Philips Hue basically started the smart lighting revolution and certainly has one of the most comprehensive systems with the widest range of bulbs – from white to colour, in all sorts of sizes and attachments.
Looking to make smart lighting easier to setup and easier to access, the company is launching Philips Hue with Bluetooth. In the most basic terms, that means you'll be able to setup a Philips Hue with Bluetooth bulb directly from your phone, without the need for the Hue Bridge.
Once connected you'll use the Philips Hue Bluetooth app on your phone to control the bulb, allowing you to dim or change colours, while Philips also says you'll be able to have multiple users.
The advantage of going down the Bluetooth route is that you no longer need the Bridge – so you can start with a single bulb, potentially making it much cheaper – with prices as low as $14.99/€19.99 for a single white bulb.
The disadvantage is that the connection walks out of the door with the phone, meaning you'll have to connect multiple devices so others in your house can take control.
It will also work with Alexa, which we suspect is the reason it exists, with Philips saying that if you buy the bulb on the same account that your Echo is connected to, then it will know how to control it, while set-up on the Echo Dot (3 gen), Echo Plus and Echo Show (2 gen) is as easy as saying "Alexa discover my devices" if you buy it elsewhere.
Support for Google Assistant will be coming in the future – for now you'll have to use a Bridge if you want to control your lights.
The move is likely to fend off the wide range of hub-less bulbs that are now available and seamlessly work with devices like Nest Hub or Amazon Echo. These bulbs have been available for similar prices, knowing that you'll be setting them up to work with your voice assistant and that's about all, saving you the rigmarole of having a hub.
What's interesting is that Philips choose Bluetooth as a connection rather than Wi-Fi – which is what many of the cheap rivals offer. Connecting the bulb to your Wi-Fi network means that it doesn't lose its connection because it's not dependent on your phone being in the house.
But in the announcement of these new bulbs, Philips does say they also offer Zigbee – the same wireless protocol that the regular bulbs use – and that they will benefit from being connected to the Hue Bridge which will unlock more functions. That means that if you do want to expand the system via a single bulb, you can.
The new Philips Hue with Bluetooth bulbs are available now in the US, starting with white and adding more products in the US and other regions through the year. They offer a cheaper way into the Philips Hue system, a system that can grow with your needs.