I got the new Philips Hue HomeKit lights, and I love them

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I've become a bit addicted to HomeKit devices since the first ones hit the market earlier this year. I have Lutron's Caseta light switches (opens in new tab), Elgato's Eve Weather, Room, and Door (opens in new tab), and now: I just picked up a Philips Hue HomeKit bridge and light set (opens in new tab). Yes, the popular multicolored LED lights now have a HomeKit-compatible bridge. Which means… Siri-controlled lights everywhere! Wheeee!

Okay, I didn't quite go that out of control. I picked up Philips's $199 starter HomeKit set with HomeKit-compatible bridge and three bulbs along with an $80 Hue Lightstrip (opens in new tab)—a decent starter kit, I think. If you already have Hue lights and want in on the HomeKit action, you'll just need to pick up a new bridge for $40 from Philips's website starting November 1. (That's 33 percent off the normal bridge price, $60, and you'll only be able to get the discount through the end of the year.)

Why Hue lights are great

I'd been eyeing the Hue lights for quite some time, but it wasn't until Philips launched HomeKit compatibility that I actually decided to jump on the LED smart-bulb bandwagon. Now, I think I might just be hooked. Someone take my credit card away from me.

Hue lights are fun: As their name suggests, you can set them to any color your heart desires, and combine multiple bulbs for a multicolor experience. It's all the fun of running a theater light board—without the theater or the multi-million dollar lights. Add Siri to the mix—and iOS 9's new "scenes" feature—and you can set up submarine lighting by saying "Hunt for Red October" or remind yourself of the beach with "Island Getaway". You can even reset all your lights to neutral whites by creating a scene called "Simulation Complete."

Hue also has the advantage of just screwing right into existing light bulbs, so you don't have to rewire your house for delightful lighting.

How to set up Philips Hue lights with HomeKit

To set up your lights, hook them up in whatever room(s) you'd like, download the free Hue app, and hook up the Hue Bridge to power and an ethernet connection.

Unfortunately, if you're like me and already have a hub in your house for one of your products—yes, you'll need another one. This is the one downside to our current HomeKit world: All the different manufacturers want to save (themselves and users) money by not including the HomeKit security firmware in the devices themselves, but that means ethernet-connected bridges. I have a fairly large router and AirPort, but even so, the Hue bridge took the last of my spare Ethernet ports. I'm just glad Elgato's devices don't require a bridge—otherwise I'd have had no space for the Philips Hue.

Once you've finished setting up the bridge, open the Hue app and tap the button on your bridge to pair the two. You'll then want to scan your HomeKit code when prompted. From there, you just need to log in or create a Hue account, and you're ready to rumble.

The Hue app

Philips Hue has a few different partner apps, but the primary Hue app lets you control individual lights and colors from the Lights menu, create Hue-specific scenes from the Scenes screen, and add timers. Unfortunately, the Hue app currently isn't very HomeKit-friendly—you can't add your lights to rooms, or set zones or triggers, and while Hue's scenes are theoretically supported in Siri, I haven't been able to make any of them work.

As a result, to get the most out of Hue and HomeKit, you'll need a third-party app. Elgato's Eve (opens in new tab) app offers most of these controls, but my favorite HomeKit controller is the $15 Home (opens in new tab) app—you can set lights, color, saturation, zones, rooms, and even situational triggers—if the temperature gets below 50°, for example, set all the lights to blue.

Using Hue with Siri

Once you've added your Hue lights to rooms, zones, and scenes, you can trigger them with a few different commands, including color!

"Turn on the Office lights.""Set the Office lights to green.""Set the lightstrip in the office to 50 percent."

My personal favorite, however, has to be scenes: There's nothing more fun than saying "Simulation complete" after messing with the color of your lights. Or Rene's personal favorite:

"Crash the compound!"

Bottom line

If you love Siri and HomeKit, the Hue lights are a must-have—and one bridge controls all the Hue lights you want to add, so if you decide that the couch really needs mood lighting… Siri will be there for you. And your credit card. (Your poor, poor credit card.)

Philips Hue at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Any questions about HomeKit and Hue? Leave them in the comments.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

64 Comments
  • Ren,
    Do you know if this hub works with the Amazon Echo also?
  • Believe it should retain all Echo functionality as well as add HomeKit support.
  • Yea, you can turn your lights on and off with Echo.
  • What's your take on the Elagto Eve? Do you think it's better than Smarthings?
  • No hub required, which automatically makes it better in my view. But I have seen some initial networking issues where the sensors would initially register and blink out. (All working now for me, and I know the Elgato team is on it.) I really like the weather data and the door/window sensor is great.
  • It's an addiction Ren... be careful. I'm up to 24 bulbs/strips/blooms and counting...
  • I just bought two more Blooms for the office because they were on sale at Best Buy ($20 off). Bad, bad habits...
  • How does the app handle that many lights? I've read that the app tends to have issues with a bunch of lights. I have about ten and I can already see the app stuttering.
  • The one trigger the Hue app does have is the Geofence. It works perfectly for me. I wish I could say the same about Siri/Hue performance on the watch.
    That Hue app really does need some attention. You'd think their software would be the best considering they make the hardware.
    LOVE the lights, though.
  • I find that iConnectHue is a much more robust app and works nice on the watch.
  • So I'm having some inconsistent behavior with Siri and HomeKit. About 40-50% of the time, when I say "Turn on my bedroom," Siri will tell me "I could find no devices in My Bedroom at this time. Immediately after, I will ask again and all of the switches (with lamps plugged in) will pop on. Seems to have no rhyme or reason. I'm wondering if this is a common occurrence, or if there is something I can do to fix this. Thanks in advance!
  • I've run into this sometimes, too—I think it's just a network hiccup. HomeKit appears to have gotten more reliable for me as time goes on, and I'm hoping the iOS engineers can squash this entirely soon.
  • Thanks for the reply! Good to know its not an issue isolated to my set up/network. Still annoying but hopefully they continue to iron out these minor bugs! Overall, HomeKit is very, very cool. This review/impression was awesome, as well! Very practical and real-world reaction-y. I shutter to think of how much money I might be spending on light bulbs in the near-ish future… LOL
  • I've experienced the same issues with Siri. I have reset the hub, deleted and added the bulbs back, renamed the bulbs, and (on the iPhone) gone into Settings>Privacy>Home Kit and Reset HomeKit Configuration...>Reset Configuration.
    None of this helped. The meethue website was of no help either. It just seems to be buggy for now.
  • Hundreds of dollars for a light bulb?, no thanks but there are plenty of other mindless sheep that will buy this crap, if you want to turn off your light? get off your lazy ass and turn it off yourself.
  • If you're just using the bulbs and smartphone app in place of a switch, absolutely. But the time- and event-based triggers make these really useful for energy saving and home security.
  • I've had these for years and they're fantastic and last waaaaaay longer than even CFLs, so in the long run they will be cheaper
  • These bulbs will never be cheaper even if they last 100 years. You paid ~$60 for the A19 bulb that comes in those starter kits. Do you know how many CFL's, normal bulbs, or even walmart LED bulbs you can buy for that amount? You're justifying buying something that interests you, thats fine, but stating that they will be cheaper in the long run isn't true with these hue bulbs.
  • Good one, you are totally right on the money.
  • you forgot to factor in 8.5 watts as compared to a 50 watt bulb. As in, electric bill savings being a factor in the maths
  • A Walmart led bulb will draw the same, less even considering color LEDs draw more than white LEDs. But even a 50W bulb over its life will not cost you $60 in purchase and electricity @$0.10/kWh unless you left them on for longer than 5 hrs a day. For example, the cost of using the 50W bulb for 10,000hrs is: 0.050kW * 10000hrs * $0.10 = $50 Still $10 less than the cost of the Hue LED bulb. You would definitely save money if you bought a Kmart or homedepot white only led bulb for far less than $60.
  • "color LEDs draw more than white LEDs."
    Having measured my Cree Home Depot bulbs and the new Hue 800 lumen bulbs, the Hue uses less wattage (by 2 watts) according to my Kill-A-Watt meeter. That's at the same brightness to my eye. But the Cree bulbs will still cost far less in the long run than the Hues. No contest there.
  • I got way confused by your analysis on several levels: - No LED bulb I know of (Hue or otherwise) uses more than 10W. A 50W bulb sounds more like a traditional incandescent (60W being the typical lamp fixture variety in the U.S.).
    - Hue also makes white-only bulbs that cost less than $20 U.S. Why is that bulb left out of your comparison? Or were you just unaware that they made one?
    - 10,000 hours is a bit low for life expectancy. For Hue's color bulbs it is 15,000 hours, per their website. For their white-only bulbs its even higher: 25,000 hours.
    - You are comparing energy consumption of one bulb to the purchase cost of another bulb. You should compare the total cost of ownership of each: purchase cost of bulb A + operating cost of "bulb A" vs purchase cost of Hue bulb + operating cost of Hue bulb. But you should also factor in that if the life expectancy of the cheaper Walmart/K-Mart "bulb A" is only 10,000 hours, vs 15,000 for the Hue color, then the Hue would last 50% longer. Looking at that a different way, "bulb A" would have to be replaced at a rate 50% faster than the Hue (at 30,000 hours: 3 "bulb A" bulbs purchased vs only 2 for the Hue color). So the true purchase cost of "bulb A" with its more frequent replacement timeframe would be: purchase cost of bulb A * 1.50 Against the Hue white-only bulb the factory would be 2.50 (10,000 hours vs 25,000).
  • The responder made a point that the LED bulb only drew 8.5W to the conventional bulbs 50W. Yes, I knew that they made a white only bulb, but we're talking about the Hue bulbs in this post. 10k hours is below the life expectancy of most bulbs, I should have used 15k, but life expectancies don't take into account turning on and off which tends to wear the filaments on a conventional bulb more. I'm skeptical that conventional bulbs under real world use actually make it to the life expectancy ratings. LED bulbs definitely win on that point. The cost of the conventional bulb is less than a dollar in most areas, at least when I purchased them over a month ago thats what I paid. But I should have factored in the cost of operating the LED bulb in the comparison too. Even if they last half as long you're not really spending a lot of money to replace the conventional bulb. I'm not advocating using the conventional bulbs, I'm pointing out to the OP that the Hue bulbs aren't really saving money. The white only bulbs definitely would over the life for sure. At the end of the day, even if you break even on costs, these particular Hue bulbs are not really saving you money, that was the OP comment that I responded too.
  • True, yet there are other intrinsic factors to consider as well, mainly environmental. The whole "if everybody switched from incandescent to LED/CFL/etc." theory, leading to less demand on the power grid, thus less consumption of resources to generate the needed electricity, etc.. Granted though, that's only a factor when comparing incandescent to the newer types. When comparing the newer types to each other, the difference in power consumption varies in wattage in the single digits. Though the CFLs seem to be "dirtier" as they contain mercury. So far I haven't heard any negative manufacturing attributes for LED bulbs. Sitar_noise was also comparing LEDs (albeit generally more expensive) to CFLs. I agree with his assessment on CFL life expectancy. I have a wall-mounted fixture in my carport and I've had 3 or 4 CFL bulbs in it over the last 8 or 9 years. In terms of their life expectancy rating of anywhere from 5000 to 7000 hours, none of them achieved that before dying, due to the off/on nature of the fixture with its motion sensor. CFLs tend to wear out faster the more they are switched off and on. I replaced the last CFL with an LED (non-Hue) and its still going strong. So when a more expensive ($5-$7) CFL bulb goes out, over time that can add up.
  • Feature set difference: - You cannot adjust colors of CFLs, normal incandescent bulbs, or Wal-Mart LED bulbs. And Hue does make a white-only bulb that costs less than $20, i.e., less than a third of the color bulb.
    - You cannot remotely control or otherwise have time and event-based triggers for these these same bulbs "out of the box". You would still need some kind of intermediary device (which has its own cost) to remotely control these bulbs. You are going to pay more for these features. But these features are why people want to buy these bulbs vs standard bulbs. And there's nothing wrong with that. Same as if one person wants to buy a car with bells and whistles like "lane detection" and "pedestrian avoidance" but another does not. Or one person who wants an iPhone 6s and another who prefers a cheaper feature phone or low-end smartphone. To each his own.
  • That was my second point. I get it, these are 'fun' to own. But they aren't necessary and if saving money was a priority or justification there are better options.
  • I'm glad you like them and you seem to be having fun, but nothing about this video or the products in question really motivates me to purchase them. It all seems so desperately complex (far more so than simply turning on a light or buying coloured lightbulbs), also the hardware is ugly, clunky, and very very expensive for what you get. None of these bulbs would actually work in a transparent fixture for example. Adding a big, ethernet enabled box with yet another blinky light and power supply to my living room is not very enticing either. All other reviews of this product I've read also note that there are delays between the various pieces of equipment talking to each other, as well as a host of Siri fails to worry about too. So ... exciting stuff, but to me this is very early days. Good for you being an early adopter, but there will be automatic bulbs available in about two years that will make this stuff look like the clunky, primitive, overpriced nonsense that it truly is.
  • Ha, fair enough! I've been really lucky with almost instant Siri communication on most of my HomeKit stuff—I've had some trouble in the past with Elgato, but that's due to their HK Bluetooth implementation.
  • Hi Ren, could you go into more detail about the bridge? I take it the bulbs communicate to the bridge directly, rather than use my existing home WiFi network, right? If that's the case, what's the range of a bridge? My house is 2 levels and I use 3 access points (the main one in "router" mode, the other 2 in "bridge") to cover my whole house. Will I need more than 1 Hue bridge to cover my whole house? And if that's the case, does one serve as "master", or are all the bridges treated equally and it's still possible for Siri to distinguish "Turn on the upstairs bedroom lights" from "Turn off the downstairs bedroom lights"? Thanks in advance for the reply.
  • Hiya! The bulbs act as repeaters, so if your bridge is in the basement, your downstairs bulbs can pass the signal up to your upstairs bulbs. Only one bridge needed per 50 bulbs.
  • Can you give us some details on the colours the bulbs can achieve please. Most of us with hue already will have the old colour bulbs that are really poor at producing blue and green light. I hear these new bulbs do a better job but have been unable to see anyone post real world findings yet. Would be great if you could show some photos or a video (even better if it can be side by side with the old and new bulbs).
  • Serenity, Great article - I've been very excited about the Philips development with HomeKit. In your post, you say something about it recognizing "zones." I have about 10 Hue lights in my house (my wife makes fun of me) and wondering if you can do things like "turn bedroom off" "turn office on," etc ... Thanks!
  • Yup!
  • I just got the new Hue bridge and got Siri working, but I cannot figure out how to group the lights to say, kitchen or office. How do you do that and how do you turn a group of lights off with Siri?
  • Try the elgato eve app, you can make groups and assign lights to them.
  • A few questions: I know the cost of the bridge ($200), but what is the cost of individual bulbs after that? My living room has 8 "cans" in the ceiling. My kitchen has 12. I have dimmer switches in all my rooms. Will those switches damage the bulbs? The Hue website has a lot of data but very little information. I am trying to decide how much it will cost me and what type of kits and bulbs to buy.
  • Hue color bulbs are $60, Hue white bulbs are $20, and specialty bulbs (like the Bloom and ceiling mounts) range from $60 - $400.
  • I asked in a reply to a comment yesterday, so you may have missed it. Can you provide us with some more details and examples of the colours the new bulbs produce please. As the old bulbs were not very good at blues and greens, it is important to know how good the change in the new bulbs is at creating these colours. I see from one of your other responses that you have bought a couple of Blooms. These have always been great at doing blue and green and this same performance is what I really want in the bulbs so that scenes can have matching colours no matter what the source of the light. This was my biggest disappointment when firing up my first two bulbs that I bought after first getting an Iris and two Blooms and I really want to know if this has been address properly. Could you please post some details on this, maybe adding a further video or photos to your article. Many thanks.
  • I believe they advertise 16 Million colors for the ones that can produce colors.
  • That's not the case though.