Creating a smart-home can seem to be a bit overwhelming. Many people have common misconceptions about the idea. One of the most common is that making a smart-home is difficult. Many people believe that you need to invest in expensive hardware and need to have a background in technology to make it work correctly. In today’s smart-home market, though, that notion is incorrect. Many products that are available now have become more affordable, and a number of them are as easy to set up as operating a microwave. A wonderful example of such products are the smart-lighting solutions produced by LIFX. Very early on, LIFX created a product that required no hub to be connected. As long as you had wifi (and most of us do) you can purchase one of their bulbs, screw it in, and be off and running with your very first smart-home product.
Todays Lifx is well into it’s latest versions of their bulbs. They are the LIFX “Gen 3” and LIFX Plus bulbs. The only notable difference between the two versions is that the LIFX Plus offers Infrared lighting while the standard “Gen 3” does not. You will read more about the Infrared lighting later as it is a very specialized feature. Other features that they two bulbs share are a blinding 1100 lumen output (equivalent to 75 watts), they both save energy but only using 11 watts each, white color temperature tunable between 2500k and 9000k, and up to 16 million different color variations.
Both bulbs some in 2 different sizes. They are A19 (your typical lamp bulb) and BR30 (similar to overhead can lights). They come in both E27 and E26 screw connectors which should be able to work in any standard light fixture in North America.
The packaging LIFX bulbs come in is beautifully designed and very minimalistic. It is sturdy, feels protective, while minimizing excess bulk and wasted space. It looks a bit like a pringles can but slightly shorter with a smaller diameter for the A19 version and slightly bigger for the BR30 option. Once you pop off the top of the cardboard can you see the flat end of the bulb. Pulling on the bulb will remove the bulb while it is still attached to a foam holder and tucked neatly into a crevice int the foam base are the installation documents.
Here comes the fun part and what makes LIFX products one of the best products to start your smart-home. To set up the bulb all you need to do is download the Lifx application from the app store of choice. Then register and account with LIFX. Next tap the plus button in the top right corner of the screen and select connect light. Follow the on screen instructions which will ask you to, select your home wifi, enter in the password, name the light and location, and then wait for the light to blink indicating it has been successfully paired. Repeat this for every bulb that you wish to add and soon enough you will have groupings of lights that you can control in various ways. You can follow a step by step set up guide here.
You can control your bulbs from within the Lifx application. Upon opening the application you will see your control options are individual lights, groups, or All Lights.
From here you can simply tap a light, group, or all lights to quickly turn the bulbs on or off.
Another great feature LIFX makes available within it’s quick control screen, is the ability to fade your lights on or off over a set amount of time. To do this simply press and hold the light/group icon. This will create a pop up menu where you can select between ten seconds and thirty minutes to have you lights fade on or off.
To further customize yours lights you will need to tap the name below the circle. Once you do, you will be greeted by this screen that will allow you to customize color, brightness, saturation, or shade of white.
If you select the bottom left icon named “colors” the screen below is available. From this screen you can simply spin the color wheel until you find your desired color. Next you can dial your color in by adjusting the saturation. You do this by dragging the small radial selector up or down that will change the intensity of the color. You can also easily adjust the brightness of the light by flicking the middle section of the adjustment wheel. Finally by tapping the power icon at the bottom of the adjustment wheel you can power on or off your light completely.
Tapping the “Whites” icon, directly to the right of the colours icon, will bring up another adjustment screen. This screen will give you the ability to adjust the brightness and shade of more traditional white lighting. Again, to do this you spin the wheel until you find your desired shade. Then, flick up and down in the center of the circle to adjust the brightness and again tapping the power icon at the bottom of the adjustment wheel you can power on or off your light completely.
You can read a step by step guide to controlling your LIFX lights here for more information.
The “Themes” section allows you choose from color combinations that have been hand selected by LIFX. The theme’s range from peaceful to energizing as well as incorporate some holiday’s like Halloween and Christmas. Pressing a theme will dissolve the lights to various colors while tapping again will change them slighting but will stay within the color palette. For more information and a step by step guide you can click here to read our how-to.
The last icon (furthest to the right) will allow you to produce some special effects. To enable a special effect just tap on the icon associated with it. (exception – the strobe effect will need to tapped once, at which point you will need to click “ok” through the warning about strobe effects, then press and hold). You can learn all about LIFX effects by clicking here to view our step by step guide.
Allows you to customize your lights to flicker like a candle effect. You will have to set the color to your desired setting before enabling the flickering effect. You can also customize the effect variations by tapping the words “candle flicker” which allows you to adjust for speed between bring candle flickers as well as the amount of brightness variations.
This allows you to have the lights or groups of lights cycle through colors on the color wheel. You can enable it by tapping the icon but you can also customize the amount of changes you want to take place while activated. Within the options you can change speed, variation, difference, and change. These can be tweaked to give you the desired party scene that you are looking for.
Pretty much only good for Halloween, the “Spooky” setting allows you to have the lights randomly flicker. Then randomly the lights will turn bright red and turn off. It will certainly be fun to play with while playing some scary music for a “Haunted House” but very little practical use.
This setting allows you to have your lights respond to audio much like a DJ would have their lights going to the beat of music. Enabling this by tapping the icon, uses your phones microphone to pick up noise and adjust lights to sounds.
This feature seems as if it would have little practical use. However, once integrated with Apple’s HomeKit, or other via platforms. A person could in theory use this as a visual alarm. For instance if you had a smart glass breakage sensor detect a window was broken, you could have your Lifx bulbs flash strobe to deter or scare off would be criminals. For now, you tap and hold the icon to send the lights into a bright strobe effect.
Finally, my favorite feature of Lifx Effects. Using this effect will allow you to choose one of the preset themes and then have the lights gradually change between colors in the palette. Again, tapping on the name “Animated Themes” will allow you to customize the effect to your liking. You can change the speed at which the lights change colors as well as the total brightness of the theme.
Another great feature of the Lifx application is that it gives you tools to control your lights with schedules. You access this ability again by tapping the + button in the upper right had corner of the main menu. Next tap “New Schedule” and go through the options that Lifx provides. These options include selecting what lights to control, Start time, Time Zone, the ability to repeat the schedule, on/off option, Brightness setting, color selection, and fade duration. You can read more about seeing a schedule for Lifx products here.
Products playing nicely together is something that I really look for in a product that I want to adopt. I don’t want to be handcuffed to a certain platform and have to adapt what I am trying to do to their platform. Luckily, as we dive deeper into the era of smart-home technology, products are becoming more open to working with multiple platforms. Lifx is no different. For now, Lifx integrates with Google Home, Alexa, Nest, and Samsung’s Smartthings. They can also be controlled with products such as Logitech Pop, Harmony Remotes, and Flic. There are numerous applications that can take the rains of your lights and create incredible effects like Fireworks, Bonfires, and more. The most notable missing integration is Apple’s HomeKit, though, Lifx is very adamant that they will be bringing support for the platform to both 3rd generation and LIFX Plus products in the near future. That will really be a welcome event as many complaints have been logged about Lifx missing deadlines they have set to bring such support. Understanding that Apple has changed the game on HomeKit two times in the past two years though, it is good to take a breath and remember that good things happen to those who wait.
Lifx bulbs don’t just work. They blind their competition! Comparing Lifx to it’s major competitors is simple. Just turn both on and you will be able to see the difference immediately. Lifx boast a much brighter and more rich color experience. They also include the most customizable features within their own application for control and fine tuning your settings. They are fun as well as practical and their reliability seems so far to be up to par with the field.
What’s that Plus Feature Again?
So glad you asked. One of the biggest advantages that Lifx has over it’s competitors is the ability to emit infrared light. What this does is allow your Lifx Plus bulbs to aid in lighting up the invisible light that your security cameras use to see. Security cameras use the same infrared light that cannot be seen by the human eye to illuminate areas that it can process through their sensors. This is similar to what you would see using night vision goggles. The problem with most security cameras are that they have a limited ability to fill an area with infrared light to be able to see. This is because of power consumption as well as the light being confined to inside the camera housing and is most evident in battery operated wireless security cameras such as Netgear’s Arlo or Logitect’s Circle 2. They have to balance brightness and battery life and because these limitations throwing a Lifx Plus bulb into the mix can help your security cameras see better.
LIFX has created a simple to install and easy to control product for smart lighting. They didn’t stop there though. They have tweeted and remind their product to be vibrant, bright, customizable, and functional. I have really enjoyed walking through the processes again for this review. I started using LIFX Plus bulbs nearly three months ago and I did this to automate my backyard with a flood light fixture. I have benefited from great ambiance when we have company over, but also by the great traditional light that allows me to see ever inch of my property. The LIFX Plus has also supplemented the infrared light well for my Arlo security camera, which gives me peace of mind that I will always be able to see whats going on in my backyard. For this reason and more I give LIFX products two thumbs up from Average Joe. I look forward to seeing what LIFX has to offer us in the future, especially for integrating with Apple HomeKit. Thanks LIFX and keep up the great work!