My personal ‘smart lightbulb’ moment occured when I was lying in bed six months ago. Until then, I’d not been overly fascinated by app-controlled bulbs. Whisper it quietly, but I thought the colour-changing ones were a bit tacky. Did I really care if my lighting matched my curtains. Did I really think my bedroom would be enhanced by a seductive red glow? Erm, no…
So what changed my mind? Well, in a word, laziness. I simply couldn’t be bothered to get up and turn off what Peter Kay would refer to as “t’Big Light”. ‘If only that pesky bulb could be controlled by my phone’, I thought to myself.
‘Oh, and perhaps it could pop back on again in the morning to wake me up – do one of those sunrise simulation thingies.’ And so it quite literally dawned on me that app-controlled lightbulbs were a good idea after all.
Since my conversion, I’ve tried out quite a few – my favourites are below. Some use ‘bridge’ units that plug into your WiFi router. This gives them more functionality and lets you integrate more bulbs (usually around 50) into the system.
Others link directly to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. This generally makes them more affordable and slightly easier to set up, but you’ll be limited to what you can do with them – for example, you probably won’t be able to program them to wake you up.
1. THE TREND SETTER
Philips Hue starter pack, £149, John Lewis
Girl About Tech loves… ‘Possibly the best known smart lightbulb, Hue uses a bridge unit, which connects to up to 50 bulbs over WiFi. You can get various types, including bayonet and screw fixings, and even strip lighting.
‘As the name suggests, you can colour-match most Hue lightbulbs to anything from a favourite photo to a cushion or your wallpaper through the app. There are also preset modes like ‘Relax’ and ‘Reading’, and you can program them to come on and off as you please. There’s even the option to have a sunrise simulation wake you up.
‘Also check out the new Hue wireless dimming kit, £29.99, launching on November 30th. Rather than being controlled by an app, you can link up to 10 bulbs wirelessly to a dimmer switch that sticks to the wall. They don’t change colour but they offer an affordable alternative to other wireless lighting options. Plus, if you get on with them, it’s possible to integrate them into a full Hue system.’
2. LOUD LIGHTING
Sengled Pulse starter pack, £149, SengledGirl About Tech loves… ‘As well as lighting up, these JBL-powered Bluetooth bulbs can play the music stored on your phone or tablet. While the sound quality won’t fully rival a state-of-the-art speaker, it’s a fun space saver and great for a teenage bedroom.
‘The starter pack contains two bulbs, but you can buy extras for £64 each and link up to eight together for light and sound in every room. The red finish a bit too loud for you? They also come in more refined silver and white.’
3. BARGAIN BULBS
Osram Lightify gateway, £40, and colour bulb, £35, both TescoGirl About Tech loves… ‘Once you’ve invested in a single Lightify gateway – a small box (bridge) that plugs into your router – you can control up to 50 bulbs from a single app over your home WiFi.
‘The keenly priced range includes colour bulbs, £35, white bulbs that let you adjust their brightness and warmth, £30, and standard white bulbs you can turn on and off, £25. Indoor and outdoor spotlights and plug adapters for older fittings will be available shortly.’
4. WORKS WITH NEST
Lifx Original smart light bulb, £79.99, MaplinGirl About Tech loves… ‘Unusually for a WiFi bulb, this super-bright fixture doesn’t need a bridge. It also works with other Smart gadgets, including the Samsung SmartThings system and Nest. So if, for example, your Nest Protect detects smoke, it will flash red, or if you put your Nest Thermostat into holiday mode, it will turn on and off regularly to make it look like you’re at home.’
5. OUTDOOR LIGHTING
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Playbulb Garden, £39.99, MiPowGirl About Tech loves… ‘Bring millions more colours into your garden with this solar-powered light. OK, it’s not technically a bulb but it works along the same principals – it can be controlled with the free Playbulb X app or you can rely on the built-in sensor that detects how dark it is and automatically turns the bulb on or off accordingly. Oh, and it’s waterproof, so should survive a British “summer”…’