Too Long, Didn’t Read:
The LIFX wifi enabled smart LED bulb gives you the ability to fill any room with fully-customizable color and lighting effects. The bulb is larger than the average bulb, but fits in normal sockets, making it easy to set up. The app is a bit limited, but there are 3rd party apps available, and I expect more improvements to come from LIFX. Overall, a great smart bulb at half the price of the competition.
Select from 16 million colors using your phone
Sync multiple bulbs
Rated for 40,000 hours (5 hours per day for 20+ years)
Works with Nest and IFTTT to unlock additional controls
Provides bright light - 1000 lumens or 75 watts
Fits normal light sockets
Half the price of Philips Hue
It’s larger and more heavy than normal bulbs (controls have to go somewhere!)
Requires WiFi to operate smart bulb features
Limited LIFX app controls built in requiring use of additional service
LIFX Wifi Enabled Smart Bulb Review
Would you like to be woken by a soft sunrise every morning? Want perfect mood-lighting for any situation at the touch of a button? Want to have your lights turn on and off automatically when you’re away on vacation? You can.
LED lightbulbs have changed the way we light our homes, extending a light-bulb’s lifespan by 40 times. Now, smart bulbs redefine the way we think about lights. New, controllable, LED bulbs give you the ability to fill your home with any color from the spectrum at the touch of a button and pair custom lighting effects with the most important parts of your day.
You have many choices when picking a smart bulb for your home – LIFX vs. HUE or another brand, WiFi vs. Bluetooth, how many do I need, how much can I spend, and on...and on. That’s where I hope to help.
I love playing with lights. My collection includes a Flux Bluetoooth LED bulb, a remote-controlled LED light strip, various EL-wire pieces, and a few Chauvet lights. Most recently, I added a LIFX (pronounced Life-Ex) WiFi-enabled smart LED bulb to my bag of tricks and got the chance to review it.
This bulb received a lot of press from The New York Times, WIRED, The Economist, and other publications when it raised $1.3 million on Kickstarter in just six days. The campaign promised to revolutionize how we light our homes and businesses, giving us the ability to receive notifications based on Facebook and Twitter, turn any group of lights on-and-off at the touch of a button, and program light schedules when we’re away. Here’s what I thought of my first experience with LIFX bulbs.
16 million colors at the touch of a button
Wide range of white hues
Built-in music activated, candlelight, and strobe functions
Overall, limited app capabilities
LIFX boasts that it puts 16 million colors at your fingertips. Though I may never have time to select them all, I did get a chance to click around the color pinwheel and sample a few.
I was impressed by the range of colors and quality of light the bulb produced. It took me a few moments to get used to using the color navigation and brightness controls. But, when I did, I was able to choose the color and intensity bulb of my choice and create any mood light I desired. What’s more, other reviews have noted that the overall color quality of the LIFX surpases the HUE and other competitors.
On top of the color performance, I found the white light controls even more impressive than the color selection. This is a great feature that other lights in my collection do not provide. This allows you to adjust the hue of the light – from cold, clear white to warm, soft orange.
With no lamp shade, a single LIFX bulb provided enough light to fill a small bedroom and enough flexibility to provide lower ambient light. LIFX can produce 1000 lumens of light. That’s roughly equivalent to a 75W bulb and 250 lumens brighter than the Philips HUE.
In addition to the color selection, the LIFX app comes with a few built-in effects. My personal favorite is the “Music Visualizer,” which uses the microphone on your mobile device to synchronise light changes with the sounds around you. Though I was not able to test multiple bulbs, I imagine the effect as an impressive addition to any at-home dance party.
My only complaint with the modes was that the app had to be open and active. That is to say, when my phone locked, or I opened another app, the effect stopped as well. I would expect that the LIFX team addresses these issues in the future as they continue to roll out new features and upgrades, as they have done in the past.
With a 40,000 hour rating, you can use this bulb 5 hours a day for the next 20 years giving LIFX plenty of time to improve their app. Meanwhile, to get the same life expectancy out of traditional incandescent lights, you would change your bulb 20-40 times, adding up to a lot of material waste, trips to the store, time spent, and nearly the same price (without even considering the energy savings).
Screws into any existing socket
Bigger and heavier than average bulbs (about an inch longer and nearly one pound)
Total setup time, 5-10 minutes.
LIFX bulbs come in beautiful, simple packaging with easy to follow directions. The first thing you’ll notice when you open your LIFX is the size. If you’ve read any user-submitted reviews on Amazon or other sites, you’ll already know this, but – the bulb is larger than your average bulb. Most notably, it is about an inch longer than traditional bulbs as well as a bit wider.
Additionally, LIFX bulbs weigh nearly a pound (13.6 ounces to be exact). Many users have expressed concerns about screwing downward facing sockets, but I don’t share their worry. In fact, I think the LIFX would look great hanging from a cord and socket combo.
To install, simply screw the LIFX bulb into any standard fixture (they also sell EU Bayonet models), and turn on the light to get started. After flashing a few colors, the bulb will shine bright white.
To access the smart features and color controls, download the LIFX app from the Apple App Store for iPhone users or Google Play for Android users. The app will walk you through creating an account, connecting your bulb to the WiFi network, and granting you control via your phone. In the process, the bulb broadcasts a signal and invites you to join its network to enable pairing, then switches you back to your home network. This will give you control over the bulb basics featured above (whites, colors, and a few effects).
Where early LIFX reviews noted a few glitches and problems setting up the bulb, I did not experience any of them as LIFX has released a number of updates since its initial release. From unboxing to selecting colors, the whole process took me under 5 minutes, and shouldn’t take more than 10.
I had concerns about the fun features being dependent on WiFi connectivity. I relocated the bulb to a room in my home with a low signal (I am often unable to connect to the Internet via my laptop or tablet there) expecting the bulb to fail. But, I was pleasantly surprised when the bulb had no trouble accessing the network and granting control to my phone.
It does speak to a larger issue, however. To take full-advantage of LIFX’s features, you need a WiFi network. Don’t have a WiFi network, but still want a smart bulb? Consider a Bluetooth-enabled bulb instead. However, if you’re part of the the 61% of US homes with WiFi, consider the LIFX a terrific option.
Also of note: Your bulbs are only as secure as your network. That is to say, if you do not have a strong password-protected WiFi network, anyone who can gain access to your network can adjust your lights as well. Though this may be a hilarious prank to pull on a friend who has smart bulbs installed, it’s not something you want every passerby with the LIFX app doing.
Apps & Extras
Works with IFTTT and Nest
Nest allows Thermostats and smoke alarms to trigger actions on your LIFX light
IFTTT allows custom IF-This-Than-That logic to trigger actions – for instance, turn on with the sunrise
3rd party apps available for desktop control and additional presets, some at a cost
LIFX and other smart bulbs rely on integration with IFTTT, Nest, and other apps to unlock more advanced features. This allows LIFX to crowd-source development work and (hopefully) accelerate the solutions they provide to customers. The down side is that you have to seek out features that you might expect to see within the LIFX app interface. That said, here’s a few favorites.
LIFX works with Nest home products allowing Nest Thermostats and smoke alarms to trigger actions on your LIFX light. Getting too cold? Shine blue warning light. Smoke alarm sounding? Make LIFX flash your lights throughout the house to get your attention. Pairing Nest and LIFX even unlocks security mode, which will turn your lights on-and-off according to a schedule to simulate your presence if you go on vacation.
In addition to Nest, you can select from existing IFTTT recipes or create your own (for those who aren’t familiar with IFTTT, it’s an app that allows you to create simple workflows, based on IF-This-Then-That logic). Like other features, LIFX was released prior to unveiling IFTTT integration and drew a number of negative reviews, which LIFX has addressed and are no longer valid.
IFTTT workflows allow you to do things including flash colors when you get a text or Facebook message, dim for sunset, fade on as an alarm, alert you when an item shows up on Craigslist, and many more. If you purchase a LIFX bulb, I highly recommend exploring the IFTTT interface to find and create the best recipes.
The 3rd party tools don’t end there. You can use Alfred to control your bulb from your desktop computer with a few commands, and explore tons of apps with pre-built lighting effects. Some of them are pay-apps, but when you’re using them to create effects across multiple bulbs and rooms, they are worth every penny.
Great choice for LED smart bulb at a reasonable price
Expect LIFX to continue to improve and address user feedback
If you are considering LED smart bulbs for the first time, the LIFX bulbs are a great option. Though the app leaves something to be desired, improvements will continue to roll out, and the developer community will provide solutions until the company does. LIFX LED bulbs cost about half the price of Philips HUE while delivering superior light quality and feature Nest and IFTTT integration, giving you the power to program lights to your exact specifications. I would recommend them to a friend and only wish I had a few more.