Philips Hue has one of the most comprehensive and versatile ranges of smart lights out there, and usually you'd want the Philips Hue Bridge plugged into your router to control all of your installed bulbs.
But what if you don't want the Hue Bridge? The good news is that you haven't hit a dead end. Thanks to the Hue bulbs' compatibility with the Zigbee standard, there are other ways to get access to your Hue bulbs, without all the official gear.
Also, Philips Hue now has Bluetooth bulbs, giving you another way around the hub.
- Essential reading: How to set up Philips Hue
It's worth pointing out that installing the Hue Bridge is the best way to go ‚ÄĒ it gives you the best, most reliable control over your Hue smart lights, and access to all the functionality of the Hue apps.
If you want to do it differently though, read on.
Use Philips Hue Bluetooth bulbs
In 2019, Signify discovered this miraculous standard called Bluetooth, and going forward all Hue bulbs will offer Bluetooth and Zigbee, giving you options when it comes to setup.
Thanks to Bluetooth, one of those options is to not use a hub at all. Instead you can simply screw the bulb in and connect it directly with your phone. It does, however, mean using a new standalone Hue BT app.
Tested: Philips Hue Bluetooth review
Still, the added versatility should make Hue more appealing to anyone not ready to go "all in" by bringing the entry price down. This does come with limitations though: you can only connect up to 10 bulbs, there's no remote control once you leave the house, and third-party app integrations aren't supported.
You also can't group Bluetooth Hue bulbs into different rooms, although you can technically create groups in rooms, so you could do a "bathroom" and a "kitchen", but creating an upstairs group might be a stretch considering you need to be in Bluetooth range (hence the rooms limitation). Alexa and Google Assistant play nice though.
You can also use Google's new Seamless Setup feature to add Hue Bluetooth bulbs to a Google Assistant smart home, without using a Hue Bridge.
Using the Hue Dimmer Switch
If you buy a Hue Dimmer Switch bundled with a Hue bulb, they're already linked when you get them out of the box. All you need to do is screw the bulb into a vacant socket, turn the light switch on, and then put the battery in the Dimmer Switch.
Straight away, you'll be able to use the Dimmer Switch to control the Hue bulb: turning it on and off, and adjusting the brightness. You can't control the colour at all (one of the reasons you might consider buying a Hue Bridge), but it does give you some functionality.
Philips Hue bulbs work with a regular light switch too, of course ‚ÄĒ even if you don't buy the Dimmer Switch or the Hue Bridge or any other accessory, you can turn the bulb on and off using the standard light switch on the wall.
Each Hue Dimmer Switch can support up to 10 bulbs. If you want to add a new bulb without a Hue Bridge, install the bulb and switch it on, then bring the Dimmer Switch close to it and press and hold the On button. You'll see a small LED light come on the Dimmer Switch and the bulb will blink to confirm the connection.
All these connected bulbs (up to 10 of them) are going to respond in the same way to the Hue Dimmer Switch, but this is one way of adding Philips Hue smart bulbs to your home without a Hue Bridge.
Using an Amazon Echo as a hub
As Philips Hue bulbs use the Zigbee standard, they can work with some Zigbee smart home hubs rather than a Hue Bridge ‚ÄĒ though the integration isn't always as reliable, or available with as many features, as it is with a Hue Bridge.
Some Amazon Echo speakers ‚ÄĒ specifically the Amazon Echo Plus, the Amazon Echo Show and the latest (4th-gen) Echo ‚ÄĒ can work as Zigbee hubs. If you've already got one of these speaker models set up, new Hue bulbs can be added through Alexa and the Philips Hue skill.
Make sure your Hue bulbs are connected and powered on, then head into the Alexa app (which you should have already installed when setting up your Echo). Select Devices, then the Plus button, then Add Device. After a few seconds of searching, your Hue lights should be detected and added.
If you prefer you can use a voice command instead: say "Alexa, find my devices" and your Alexa smart speaker will scan your house for compatible Hue bulbs.
However you add the Hue bulbs, once they're connected you can control them through the Alexa app or via your voice, with commands like "Alexa, turn the bedroom lights off".
Through the Alexa app you can group your Hue bulbs together and even group them with smart lights of a different brand. However, without the Hue Bridge you can't create custom scenes, have lights turn on or off based on your location, or access various other advanced features available in the Hue app.
Using an Ikea Tr√•dfri gateway as a hub
Another option is to use an Ikea Tr√•dfri gateway as a hub for your Hue smart bulbs instead of the official Philips Hue Bridge. Just like the Amazon Echo Zigbee devices, the gateway, which plugs straight into your router, handles communications between your phone and the Hue bulbs you've installed.
Assuming you've already got your Ikea Tr√•dfri gateway and Tr√•dfri bulbs up and running, adding Hue lights to the mix isn't too difficult: you just follow the same process as you do for adding a Tr√•dfri light.
Get your Hue bulb installed and switched on, then open up the Tr√•dfri app, and choose Add devices then Bulb. You'll be asked to pick a control device, which you will have used to set up your Tr√•dfri lights ‚ÄĒ a motion sensor, a wireless dimmer or a remote control, for example.
When you've made your pick, hold the control device within two centimetres of the bulb, and press and hold the link button on it for ten seconds. You should see the bulb flicker, and once this flickering stops, release the button. The Hue light is now added.
As with the Amazon Echo integration, you don't get all of the scheduling, geolocation and colour cycling options you get with an actual Hue Bridge, though it's still a neat way of adding Hue lights if you've already got a Tr√•dfri system set up ‚ÄĒ it saves you having to plug two hubs into your router.