Senic Friends of Hue Outdoor Switch review: Ideal smart control for garden lights (and more)

HomeKit extras make this a compelling smart button / switch hybrid

Senic Friends of Hue Outdoor Switch
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Using your voice is obviously the pinnacle of smart home control but there are times, and places, where barking orders to Alexa or the Google Assistant is just not appropriate.

Senic's Outdoor Switch - the first Friends of Hue smart switch created for exterior use - is designed with this in mind.

And, as it doesn't require wires, it's the most simple smart switch you're likely to install and is one of the easiest ways to control your Philips Hue garden lights.

The Senic Friends of Hue Outdoor Switch is actually more of a smart button than a smart switch, in terms of functionality and installation, but the form factor definitely puts it in the latter category, as well.

Costing just $79, the Outdoor Switch is a much more streamlined affair than we've seen with Senic's previous smart controls, such as the Nuimo Click, which is much more expensive and complicated (but also controls Sonos, not just Philips Hue).

Read on to find out exactly why you should be considering putting one in your garden.

Senic Friends of Hue Outdoor Switch

Senic Outdoor Switch: Design and installation

Measuring 85mm x 85mm x 18mm with a rough, textured rubber finish (polycarbonate for the innards and a durable, all-weather TPE for the exterior) the Outdoor Switch looks very much like a garden light switch.

There are two panels, both containing top and bottom buttons, so there are four inputs in total - more on that in a bit.

There's no need to connect the Outdoor Switch to a router or a smart home hub, it connects directly to your Hue smart lights using Zigbee, and the setup is actually done within the Hue app, through the 'Accessories' section; I'll go into more depth on that in a bit.

Guide: Best Philips Hue set-up

That Zigbee connection should see you getting a range of our 20m if you decide to use the Switch indoors, but up to a maximum 300m outdoors, depending on conditions.

Like all Zigbee setups though, it can travel to Hue bulbs that are further away by hopping onto closer ones - that's how the Zigbee Hue mesh works.

The Senic is designed to go on a wall like a light switch - although you don't need to get the drill out. There are adhesive pads in the box and I've had mine stuck onto an uneven, rendered, exterior wall for weeks now - with the full force of British winter weather thrown at it - and it has stayed in place with no issues.

On that, it comes with an IP44 weatherproof rating.

You can, if you want a bit more reassurance, take off the the rear cover plate and screw it securely to the wall. The Switch then pops over this base.

There's no rechargeable battery installed; the Outdoor Switch is powered by EnOcean energy harvesting technology, much like the Philips Hue Tap, whereby that the motion of the button being pressed (and rebounding) keeps the power topped-up.

The buttons on the Switch don't move much when you press them - there's no on/off position - they just recess a little bit when you push them and then sort of pop back out.

Senic Friends of Hue Outdoor Switch app setup

Senic Outdoor Switch: Hue light control and features

The first thing you do is jump into the Hue app and add the Outdoor Switch as an accessory. It's a super simple affair.

The four button setup offers a basic, yet effective, control method for your Hue bulbs. When setting up in the Hue app, you simply choose what you want to happen when each button is pressed, or held.

Therefore there are 8 inputs in total - although you can extend this to 12 using third party Hue apps such as iConnectHue, which adds a double-tap into the mix.

Using the native Hue app, it limits you to having three rooms on one Switch - you could always create new rooms within your Hue system if this is likely to be an issue for your Outdoor setup.

For me, I had the two left hand buttons assigned to a Hue Outdoor Lightstrip I have near my shed; with basic on and off assigned for top and bottom and the hold method used for dimming to max / minimum brightness.

I had the two right hand buttons for a pair of (technically indoor) Hue bulbs that we have on the outside of our patio (in weatherproof light fittings).

I've used the Switch for a few weeks now, over a dark winter, using it a few times a day and I've not experienced any lag at all. It works exactly as you'd want it to, with rapid response times.

And that's the basic premise and use-case explained. But the Senic Outdoor Switch does have another trick up its sleeve.

Senic gira switch homekit app

Senic Outdoor Switch: HomeKit skills

The Outdoor Switch is also HomeKit compatible and, if you set it up through Apple's smart home ecosystem, you open up a world of extra controls.

A big caveat here is that it still requires that you have a Philips Hue Bridge in place. In a HomeKit setup, the Outdoor Switch talks to a Hue Bridge over Zigbee and its the Hue Bridge that then tells your HomeKit Hub what action to take.

The responses, therefore, won't be as rapid as a simple Zigbee to bulb signal but I can't say I've noticed anything significant, lag-wise, when setting up the Outdoor Switch to carry out HomeKit actions such as turning on smart lights (not limited to Hue) or starting playlists on HomePods or AirPlay 2 speakers.

Within the Apple Home app though, the wording is a bit daft... One Dot = Top Left, Two Dots = Bottom Left, Three Dots = Top Right, Four Dots = Bottom Right. But once you've got your head around that, setup is easy.

You can can program the Outdoor Switch to do almost anything in your HomeKit home, in terms of controls, automations and scenes, although - unlike a Hue setup - you are limited to just four inputs; there's no holding method within HomeKit.


Senic Friends of Hue Outdoor Switch
The first garden-friendly Friends of Hue controller, Senic's Outdoor Switch is a far cry from the over-priced, over-complicated Nuimo Click. It's simple, it's affordable and it's effective. Installation is easy and it feels like a native Hue product, such is the integration within the app. But, if you want to push it further and make it a bigger player inside, and outside, of your smart home then you have that option too, thanks to the HomeKit compatibility.
PROS
  • Affordable
  • Simplistic design
  • Easy to install - no wires
  • No extra batteries / charging
  • Works brilliantly with Hue
  • Works great with HomeKit
CONS
  • Only 4 inputs for HomeKit
  • Needs Hue Bridge for HomeKit

TAGGED    smart lighting

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