Smart homes are all the rage at the moment! From kettles that you can boil via an app on your phone, to home assistants (Google Home/Now, Amazon Echo, Siri) and then on to fully integrated/automated home systems! One of the biggest aspects of smart homes though… are smart bulbs. More and more companies are releasing bulbs with new and improved features – LIFX being one of the biggest brands doing so.
Founded in 2012 and released in 2013 LIFX came into the market via Kickstarter as a direct competitor to Philips Hue but without the requirement for a bridge (or “ugly box” as they marketed it ;)). Their campaign was extremely successful, destroying their $100,000 (£75,000 at today’s rates) goal, raising over $200,000 with 58 days of backing time still remaining. When the campaign finally came to a close, they’d hit $1,314,542 of funding!
Since then, there have been various iterations of their bulbs, with “Generation 3” having just been released along with an LED strip and a bulb capable of putting out IR (both of which I’d LOVE to get my hands on!!).
The bulb I currently have installed is the “LIFX Color 1000“. This bulb has many nifty features, a ridiculous range of colours and is very simple to use. At £50+ per bulb…. are they worth it?
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- 16 million colours
- 1000 shades of white (warm to cool – 9000K to 2500K)
- Up to 1055 lumens (75w incandescent equivalent)
- Requires only 11W to power
- WiFi enabled (no bridge required)
- Lasts up to 22 years (40,000 hours – years is based on a usage of 3 hours/day)
- Fittings: E26, E27, B22
- 130 degree beam angle
- Dimmable (via software)
- All bulbs are interconnected via a “low power IPv6 802.15.4” mesh network, meaning all bulbs can be grouped and managed from a single point
- IFTTT compatible
- Amazon Echo compatible
- Google Home/Now compatible
Install of the LIFX smartbulbs is really simple. Simply turn off your light at the light switch, unscrew your current bulb, screw in the LIFX bulb, grab your phone and head over to https://www.lifx.com/pages/go to download the LIFX app (I’ve not yet used the Windows 10 application as I feel it’s quicker/easier to manage the bulbs with a phone) and follow the “Get Started” in-app prompts. Within no time, your bulb will be updating/online and ready to use 🙂 It’s an easy to follow process with not a lot of margin for error. When I initially setup my bulb (via my Google Nexus 5) I did run into an issue where my bulb appeared to have connected to my home Wi-Fi, but I couldn’t see or manage the bulb via the app. Simply resetting the bulb and starting the process again resolved that issue quickly.
I don’t have any major issues with the app (both Android and iOS). At the moment I seem to have a fairly regular issue where my bulb shows as offline, despite the fact that it’s turned on and I was playing with colours a few minutes ago! I turn the Wi-Fi off on my phone, turn my bulb off at the switch, turn both back on and within a minute or so I can fiddle with 16 million colours again.
I’d also note that the preset “themes” don’t work in the way I’d imagine. This may be due to that fact that I only have one bulb and the themes are designed with a house-full in mind, but when I select a theme within the LIFX app my bulb simply changes to the colour of the area of the theme I tapped. I was expecting the bulb to gradually change throughout the theme’s colours. But again… maybe I need more bulbs? Hopefully I can order a couple more bulbs (and a LIFX Z strip) and put this to the test!! 🙂
If you’re an IFTTT (If This, Then That) user, there’s a TONNE of extra things you can do with your bulb. You can have it change colour depending on a meeting in your Google Calendar. You can have it flash a certain colour when you get a Facebook notification. You can have your lights turn on as you arrive home, with no direction interaction from yourself (GPS on your smartphone). There’s a whole host of cool functions that can be achieved via IFTTT! You can find some recipe’s here: LIFX IFTTT Recipes but you are not limited to only these. You can let your mind run wild!
The colour wheel is a clever concept, as opposed to a flat square filled with the colour spectrum. It definitely gives the impression of having finer control over the colour and brightness (controlled by the slider conveniently located in the centre of the wheel) of your light while also being very intuitive to use.
The rest of the app is fairly standard in it’s approach to controlling the light. You can set schedules, for example you can have the light slowly fade on to wake you up in the morning and then turn off at night in case you forget when you go to sleep. You can group bulbs into rooms to control them all at once (on, off, colour, brightness) and you can set the bulb to gradually turn off in a set amount of time (e.g. turn off over the course of 10 mins).
*images from LIFX’s marketing page
I have my bulb setup in our office space at home. In all honesty, I find that 99% of the time the bulb is left on plain boring white (the brightest one). My wife is also not a huge fan and gives that classic unimpressed face (ಠ_ಠ). Regardless of this, when we have people over it’s a huge talking point. Yes, some of the features may be a bit gimicky… but it’s all good fun.
I also really like the fact that I can dim the lights via my phone and don’t have to get up to turn the brightness down at the switch (not that I have a dimmer switch anyway!!).
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Issues I’ve had
As I noted above: When I initially setup my bulb (via my Google Nexus 5) I did run into an issue where my bulb appeared to have connected to my home Wi-Fi, but I couldn’t see or manage the bulb via the app. Simply resetting the bulb and starting the process again resolved that issue quickly.
As I noted above: At the moment I seem to have a fairly regular issue where my bulb shows as offline, despite the fact that it’s turned on and I was playing with colours a few minutes ago! I turn the Wi-Fi off on my phone, turn my bulb off at the switch, turn both back on and within a minute or so I can fiddle with 16 million colours again.
iOS Users: The bulbs are not HomeKit compatible, therefore you cannot speak to Siri to interact with your bulbs
There are some features that I feel are best suited to a multi-bulb setup. Unfortunately, I only have a single bulb.
If you can afford the upfront investment for multiple bulbs (£50 per bulb), I’d say this is a no-brainer purchase. The bulbs are significantly cheaper to run long term than their incandescent alternatives. The tech involved is exceptionally clever and I can see the product families growing significantly over the next year or so. There are a huge amount of features, especially if you start using IFTTT.
Unfortunately at the moment, LIFX don’t offer a “small” GU10 bulb (here in the UK, most kitchens I enter have GU10 ceiling lights or downlights). This does mean that you may not be able to fully kit out your house (even a simple white bulb with dim, on and off functionality would do here). Maybe there’s something in the pipeline?
I’d also like to see HomeKit integration so I can shout at Siri rather than having to get off of my chair to change the colour of the lights, however my understanding is that this will never happen with LIFX bulbs due to the custom hardware required by Apple to allow this.
I would LOVE to purchase another bulb (I’d love to get another 6 bulbs to kit out my entire house!) and a LIFX Z strip to expand my setup, however at £50 per bulb… it’s rather expensive to do. Philips Hue bulbs are equally priced but require a bridge, but the ecosystem is currently vastly superior, with GU10 bulbs, LED strips, lamps and ambiance accessories. However it’s worth noting that the Hue bulbs are NOWHERE as bright, require a bridge, don’t have an IR.
All-in-all if I had some extra cash, I’d definitely purchase at least another 1 or 2 bulbs! Unfortunately, I don’t have friends or family that can help me make use of the Referral Program.
LIFX Website: https://www.lifx.com/
This is not a sponsored/paid review. All opinions are entirely my own and unbiased.