Australian Review: Philips Friends of Hue - LightStrips and LivingColors Bloom

Australian Review: Philips Friends of Hue - LightStrips and LivingColors Bloom

LightStrips and LivingColors Bloom are the latest addition to Philip's Hue family of connected smart lighting. Known collectively as "Friends of Hue", the pair are the first new lighting types to be made available for the ecosystem since the release of the Hue LED smart bulbs in 2012.

LightStrips and Bloom are both pretty funky products, but are they more than just pretty faces?

The Bloom is a beautiful piece of hardware, or more appropriately, décor. The best way to describe it as a lamp or fill light, the Bloom isn't designed to overwhelm, but to accentuate. It looks pretty stylish and almost looks like it could be a prop from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Made from a mix of white metal and plastic, the Bloom runs completely cool.

LightStrips is almost completely self-explanatory: it's a strip of lights. More specifically, it's a two metre, adhesive-backed strip of LED lights with a power cable attached to it. The strip is fairly flexible, and can be cut down to size. Unfortunately, any excess cut away will not be usable. While LightStrips isn't an aesthetically pleasing product, it's not meant to be seen. LightStrips is something to be hidden away, and left alone while it make your place look just that little bit more futuristic.

The power cords on both Friends of Hue products are more than long enough, and provide plenty of flexibility in terms of positioning the devices. Both the Bloom and LightStrips are unadorned by switches, so turning them on and off requires use of the Hue app.

This pair of products are among the easiest I've ever setup. If you already have the required Hue bridge in place, you simply load up the Hue app on your iOS or Android device and choose the option to add a new light. It literally is that easy. But honestly, given how easy the Hue bridge is to setup (it's pretty much the smart lighting equivalent of plug and play), I would have been surprised to find anything else.

Both Bloom and LightStrips require a Hue bridge to operate. At present, these are only available as part of the Hue Starter Pack.

Again, no real surprises with either of Philip's new Friends of Hue additions; they work exactly as expected. Both products are controlled through the same Hue app used for existing Hue bulbs, and will appear in the same interface.

Both LightStrips and Bloom only output 120 lumen; this isn't enough to illuminate a room, but more than enough to add a bit of flair. Users have the choice of setting these to one of 16 million colour. With the combination of the three bulbs in the starter pack, the Bloom, and the LightStrips, possibilities are almost endless.

Last year, Philips opened up the Hue ecosystem to developers, meaning it's possible to some pretty cool things. My favourite is the interactions between Hue productions and "recipe service" IFTTT. Personally, I think the most "practical" use of LightStrips or Bloom is as a notification light. Through the use of IFTTT, it's possible to configure either of these two lights to flash or change to a certain colour if you've got an unread email, new text message or notification on Twitter or Facebook. While it's possible to do this using regular Hue bulbs, it's a bit less obtrusive with these peripheral products. I'm not really a fan of having my bulbs flash every time I get an email; it might look a bit like a strobe during busy periods!

The combination of Friends of Hue and IFTTT can do far more than just act as a glorified notification. It's possible to configure them to change colour and brightness based on the weather or time. For example, you might add a subtle tinge of blue to your Bloom if it's raining. Alternatively, through the use of your phone's GPS, lights can be configure to turn on when you get home. Another nifty interaction is between Hue and Jawbone wristbands; using the wearable's sleep tracking technology, it's possible to tell a light to turn on when you wake up.

LightStrips and Bloom are also light on energy consumption, both use under 12 watts.

On a technical level, I can't fault either of LightStrips or LivingColors Bloom, but at $124.95 and $99.95 respectively, they're not the easiest purchases to justify. Let's be clear, if money wasn't an issue, I'd deck every corner of my house out with smart lighting. They're great products, but end of the day, the fact they're just fancy lights makes the price seem a bit steep.

Neither are must-have gadgets, but the Friends of Hue demonstrate that Philips' commitment to their smart lighting ecosystem. And when it comes down to it, they're pretty damn cool.

Cybershack Score - rating backgroundrating 3.5

Endless lighting possibilities through the use of IFTTT and other appsNeither work as a standalone product
Pretty!A little on the pricier side
Low energy consumption

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