The new generation of the best smart bulbs are the perfect place to start if you’re looking to haul your home into the connected house revolution.
They’re easy to set up, fun to show off and aside from being a gadget lover’s dream, and aside from creating the perfect movie night atmosphere in your living room, they can double as a superb security measure while you’re away.
Essential reading: Best smart thermostats
Here’s our pick of the smart bulbs systems.
Philips Hue is a fuss-free smart lighting system that does everything you’d want it to and more. You can alter the brightness and colour of individual bulbs, pick colours from images and hook the lights up to IFTTT recipes via slick apps for iPhone, Android and desktop. Control apps on wearables include the Hue iOS app’s support for Apple Watch and Huebble for Pebble smartwatches. A starter pack comes with three LED bulbs, at 600 lumens including the bridge.
While changing up the colour of your lights is fun, our lights generally stay on white most of the time. For those who like to keep things simple, the newly announced Philips Hue white ambiance bulbs enable you to control brightness and colour temperature between 2200K and 6500K. Stay tuned for details.
Originally a Kickstarter project, LIFX’s bulb is a worthy rival to Philips Hue with 16 million colours, 1,000 shades of white alone and Wi-Fi bulbs with maximum brightness of 1,000 lumens.
The newer A19 bulb reduces the bulk so it will work in more light fittings, and it uses a standard screw fit. Set up is simple, and there’s no need for a hub or router, and LIFX can even connect to your Nest smart home system if you have one.
The app itself is easy to use, and aside from controlling colours and setting themes, you can also split your home up into zones – if you have multiple bulbs – and then create timings for them, which is a great way to secure your home when you’re away.
Philips Hue Go
Worthy of its own mention is the latest addition to the Philips smart lights series, Hue Go. It’s a portable, bowl-shaped lamp which is perfect for balconies, gardens and terraces.
As well as app-controlled brightness, tone and colour it can also act as a bedside smart alarm with its gradual wake-up feature. It has a three hour battery life on one charge and a handy low power mode.
TikTeck Smart LED Light Bulb
When it comes to smart home tech few come as cheap as the $9.99 TickTeck – but there are compromises. Limiting the connection to Bluetooth means that remote access isn’t an option, and your phone will have to be in the room in order to control the lights. However, using Bluetooth Mesh, multiple bulbs will connect to each other automatically, enabling you to control a whole house full of lights from one device. And the super-low pricing means you can deck out your entire home for the price of a Philips Hue starter kit.
This good value smart bulbs system is a neat entry into the internet of things. Turn the bulbs on and off from anywhere as well as dimming them manually or automatically and take advantage of simulated occupancy feature. In a tech twist on Home Alone, it uses an algorithm to make it look like you’re at home when off on holiday by turning lights, radios etc on and off at different times of the day.
The bulbs should last 23 years based on a usage of three hours a day so as Belkin creepily notes on its site, “these may be the last light bulbs you ever buy.”
Belkin’s WeMo app is actually compatible with other smart bulbs such as Cree’s Connected Bulb and it has other smart home devices in the range such as smart switches. As far as we can see, the WeMo app hasn’t been updated to work with Apple Watch yet.
MiPow Playbulb Garden
MiPow has a range of smart bulb solutions, including one with a built in speaker – but it’s the Garden model that we’re most enamoured with.
This LED solar garden light is equipped with a 20 hour battery life, from a full sunny-charge. It will turn out automatically when it’s dark and a smart light sensor conserves energy when it is bright out. It’s IP65 certified, so will survive the rain and the accompanying app allows you to program a wide range of colourful schemes.
Sony LED Light Bulb Speaker
The Sony LED Light Bulb Speaker is exactly what it says on the tin: a light bulb that also doubles up as a speaker. The 360 lumens smart bulb connects to a smartphone using Bluetooth and you’re able to control the level of brightness and the volume of your tracks using the SongPal app.
There’s also an NFC remote if you’d prefer to control it that way and sound quality should be decent thanks to the 40mm caliber and 2W output. It’s Japan only for now.
Switch up your living room’s light mood – from Fairy Woods to Calm Provence – from your iPhone, iPad and now, with one tap on the Apple Watch on your wrist. It’s fully Apple HomeKit compatible.
Elgato’s Avea 7W LED bulbs are all connected via Bluetooth Smart with no need for hubs or bridges. And one scene you might find useful is the built-in wake-up scene if you have an Avea bulb in your bedroom.
The app is neat and the price is reasonable too meaning you can build up your app-controlled ambience room by room.
More than just bulbs, Osram has a range of Lightify smart lighting including lamps, light strips and outdoor garden lights with 16 million colours to choose from, a colour picker, presets and that ‘presence simulation’ home safety feature.
The app is compatible with iOS and Android and you can have up to 50 bulbs and light devices in one massive, home-nerd system.
The name of the game here is customisation – Lightify covers every smart lighting base you can think of be it colours, controls or form factors. And it’s on the more affordable end of the spectrum next to Philips and Belkin.
Misfit offers features to rival the big names in smart lighting – millions of colours, app controls for brightness and temperature – and adds a few of its own tricks.
For instance, integration with its Misfit Flash fitness tracker means you can turn the bulbs on and off with a tap if your phone isn’t handy. It has a unique design crafted from aircraft aluminium. And the Bolt system uses a Bluetooth mesh rather than Wi-Fi.
The prices are low, too – $50 for one bulb and $130 for a set of three, undercutting Hue.