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Circuit Breaker

GE launches $50 hub to connect its Bluetooth smart lights to Alexa and Google Assistant

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C-Reach Image: GE

GE’s been making some really simple and accessible smart lights called C by GE for the past two years, and today, the company is announcing its first big upgrade to the system. It’s a hub, called the C-Reach, that connects C by GE lights to Wi-Fi so that they can be controlled by Alexa or the Google Assistant.

The device costs $50 on its own, but GE will also sell it bundled with pairs of bulbs at a discount — $65 for two “Life” bulbs (which have a single color option) and $85 for two “Sleep” bulbs (which have three color options).

The C-Reach hub is a useful addition to the product line that starts to make it a lot more capable — if also a lot more expensive. The strength of C by GE bulbs has always been that they’re really easy to get started with, since they rely on Bluetooth and connect directly to a phone, meaning there’s no need for a hub. The downside has been that they were pretty limited beyond that. Because they only use Bluetooth, you can’t control them remotely or set up complicated routines very easily, since the bulbs don’t connect to much else.

GE is solving that problem with the C-Reach hub, though it’s also taking away the line’s great strength. In paying to add these features to the C bulbs, everything gets pricey and complicated enough that the C system doesn’t really seem worth investing in. For little more than those prices, you can buy into Philips’ much more flexible Hue smart lighting system, which even offers cheaper bulbs.

On top of that, GE promised that this hub would support Apple’s HomeKit system, but as of now, it doesn’t — though support is said to be in the works. A representative told us that GE is “actively working with Apple on HomeKit compatibility and expect to launch that on this system in the first quarter.” For the time being, this product is really only a worthwhile buy if you also have an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. GE also said the product would sell for below $50. It does, but by only a penny.

Basically, this hub is probably only worth getting if you already own some C by GE bulbs. And even then, you may want to consider putting that money toward a more robust smart light system if you like them enough to know you want more features.

GE is running some sales on all of its C lighting line for Black Friday, making things a bit cheaper if you buy right away. The two bulb and a hub starter kits will sell for $50 and $65, instead of $65 and $85. And GE’s Sol lamp will go on sale for $100 on its own or bundled with four C bulbs for $120.

Update November 21st, 8:04AM ET: This story has been updated to include comment from GE on HomeKit support.