend om them.

Simon Sage says:

I hadn't had mine long enough to check the output on that front, but it's good to hear you're getting an appreciable difference. 

kolyan2k says:

Thats amazing, i had no idea this exists !

xketchupx says:

im in the same boat! now my christmas will be amazing lol

kolyan2k says:

Check this out (kickstarter with same technology):

Notifications idea is very cool

rogercruse says:

Check these people out...

mattopotamus says:

Use them and love them. Another good app that has a very clean interface is Lampshade.

vansmack says:

Hue Lights are to to the 2010's what Black Lights were to the 70's.

cuberob says:

Surprise seeing these here but they are indeed awesome! Too bad they are so expensive though. Dunno if this is allowed (if not please let me know) but I have actually been working on a Tasker plugin for these lights! Check it out here: with this you can e.g. let the lights blink when you receive a notification. It's paid though, sorry, trying to earn these expensive basterds back ;-). Anyway always interested in what you guys think!

Simon Sage says:

I'll definitely try that out. I was trying to get Tasker to work so I could use an NFC tag to tap the lights on and off, but the tags I have apparently aren't compatible with the Galaxy S4. Guess I'll have to snag a different batch. 

cuberob says:

Have you tried ? If you allow external access within tasker you can use this to launch any tasker Task! Can't say for sure if it'll work with any tag in combination with a galaxy S4, but it does work perfect with my Razr HD. Cheers!

Mo ZedEl says:

"WiFi enabled light bulbs". If syndrome said that to me 10 years ago, I'd have scoffed at them.

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This should really help Philips keep their edge over the flood of competitors arriving in 2014.