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The Philips Hue system Light Your Home the Smart Way With Philips Hue Light Your Home the Smart Way With Philips Hue If you can afford the initial expenditure, you won't find a better-supported and more user-friendly smart lighting system on the market. Read More is the big kid on the block when it comes to smart lighting, but there are some worthy alternatives. We’ve picked three of the best that all offer the same basic feature set and hackability.

Limitless LED / MiLight

According to the Limitless LED about page, both brands are held by the same company and are manufactured by the same partner. There are some difference between the Wi-Fi bridge supplied by each company, but the brands appear to be interoperable. From here on, I’ll just be calling them Limitless LEDs.

A much cheaper alternative, a single Limitless LED bulb costs between $18 and $27, depending on the wattage (MiLight sells both 6W and 9W bulbs). Downlights and spotlights are also available, and a starter kit of what appears to be the MiLight (sold as “Gbargain” on Amazon) can be had for $66. Like the Hue, Limitless LEDs also need a Wi-Fi bridge.

Although these bulbs look suspiciously like cheap knock-offs of other lighting systems, they have relatively good reviews, and do come a whole lot cheaper than the major brands. And while they don’t pack the features of some of the others (there’s no “music matching” mode, or time-based dimming, for example), they do provide a solid 820 lumens in the 9W bulb, and are hackable, so you can potentially make them do anything you want. And at 50,000 hours of lifespan, you won’t be replacing these for a long time.

There are some differences in the Wi-Fi bridge, but you should be able to use the Limitless LED open-source API to hack either set of lights.

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Visit the Limitless LED shop or the MiLight shop to purchase now.

LIFX

Although they’re a bit more expensive than Hue bulbs at $99 each, LIFX bulbs do have a few advantages. The most compelling one is that there’s no need for a bridge, so all you need is a smartphone with the companion app. The bulb itself, available in white or gun metal gray, also looks great, which not all smart lights Brighten Your Home With Smart Lamps: Here Are Your Options Brighten Your Home With Smart Lamps: Here Are Your Options What exactly is a smart lamp, and what's out there? Read More can say.

lifx-bulbs

LIFX Original A21 Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb, Multicolor, Adjustable, Dimmable, No Hub Required, Pearl White LIFX Original A21 Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb, Multicolor, Adjustable, Dimmable, No Hub Required, Pearl White Easy set up Buy Now At Amazon $99.00

The companion app doesn’t have great reviews, but the bulbs have been well received, and can put out a wide range of vibrant colors at up to 1,000 lumens. They’re rated for 40,000 hours, too, so you won’t need to worry about replacing them for a very long time. The number of features in the LIFX bulbs doesn’t quite stand up to Hue, but geo-fencing, IFTTT integration, morning/evening dimming, music sync, and social media alerts are currently available, with other plans in the works. And a downbulb (pictured above right) is coming soon.

Buy a LIFX bulb from Amazon ($99), or visit the LIFX store for 4-packs, 10-packs, and slightly lower prices ($80 / bulb)

Misfit Bolt

Misfit is best known for their personal fitness devices, but they’re making an entrance into the smart home What Is A Smart Home? What Is A Smart Home? We recently launched a Smart Home category at MakeUseOf, but what is a smart home? Read More scene with their Bolt bulbs, which have an expected release date of mid-March. They look to compete with the Hue in terms of light and color quality, and at $50 per bulb (and $130 for a three pack), provide a solid value. They also don’t need a Wi-Fi bridge or smart home hub Battle of the Smart Home Hubs: What's Out There and What's Coming? Battle of the Smart Home Hubs: What's Out There and What's Coming? Read More , which is a plus, both for ease of setup and reducing cost. You can even control it from Misfit’s fitness devices.

misfit-bolt

Millions of colors, over 800 lumens, simulated sunrise, and the ability to sync the bulbs to your sleep cycle with a Misfit fitness device make the Bolt a very attractive option. Although there’s little indication so far of how hackable the bulbs will be, or if there will be an open API, I’m confident that someone will find a way to give users the ability to customize their smart bulbs. The same goes with IFTTT integration The Ultimate IFTTT Guide: Use The Web's Most Powerful Tool Like A Pro The Ultimate IFTTT Guide: Use The Web's Most Powerful Tool Like A Pro IFTTT is an automation that will enable you to connect 2 services so that, when something happens with one service, a trigger goes off and an action takes place automatically on the other. Read More —no indication yet, but I’m hopeful.

Of the Philips Hue competitors that I’ve seen, this looks to be the most promising.

Pre-order the Bolt from Misfit

A Field Ready for Innovation

The high-color LED bulb market is currently a little sparse, with Philips leading the way. But other companies are looking to catch up, and they’re certainly making headway into the field. Of course, if you’re looking for bulbs that don’t change colors, and you just want to be able to control normal energy-efficient LED lights from your phone, you have more options: Insteon and WeMo (smarten your lamps with Belkin WeMo 3 Ways The Belkin WeMo Can "Smarten" Your Regular Household Lamps 3 Ways The Belkin WeMo Can "Smarten" Your Regular Household Lamps We took the time to look at the possibilities for turning your regular household lamps into smart lamps. Read More ) both offer lights that’ll fit your needs.

Have you used any of these smart bulbs? Or do you know of others that are good competitors to the Hue? Share your thoughts below!

  1. Alysa
    March 17, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Flux and LIFX are a little more affordable and won't leave you locked in with a bridge. But Hue does have some nice integration with third-party apps and works with Echo and HomeKit...

    I wrote a full review of if Philips Hue is worth its high price. If anyone wants find out more, here's the link:

    http://smarthomesolver.com/reviews/is-philips-hue-worth-it-a-comprehensive-guide-to-the-hue-wifi-light-bulb/

  2. jwc
    December 2, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    If Qube successfully enters the market, its bulbs will cost roughly $19 — far more affordable than multi-color bulbs from bigger players like Phillips and Osram, whose bulbs cost around $59.99. Qube suggests that early adopters will get access to product sometime this April.

    • Dann Albright
      December 9, 2015 at 7:25 pm

      That would be fantastic; if someone would bring the cost down, I think there would be much wider adoption. I don't know much about Qube, but I'll have to look into it!

  3. jon
    December 1, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Great article. Very informative to someone who's already pretty informed!

    • Dann Albright
      December 9, 2015 at 7:25 pm

      I'm glad you found it useful! I learned a lot in writing it, and I'll soon be looking into some of these alternatives for my own house.

  4. Gregory Fleming
    June 11, 2015 at 5:31 am

    I'm just of the impression its just a little too soon. I'm annoyed and frustrated by things: the difficulties with all home automation systems, and high cost of bulbs like hue that just aren't bright enough yet IMO. Hurry up and get here with your better products and lower prices, future!

    • Dann Albright
      June 12, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      I agree—I'm hoping to pick up some of the LIFX bulbs soon, but I'll probably wait a bit longer on most other smart home things. The infrastructure and software compatibility just isn't there yet.

  5. Anonymous
    May 4, 2015 at 1:26 am

    I've used Insteon for about two years now. I have no need for color changes or bio sinking or anything like that. I couldn't be happier with Insteon and the app. I Nabel to control 10 or 12 lights, two cameras, two motion detectors, garage door opener, and get notifications on any or all of them. I spent no more than $1000 total, actually probably more like around $800.

    • Dann Albright
      June 12, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I'm always interested in hearing how people are finding their systems, as they're all still pretty new.

      • Tom Vardon
        July 18, 2015 at 3:21 am

        I have been using x10 for 20 years. Insteon for 10. Still have lots x10 working perfectly 20'years old. Hue is fun. I have 4 lights. Still playing Nothing what Insteon and z-wave do. Especially if you use indigo or home seer

        Remember. Technology is always new.

  6. Tibo
    March 31, 2015 at 6:46 am

    Well at 99$ a piece, I guess no one is going to replace all the bulbs in their house at once.
    But at 20$-50$, you can upgrade one room at a time without breaking the bank.

  7. dragonmouth
    March 14, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    How many people can afford to replace all the light bulbs in their house at $99 a piece or even $18 a piece? I know I certainly can't, or should I say I won't since I have more pressing priorities on which to spend my money.

    • Dann Albright
      June 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      I don't think the idea is to replace all of the bulbs . . . just the ones where they'll be useful. I'd say the Pareto principle probably applies here—80% of the benefit would likely come from 20% of your bulbs.

  8. bukzin
    March 12, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    I like the Quirky/Wink options. There are a number of brands which work with their system.

    Some of the lights don't require a hub, only WiFi.

    Home Depot has a few, Staples too I hear.

    • Dann Albright
      March 15, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      I've heard mixed reviews about Quirky products, but I'm glad to know that you like them! I really love that there are an increasing number of bulbs that don't require a bridge; that's a really cool way to run the system.

      Thanks for reading!

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