Gift Guide: Philips Hue

Short Version

Philips Hue are wireless LED lightbulbs that are controlled via an iOS app — allowing you to change the shade and intensity of light they beam out, turn the bulbs on and off remotely, and set them to come on at scheduled times. Let there be micro-managed light!

Long Version


  • LED lightbulbs rated at 600 lumens
  • Controlled via an iOS app — using iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch
  • App features include ‘light recipes,’ timer, dimmer
  • Lightbulbs can be switched on/off remotely to give your house a lived-in look when away
  • One wireless bridge supports up to 50 Hue lightbulbs
  • Bulbs are up to 80 percent more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs


  • MSRP: $199.95 for the starter pack containing wireless bridge plus three bulbs; $59.95 for single bulb add-on packs
  • Available: Now (however online orders currently aren’t shipping for 3-4 months)
  • Retailers: The Apple Store/Apple’s website

The Philips Hue is…

… a wireless LED lightbulb system that lets you turn iOS devices into a remote control for your lampshades. To kick things off, you need to buy the starter pack, which includes three bulbs plus the wireless bridge that hooks up to your Internet router so the bulbs can speak to the app and vice versa. The bridge apparently supports up to 50 bulbs — albeit, your wallet may not stretch so far. Set up is straightforward: after screwing the bulbs into the sockets of your choice, you plug the wireless bridge into your Internet router and download the Hue app to your iOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch). When you fire up the app for the first time it will ask you to connect it to the bulbs by pushing a button on top of the bridge. Once the app and bulbs are linked you can start playing around with the lights, which is where the fun starts.

Now the app itself is not the finest piece of work under the sun. The interface is rather clumsy and convoluted, but once you get your head around how it works, it at least does the job. From inside the app you can turn all the bulbs on and off when in wireless range of the router. You can also do this remotely (useful for security reasons if you want to make your house look lived in while you’re away) but you need to set up an online account to enable that feature. The app also has a timer menu to schedule lights to come on at set times, with fade-in or instant-on options, so you can program a timed light show.

The main fun within the app is ‘light recipes’ — aka a visual mixology interface that lets you choose the light shade and intensity for each bulb. Configurations of shades can then be saved, and an icon is created for each recipe so you can easily revisit ‘purple rain’ or ‘blue moon’ or whatever you’ve chosen to call your favourite hues. Shades can be picked from photos in your camera library, or from stock Philips photos, or via a colour spectrum. The app also includes some pre-mixed light recipes — with names like ‘Energize’ and ‘Relax.’ A word of warning about the shades the bulbs kick out: Don’t expect colours to be super subtle/nuanced. The bulbs reproduce a range of shades but blues tend toward purple, reds toward pink, and greens look more eerie than leafy (and so on). So if you were hoping to be able to faithfully reproduce the flecks in your loved one’s irises then you’re going to be out of luck.

Buy the Philips Hue for…

… house-proud, iOS-owning gadget fans who love nothing more than being able to remotely control the world around them.


…smart bulbs are more fun, and lightbulbs have been dumb for too long. The Philips Hue is not exactly a life-changing gadget — it’s not going to teach you Spanish or increase the breadth of your vocabulary — but it has soft power: the power to change the atmosphere in your rooms at the tap of an icon, which is pretty cool regardless.

If your intended recipient is house proud and loves nothing more than having people over to admire their latest stick of fancy furniture, they’re going to love customising the ideal Hue light show to set off new designer wares. They’ll also be stoked that they’re sitting at the cutting edge of lightbulb tech. Other smart lightbulbs do exist — such as LIFX and Spark (albeit those Kickstarter projects still need to ship product) or GreenWave Reality Connected Lighting Solution — but this is an emerging tech, so availability is not widespread. Indeed, it may be tricky to get hold of Hue this side of Christmas (Apple’s website currently lists it with a three-to-four-month shipping time). So, if you manage to track down a box at an Apple store, make sure your recipient knows how hard you sweated to bring a little smart light into their life.

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