Philips Hue are the most popular smart light bulbs, but are they any better than bulbs from Hive, Ikea, LIFX and Osram? We take a look.
When they were first released in 2012, Philips Hue smart light bulbs were one of the earliest examples of the new technology. Now they are one of the most popular smart devices around, and a great introduction to the ever-expanding catalogue of internet-connected tech. Do they deserve their popularity, or would you be better off choosing a bulb from one of Philips’ competitors?
Everything you need to know about Philips Hue bulbs
Hue has been on the market for six years, and Philips offers a comprehensive range of bulbs, from basic white to colour-changing ones that can react to what’s on the TV.
There are also several colour-changing lamps. The bulbs can be controlled via the Hue app on your phone, which allows you to set schedules. You could have it so that the lights come on when you’re due home from work, for example, or have them set to turn on and off while you’re on holiday to simulate someone being in the house. There are three broad categories of Philips Hue bulb.
Philips Hue White – these bulbs can be dimmed using the app, but you can’t adjust the colour temperature or the colour.
Philips Hue Ambiance – these white bulbs can be dimmed, and you can adjust the colour temperature from a warm yellow light to a colder white light.
Philips Hue Colour Ambiance – at the top of the range is the Colour Ambiance bulb, which can change colour completely.
So you can have red when you’re watching a horror film, and a soothing blue for afterwards when you need to calm your fraught nerves. The bulbs also work with a range of smart hubs, including voice-activated ones such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
You could say: ‘OK Google, dim the lights in my living room,’ rather than reaching for your phone. Hue bulbs also have a pleasant wake-up feature that slowly turns the lights on in your bedroom to rouse you gently from sleep.
Smart light bulb brands compared: what do Philips Hue rivals offer?
Hive is better known for its thermostats, but it makes a whole range of smart tech, including plugs, cameras, sensors and light bulbs. You can get white bulbs, 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 models we’ve tested, at £80. It’s only compatible with Amazon Echo. Hive doesn’t make any spotlight bulbs yet, but its standard bulbs are available with bayonet or Edison fittings.
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 set up routines that makes them come on when motion sensors are triggered.
Ikea has said it is planning 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.
Like Philips, LIFX has a large range of bulbs, including spotlights and conventional bulbs. You can choose from white and colour-changing bulbs, and they need a hub to be connected to your router in order to work.
They are compatible with a range of smart hubs, and you can control them with your voice if you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
LIFX also makes a night-vision bulb, which functions in the usual way with the added benefit of helping infrared security cameras see better in the dark.
Osram calls its smart bulb system Lightify, and there are dimmable white bulbs, colour-temperature bulbs and colour-changing bulbs to choose from.
You’ll need a hub, although it doesn’t need to be wired to your router, and it will work with other smart hubs if you want to set up routines or control the bulbs with your voice.
You can choose from spotlight bulbs as well as conventional bayonet and Edison cap bulbs.