Smart and connected lighting systems are incredibly common, but Philips brings one of the biggest brand names to the market. After a successful entry with Hue 1.0, Philips have improved their offering with Hue 2.0. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent plenty of time lighting my life with colour with bulbs in the Office, Lounge and Bedroom.
As a LIFX owner and backer of their original kickstarter, its now years on from that and the first mover advantage is well in the past. I was interested to see how the big guys (Philips) offering compares in terms of features. One of the first realisations I had was just how advanced the 3rd party app support for Hue was. Of course they have IFTTT integration (so does almost everyone at this point), but the Philips Hue ecosystem now contains more than 450 third-party Hue apps. That’s a clear demonstration of the difference between a brand name and a startup.
Philips Hue 2.0 starts with the new Hue Bridge 2.0 which connects to your router and is the hub all lights connect to wirelessly. The device itself is a relatively small, square white box with curved corners, even smaller than SONOS’s wireless bridge. The top of the Hue bridge contains connectivity lights, adding more LEDs to light up the kitchen bench at night. The wired connection to your router also allows you access Hue devices remotely, even when you’re outside your Wifi network, great if you forget to turn off lights before you leave.
For the review, Philips provided 4 lights for review, the new Hue Go and two coloured Hue lightbulbs and one white bulbs. It is worth pointing out the bulbs come in both edison and screw connections. Philips also offer the Bloom and LED lighting strips, as well as physical switches for those who aren’t old enough to have their own phone yet.
As you add bulbs to the system, you can select (and easily move) bulbs to a room, this helps to simplify the control of your bulbs. A single screen allows on/off access to each of your bulbs and I love that there’s an easy global on/off switch. The design of the mobile app is clean, simple and incredible user friendly, it does however lack some features the 3rd party apps offer.
With Hue 2.0 Apple owners received HomeKit support which means Hue lights will be available to any HomeKit enabled app. There’s also the ability for you to call on Siri to command your lights, perfect if you have your hands full and need to turn on or off lights.
Philips is also pitching their wireless lighting system as a way for people to improve their life. Setting routines allows bulbs to fade on or off over a period of 10,20 or 30 minutes. This is perfect for those who have difficulty sleeping or those that need to time shift sunlight hours, like those who work night shift. In the controller app, you’ll find predefined settings for ‘Concentration’ or ‘Relaxation’ which essentially set the bulbs to a specific colour, what the science is behind these particular hues, I have no idea, so you’ll have to take their word for it.
Smart home ready
The Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 enables existing Philips Hue lights to work within the smart home, and support multiple connected home platforms across both iOS and Android now and into the future. Incorporating Apple HomeKit technology, the new Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 turns all Philips Hue lights into HomeKit controllable lights, meaning that they seamlessly integrate with other HomeKit-enabled devices such as thermostats, door locks and blinds. With hundreds of third-party HomeKit apps expected, Philips Hue is set to deliver the best lighting experience for every smart home taking connected lighting to the next phase.
HUE 2.0 has been developed to work alongside other home kit devices and systems. For example, if HUE 2.0 is connected to a smoke alarm and there is a fire, the lights will turn to red to help people see through the smoke and make their way to safety. Alternatively a connected burglar alarm will turn all the lights on and make them flash to raise awareness in the home.
Philips HUE 2.0 uses Geo Fencing to recognise when people are leaving or returing to their homes. Upon return, the lights will be turned on to welcome people home. To ensure peace of mind, lights can also be set to turn on while people are on holiday.
Siri Voice Control
Bringing science fiction a step closer to reality, the new Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 delivers a new way of interacting with Philips Hue lights – through Siri voice control. Change the lights to an energizing scene to get going for the day ahead by saying “Siri, set my lights to Energize mode” or change the ambience across the entire home by simply saying “Beach mode”.
These allow you to create automatic triggers for lights, like ‘Home & Away’ that can modify light for when people in your house (based on the location of your phones) arrive or leave the home. There’s also configuration available for setting wake up lights to wake you up gently, rather than a jarring alarm. Your body will also react to a reducing light at night and that can help get you to sleep.
The stylish new square shaped Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 has more processing power and 500 times more internal memory to effectively interact with multiple smart home devices and third-party apps. This means that the new Philips Hue Bridge 2.0 will continue to support the Philips Hue ecosystem including more than 450 third-party, brighter A19 bulbs (806 lumens), as well as HomeKit-enabled devices to deliver dynamic new lighting experiences within the smart home.
When experimenting with the Hue Go, I had an idea to turn the Go upside down on top of a vase that we had and the effect was actually pretty fantastic. The light flowed into the glass vase and then dispersed throughout the room, bouncing off the walls and the floor. This was very much a happy accident, but does go to show the diversity of uses for this unique light type.
Pricing & Availability
The Philip Hue 2.0 system is available now at a very select number of providers. Simply-LEDs online, Apple or retailer, Harvey Norman. Connected devices always come with a premium over traditional, dumb devices, so get ready to pay up to experience this magical world of colour. The best way to get started is to buy a starter kit, my advice to get started is the Philips Hue 2.0 Starter Kit which contains the bridge and 3 coloured bulbs, this does cost A$289.00. Additional globes will set you back $89 for the colour or $30 for the white version. Personally I’ve got my eyes on the 2 meter light strip A$109.00.
There’s no getting around it, lighting your light with colour is just plain fun. Philip’s solution with the Hue is a seriously solid offering and the 2.0 update makes a good system even better. Initially when I opened the Hue Go, I looks at it like another bulb and in many ways it is, but I wasn’t ready to love it as much as I do.
Perhaps its the portability, just disconnect from power and take it anywhere and get hours and get all the benefits of Hue wherever you want. I could see this used outdoors during a party, even a dinner party. Perhaps its the weird stand built into the back of the Go that lets you angle the light in interesting directions, namely upwards from a table, or even from the floor behind a TV to create a dramatic, unique effect. Perhaps its the random button on the back that’s easy for anyone, even kids to use. Press and hold to turn it on or off, or press to get a colour cycle happening, perfect if you don’t have you’re phone on you.
The mobile app certainly could do with the right some additional features, like colour change based on audio input (something LIFX already offer). That said, adjusting the colour, adjusting the brightness of each bulb is really well done with slick animations that make you really feel in control.
Investing in the market of connected devices can be expensive, so you’ll want to know the software that powers them, will continue to be invested in and developed. Interoperability with your other connected devices and smart home appliances, along with new features will help secure you to purchase not just your first light, but a family or home of devices. Buying into a brand like Philips should give you confidence over cheap unknown brands, that said, Philips and other big names needs to watch for rapid innovation from the likes of LIFX.
If you’re thinking of buying into the world of connected, smart lighting, you’d be hard pressed to find a simpler, more polished experience than Hue 2.0. I’d have no problems recommending it to friends and family and for those wondering, using services like IFTTT, you can blend lighting schemes together from multiple light providers. If event X occurs, then turn on /off light in X room works a treat, regardless of the bulb brand in that room.