Philips Hue smart bulbs are getting what may be their biggest upgrade ever: many bulbs will now ship with Bluetooth built in, allowing them to be set up and used even if you don’t own the $60 hub that, until now, has been necessary to control them.
Adding Bluetooth to the bulbs comes with some big benefits and really only some minor drawbacks. The major benefit is that anyone who owns a smartphone will be able to screw in one of these light bulbs and control it directly from their phone.
That’s great for the Hue line and for buyers — it’s now far easier to get started with Hue bulbs, because you don’t need to commit to buying and installing a hub before you even know if you’re happy with the bulbs in the first place. Many other smart bulbs have taken this approach, using either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and it’s made them far better options for people who only want one or two smart lights, rather than a whole home full of them.
The downside to using the bulbs this way is that Bluetooth has a much shorter connection range than the wireless system that Hue bulbs have traditionally used — Zigbee — and they won’t be remotely connected to the internet. That means you’ll only be able to control them when your phone is in range of the bulbs, or about 30 feet away. If you forget to turn off a light, you won’t be able to go into the app and flip it off from outside the house.
Fortunately, Hue bulbs will continue to include Zigbee. So you can buy a bunch of Bluetooth bulbs, and if you later want to do more with them — control them out of the house or from a longer range — you can buy the hub to upgrade your system. Signify, which makes Hue bulbs, recommends upgrading once you’re using more than 10 bulbs.
Bluetooth is coming first to the Hue line’s traditional A19 bulbs and BR30 flood light bulbs. Prices will remain roughly the same as they’ve been in the past: $15 for a single white bulb ($30 for two); $25 for a single “white ambiance” bulb, which you can control the color temperature of; and $50 for a full color bulb ($90 for two). Signify says more Hue products with Bluetooth will be released later this year and next year.
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