Philips Hue has launched a radical new way to use its smart bulbs... Bluetooth. The company has announced that all its A19 and BR30 bulbs will now be sold with Bluetooth support, alongside the existing Zigbee protocol, meaning you won't need a Philips Hue Bridge to use them.
If youâve been wanting to try out the hugely popular Hue smart lighting system, but were put off by the high price of entry, this means you can start tinkering with the system for the price of just one bulb.
Read next: Tips and tricks for Philips Hue users
In many ways, the Bluetooth Hue bulbs work just like the regular Hue bulbs. Connected just to Bluetooth, you can create scenes, dim and turn your lights on and off with the app or voice (Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant - no Siri, yet), and paint your room any color you can imagine (depending on which bulbs you get: white for dimming, white ambiance for tuneable light, or white and color for the choice of 16 million shades).
However, with Bluetooth, you canât access the bulbs remotely â so, you canât turn your lights off when youâre away from home; you can only use the standalone Hue Bluetooth app, which is limited to one room and has a 10-bulb max.
Relying on Bluetooth also means you don't get support for the routines found in Hueâs regular app, such as Wake Up and Go To Sleep, and you canât schedule the bulbs to turn on or off based on sunset, sunrise or a specific time.
These differences are due to the range limitations of the Bluetooth technology being used. Rather than connecting to Hueâs Zigbee bridge, the Bluetooth bulbs use your smartphone to communicate, which means if the phone leaves the house the bulb reverts to a regular dumb one. However, multiple users can download the Philips Hue Bluetooth app and each bulb can accommodate up to 15 connections.
If you donât like messing with apps and creating new accounts, the bulbs can be set up entirely using Alexa and are compatible with the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen), Echo Plus (1st and 2nd Gen), and Echo Show (2nd Gen). If you purchase them on Amazon using the same account associated with Alexa, you get Amazonâs 'Frustration Free' setup - just turn them on and Alexa deals with it all for you. Signify, which owns Philips Hue, is trying to attract people into the ecosystem by making it as inexpensive and easy as possible.
âWe see this huge affinity for Hue once you get into it,â Mike Deschamps, US Product Marketing Director for Philips Hue at Signify, told The Ambient. âWhat we're trying to do is make it easier for people to get into smart lighting, into this type of ecosystem. And then maybe theyâll want to fill out their entire house with smart lighting at some point, at which point they can easily transfer to the Bridge.â
Basically, these bulbs are training wheels for the Hue system. Before you shell out your dough on that shiny big-boy bike, you can test out a limited version of this new technology and see if youâre comfortable with it. Then, once youâre hooked, you can pick up the Hue bridge for $50 and thereâs an easy Transfer to Hue Bridge button in the Hue app.
The bulbs are available today in the US in three flavors: White ($14.99); White Ambiance ($29.99), and Color Ambiance ($49.99).