Everything you need to know about Philips Hue bulbs!

Philips Hue 2nd Generation Bridge being held in a hand
Philips Hue 2nd Generation Bridge being held in a hand (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

Lightbulbs — particularly the Hue line from Philips — are among the first connected-home products people buy. Controlling light with the sound of your voice or a tap of your smartphone is more than just an awesome feeling — it also makes for a great demo! When you're trying to show your friends and family why you just spent a not-insignificant amount of money on lightbulbs, it's nice to be able to clearly show off your new superpower.

Whether you're deciding on your first home automation gizmo, or you just want to add another internet-connected bulb to your automated home, this piece aims to help you better understand the difference between Philips various light bulb offerings.

Illuminate with Lumens

Before we get into the different bulbs, we need to talk about lumens. It used to be when you'd go to the store to buy a light bulb, you'd choose your bulb based on watts. Most of us know — relatively, at least — the brightness of a 60-watt bulb compared to a 100-watt bulb. But watts measure how much energy a bulb uses to produce light, not how bright the light is.

That's where lumens come in! Lumens measure the brightness of a light source and provide a more accurate representation of how much light your bulb can produce. As bulbs become more energy efficient, watts become less relevant — a 10-watt LED bulb could produce some 800 lumens of light!

The U.S. Federal Trad Commission has a handy guide for watt to lumen conversion.

Onto the bulbs!

OK, now that you're well aware of the difference between watts and lumens, let's talk about Philips Hue bulbs!

The bulbs are split up into three main categories:

Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance

Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance bulbs.

This is the Philips Hue bulb most people are familiar with — it's the dimmable bulb that can turn all sorts of colors. You can set the mood for a horror movie with deep red lighting, pump up a party with bright blue lighting, or just start your day with a soft white light.

Here's what you need to know:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Lumens800 lm (60 w equivalent)
Light temperature2000 - 6500K
Lifetime25,000 hours
Colors16 million

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

*Note: Philips Hue will soon begin selling an updated Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance bulb (opens in new tab) that produces 17 million colors and promises richer, deeper shades of green and blue.

Philips Hue White Ambiance

Philips Hue White Ambiance bulbs

The White Ambiance model produces white light in thousands upon thousands of variations. This bulb does not produce colors — only different white color temperatures. It can produce soft orange light, bright blue light, crisp white light, and any shade of white in between.

Here's what you need to know:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Lumens800 lm (60 w equivalent)
Light temperature2000 - 6500K
Lifetime25,000 hours
ColorsMore than 50k shades of white

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Philips Hue White

Philips Hue White bulbs.

The Hue White model is a dimmable bulb that produces a soft white light (2700K).

If you're just looking to control your lighting with your voice or your iPhone and you don't need any extra colors or shades of white, this is the bulb for you!

Here's what you need to know:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Lumens800 lm (60 w equivalent)
Light temperature2700K
Lifetime25,000 hours

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Questions answered?

If you're left with questions after reading this, please give me a shout! I love talking about home automation — I'd be happy to tackle your inquiry!

Mikah Sargent

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

  • They're not light BULBS, but Philips also sells light strips. They're great for accent lighting and can be cut to length.
  • Yeah, you totally missed out the light strips, I just installed them behind my LED TV before I hung it and it looks amazing! They also sell standalone spot lights and mood lights as well
  • So do you have to buy something else in order to use the light bulbs. Sent from the iMore App
  • If you get the starter kit, it comes with the Hue Hub that connects to homekit - the hub supports up to 50 bulbs/devices I believe. Then download the Hue app if you want to control colors and sync scenes with Siri/Apple watch. it's fairly easy to do - I think there was a video with Serenity setting one up that I watched on here before I bought mine.
  • So do you just have to leave the light switch on all the time? What about if your ceiling fan has a built in dimmer?
  • Yes, you do need to leave the light switch on all the time. But you can set up custom on/off time schedules on your phone, or just use your phone to turn the lights on/off. Not ideal for an area like your kitchen where you may come in and leave after just a few minutes, but other areas like your living room it's not bad. They also just released the Hue Motion accessory that detects and turns on lights based on motion, and then turns them off after a preset amount of time when it doesn't detect motion. I put one of these in my first floor bathroom. It also has a light sensor, so it doesn't turn on the lights if it senses that there is enough light already.
  • I use them in the kitchen, I bought a hue switch and I have an Echo. After a brief adjustment period its not an issue at all.
  • That doesn't sound very convenient. Especially in areas where multiple people use them. I've got a cabin that multiple groups of people use, but if you need a phone app to turn the lights on and off that's not going to work well. I guess for me in this situation the Insteon switches are the way to go.
  • They sell a wall switch now. So non issue these days ^^
  • Love seeing some coverage of Hue bulbs. I've discovered them after I received some as a gift. The Color Ambience are my favorites. I do photography in a small home studio. Nothing elaborate, and I use 5000°K fluorescent bulbs as my main lighting, but the color ambiance Hue bulbs can be easily color matched to these and make great compliments to my big studio lights. Not to mention they are once of the nicest-dimmable LED build systems around. My whole house has been converted to LED, but even with new LED-certified dimmers and manually trimming each switch, LEDs run off of dimmed 110 volt wiring aren't nearly as easy to control as these bulbs with all dimming built in to the base of the bulb. The Hue method makes for a more natural dimming control and a much lower minimum light output than most of my 110v dimmed switch bulbs. The downside is that Philip's dimmer doesn't fit a standard sized switch cover plate like pretty much everyone else's dimmers do. I'd swap out all my switched table & floor standing lamps with Hue if I could incorporate the dimmer switches into my existing switch cover plates.
  • Someday I will incorporate Philips Hue into my home for accent lighting. For now, Lutron Caseta does a great job controlling my primary lighting.
  • What's the difference between the different versions of the Hue Hub?
  • The older version was not compatible with HomeKit and the new version is.
  • New version is best. HomeKit FTW!
  • I get (understand) the output equivalent but it would be nice to have also listed the actual power usage as one is technically leaving the light on 24/7 (not using the physical light switch) so that it can respond instantly. I'm aware that led bulbs use less energy then incandescent but one also turns incandescent off as well as most led bulbs but with these they and the bridge are on all the time. I imagine it being like making your PC monitor go into energy saving sleep mode but it is still using power. (Note, I have the hue set and love them but it is most often the question that I'm asked by friends/family) Sent from the iMore App
  • I would love to see a break down between the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation of bulbs. More importantly, I'd love to know why these haven't dropped in price yet as I'm sure Philips has been improving the cost for themselves.
  • One thing you should know is the Philips IOS app for Hue isn't that great. There are much better 3rd party alternatives, IConnectHue for example. If you're downloading the Philips App off the App store be sure the get the one called Philips Hue not the one called Philips Hue Gen 1.
  • I am looking to purchase 3rd gen BR-30 bulbs. I can't seem to find information on them. Does anyone know where the release dates for 3rd gen bulbs (for the can lights BR-30) resides?