Philips Hue are the most popular smart light bulbs, but are they any better than lights from Hive, Ikea, LIFX and Osram? We take a peek.

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When they were first debuted in 2012, Philips Hue smart light bulbs were one of the early demonstrations of the new technology. Now they are one of the most popular smart devices around, and a perfect introduction to the ever-expanding inventory of internet-connected tech. Do they earn their popularity, or would you be better off purchasing a bulb from one of Philips’ competitors?

Everything you need to know about Philips Hue bulbs

Philips Hue Smart light bulbs

Hue has been available to consumers for the past six years, and Philips offers an extensive selection of bulbs, ranging from white lights to color-changing lamps that can respond to what is being shown on television.

In addition to that, there are a few lamps that change colours. The Hue app that you have on your phone enables you to control the bulbs and even establish timetables for when they should turn on and off. You might programme the lights to turn on automatically when you are due home from work, for instance, or you could set them to turn on and off at random intervals while you are away on vacation to give the impression that someone is living in the house. There are three primary groups of Philips Hue bulbs to choose from.

Philips Hue White – the app allows you to control the brightness of these lights, but you are unable to change either the colour temperature or the colour.

Philips Hue Ambiance – these white bulbs can be dimmed, and you can vary the colour temperature from a warm yellow light to a whiter light that is more icy.

The Philips Hue Colour Ambiance bulb is the most advanced model available, as it is able to totally transform its appearance through the use of colour.

Because of this, you can choose to wear red when you’re watching a scary movie, and then switch to blue when you need to calm your anxieties once the movie is over. The light bulbs are also compatible with a wide variety of smart hubs, including voice-activated hubs like the Google Home and the Amazon Echo.

Instead of reaching for your phone, you could simply say, “OK Google, lower the brightness of the lights in my living room.” Hue light bulbs also come with a calming wake-up mode that gradually turns the lights on in your bedroom to coax you out of a deep slumber in a more natural way.

A comparison of brands of smart light bulbs: what advantages does Philips Hue’s competition have?
Hive

Hive smart light bulb

Hive is better known for its thermostats, but it makes a complete spectrum of smart gear, including plugs, cameras, sensors and light bulbs. You may get white lights, bulbs with adjustable colour temperature, and bulbs that can change colour. You’ll need a hub to control the bulbs from your phone, and it’s the most expensive of the types we’ve tried, at £80. It’s only compatible with Amazon Echo. Hive doesn’t make any spotlight bulbs currently, but its normal lights are available with bayonet or Edison fittings.

Ikea

Ikea smart light bulb

Ikea’s range of Tradfri bulbs includes spotlight as well as conventional bulbs, but they are all simple dimmable bulbs, with no option for colour temperature or colour-changing versions.

They require an Ikea hub to work, which means you won’t be able to use a third-party smart hub to control the bulbs, or build up routines that makes them come on when motion sensors are activated.

Ikea has claimed it is intending to update the bulbs in the future to work with smart hubs, but these aren’t your best option if you have a Samsung SmartThings hub, an Amazon Echo or another hub at home already.

LIFX

LIFX smart light bulb

LIFX, much like Philips, carries a comprehensive selection of bulbs, which includes both standard and spotlight models. You have your choice between white and color-changing bulbs, and in order for them to function properly, a hub must be linked to your Internet network.

They are compatible with a wide variety of smart hubs, and if you have an Amazon Echo or a Google Home, you can manage them just by speaking into the microphone.

LIFX also produces a light bulb with night vision capabilities. This light bulb operates in the same manner as other LIFX bulbs, but it has the additional benefit of enhancing an infrared security camera’s night vision.

Osram

Osram smart light bulb

Lightify is the name given to Osram’s smart bulb system, and it offers a variety of options, including dimmable white lights, color-temperature bulbs, and color-changing bulbs.

If you want to set up routines or control the bulbs with your voice, you will need a hub. However, the hub does not need to be attached to your network in order for it to function, and it will operate with other smart hubs.

You have the option of selecting spotlight lights in addition to regular bayonet bulbs and Edison cap bulbs.