Philips’ Hue Personal Wireless Lighting system is the most extravagant, yet also perhaps the most enticing. Priced at $199 for the starter kit and solely available via the Apple Store, Hue lets you light up your home with LED bulbs that you can command from afar using the free universal iOS app, tapping into nearly any color in the rainbow.
The Hue starter kit comes with three LED bulbs and a wireless bridge, which taps into your Wi-Fi network via an Ethernet cable into your router. The bulbs fit into most traditional household lamps yet reportedly use 80 percent less power than a standard throwaway bulb. Up to 50 bulbs can be connected to a single bridge, so you can theoretically outfit every room of your home with Hue—assuming you’re willing to spend $60 per bulb for the extras.
It really is jaw-dropping to tap your first preset in the Hue app and see the inauspicious white bulbs change to boldly colored tones, quickly transforming the look and feel of the room. But the app offers much more fine-tuned tweaking, letting you pick colors for individual bulbs, snap or use a photo as a reference for color schemes, adjust the brightness of each bulb, and set a timer for a certain motif to pop up during the day. Hue’s bulbs aren’t the brightest, but they sure can set a mood.
Moreover, if you turn the bulbs off using a wall switch rather than the app, the color scheme is lost and it defaults back to white light—these bulbs may be smart, but they don’t have much of a memory. The 50-watt-equivalent bulbs also don’t get quite as bright as cheaper fluorescent ones. And the price cannot be ignored, though the Hue system is clearly a luxury item meant for early adopters.