Philips Hue Competitor LIFX Ships Friday, Launching With Best Buy And Other Retailers Soon

Kickstarter success and Australian hardware startup LIFX is finally shipping its Wi-Fi connected smart lightbulbs this Friday. That’s a little later than originally promised in its Kickstarter campaign. LIFX had promised to deliver by March, so they’re officially quite late to the party, but they’ve also managed to secure some major retail partners for a consumer launch late this year and early next.

LIFX bulbs will go on sale at Best Buy online January 19, 2014 in the U.S., and some global retail partners including John Lews in the UK, DickSmith in Australia, Digitech in the EU, MediaMarket in Scandinavia and Virgin Megastores in the Gulf Region, are launching it even earlier in December of this year. That’s all above and beyond the existing $10 million in pre-sales LIFX has done via Kickstarter and its own site, and the $4.6 million it has raised from private investors.

Co-founder and Director Andrew Birt says that they acknowledge that they’re behind schedule, but that the smart bulb race “hasn’t been won yet,” referring to the head start legacy lighting industry giant Philips has with its Hue series. Philips introduced two new types of Hue bulbs and starter kits earlier this week, effectively tripling its product lineup in a single blow. LIFX will offer screw, bayonet and downlight models from the get-go, however, and unlike the Philips Hue, they don’t require a base to connect to Wi-Fi to talk to each other and to your iOS or Android device.

The LIFX team has been working hard to fix production issues and start sending devices out to pre-order customers, Birt says, but they’ve also been working in the background on other efforts while that’s been going on.

“We’ve been building our retail and distribution network in the background while the core team focused on development and production,” he says. “Lots of cool integrations coming too, with our API / SDK set for release in the coming weeks. “
LIFX may be getting a late start, but the category is new, and Philips may have done them a favor by making consumers more aware that this type of product exists to begin with. Now, the key will be making the case that LIFX is a better bulb that provides a better experience, despite the fact that individual bulbs cost $30 more per unit than do the Philips equivalents. Working independent of a base is a huge boon, however, so we’ll see which advantage strikes buyers as more appealing.