Philips Hue, makers of a huge line of smart lighting, have just introduced Bluetooth smart bulbs and smart filament or Edison bulbs. I had a chance to play with a few of them in my home for a week or so and I’ll tell you what I learned about them, including what using the Bluetooth bulbs means for your existing Hue Wi-Fi bulbs, how they work, how to control them and if they operate differently than the Wi-Fi Hue Bulbs.
Getting a Hue Bluetooth light means some savings up front, and that can let you see the advantages of smart lighting and if you want to expand the ecosystem. If you do, you’ll still want the Bridge, as it brings extra functionality. More on that in a moment.
This new collection of Philips Hue smart LED bulbs can be controlled via Bluetooth using your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, as well as by selected smart home assistants including Google Home and Alexa.
It’s worth pointing out these are designed to have less functionality than regular Hue lights. That’s not a bad thing and it shouldn’t be a criticism. There’s a few light options in this new Bluetooth range: There’s the Edison or Filament bulbs, there’s White Ambiance, which lets you have warm or cool white light, there’s halogen replacements, as well as specialty options for a chandelier. There’s also Colour and White Ambiance bulbs that let you create different colour stories and scenes.
If you already have a Hue Bridge or a previous Hue setup, you can set these bulbs up in the regular Philips Hue app and control them in there too. Go to Settings, Light Set Up, and then choose Add Light. The app will search for your bulb and should add it to your list of available bulbs. After that you can back out of that screen and choose Rooms & Zones and assign your light to a room if you want.
Overall setting up the Hue Bluetooth bulbs is easy whether you’re using the new Bluetooth Hue app, or the existing Hue app.
Voice control & Geofencing with Hue lights
You can also set your regular Hue lights to be controlled via Google or Alexa so you can ask for them to be turned on, or you can set geofences so that when you arrive, the lights will turn on automatically, and when you leave, they’ll shut off. The sky is the limit when it comes to ways to use this lighting.
With the Bluetooth Hue lights you can still use voice control with Alexa or Google, but some of the other functions, like geofencing, timers or schedules aren’t available with the Bluetooth version. Again, this isn’t a criticism. They’re just not made to have these functions. If you want more, upgrade to the full Hue system.
Smartphone control via Hue app
Regular Hue lights are easily controlled via the Philips Hue app, which lets you change colours, adjust the different shades of white light if you prefer that, brighten or dim, set timers and connect to motion sensors, so that if you get up in the middle of the night you can set lights to come on dimly to light your way. Similarly, I have Philips Hue outdoor lights to keep the yard safe and well lit and the oranges and pinks in summer make the garden look nice, while icy blue or violet light reflecting off the snow takes some of the dead greyness from an otherwise dull yard.
Using Bluetooth app
When it comes to smartphone control with the Bluetooth app, the main difference is that you need to be standing near them to get them to operate; essentially within Bluetooth range. In my house this meant I needed to be in the room with them, or close by in an immediately adjacent room. I found within about 14-16 steps, I’d lose the signal and the lights wouldn’t work.
With the Hue Bluetooth app, you can turn on and off your lights, dim and brighten them, and set light recipes or custom colour scenes, depending on what type of bulb you have: White, White ambiance, or White and color ambiance.
Using Philips Hue lighting
I’ve said this before in previous reviews of the Philips Hue lighting system; these lights are very easy to set up, a breeze to use via the app, they operate entirely bug-free in my three years’ experience with them, and I love having the ability to decorate with coloured light, or use them remotely. I have never had a single issue with the entire Philips Hue light lineup, any of their lights, or the app, so this is definitely my favourite smart home lighting kit to recommend.
I love the fact there’s Edison or filament bulbs now too.
Overall review of Philips Hue Bluetooth lighting
While these lights have limitations compared to the full Hue lighting array, they’re a great way to get in and try out smart lights. The fact they still work with the regular Hue system is a major plus too.
In short, if you’re looking to try out smart lighting without the up front investment, Philips Hue Bluetooth lights are a great gadget to sample this technology.