Bluetooth radio frees you from complicated wireless configuration
Wide range of colors to choose from
Some trouble with app responsiveness
Range limited by Bluetooth connection and proximity to bulb
This Bluetooth bulb offers simple setup, but its control system still needs a bit of fine-tuning.
The grilled, egglike design of the iLumi bulb makes for a decidedly postmodern appearance, but this small and relatively unobtrusive bulb fits into a wide range of fixtures without trouble.
The iLumi is a Bluetooth-only bulb, which has both pros and cons. The biggest advantage is this bulb’s extreme ease of setup. Plug it in, download the iLumi app, and you’re done. Through clever software design, you don’t even have to pair the bulb with your phone—the app does it all for you behind the scenes.
On the downside, reliance on Bluetooth means you need to be in range of the bulb in order to interact with it. This isn’t a problem if you just have a bulb or two in a small home; but if you’re trying to control lights throughout a large house, you’ll need to move around a bit to get the job done. That said, the range of the iLumi is quite good. On the ground floor of my home, I had no problem interacting with the bulb from as far as 25 meters away. Only when I ventured upstairs (and some more substantial interference became an issue) was I unable to control the bulb from the app. It’s worth noting that the app does not indicate whether or not a bulb is in range, so you may find yourself obliviously attempting to adjust lights that aren’t actually responding to your commands.
iLumi requires an account for the app to work, but it does support Facebook logins to streamline this process. Given that this bulb is not connected to the web, the need for an account is a little specious—though the company says it’s to keep your bulbs from being controlled by devices you don’t approve, such as your neighbors’ phones. Fair enough, but simpler solutions (such as simply putting a passcode on the pairing process) seem more elegant.
The iLumi app has everything you need, though organizationally it’s a bit scattered. Bulbs are organized into “Groups,” where you can change bulb colors individually or en masse. iLumi is focused heavily on primary “party” colors. If you’re looking for a more subtle color temperature, you’ll need to delve into the app’s color wheel and keep an eye on the bulb itself until you find what you want. Changes to color and brightness tend to take a second to be relayed to the bulb, so adjustments typically require a fair amount of trial and error.
Once your bulbs are tuned the way you want them, you can save your setup as a “Scene,” which takes a snapshot of all the lighting settings in your home, saving time when you want to switch among various moods. The other option is called “Experiences,” where you can set timers and vacation schedules as well as activate a music sync feature, but this seems like little more than some random color changing.
Though its claimed 800 lumens of brightness seems overly optimistic when compared to similarly bright bulbs, the iLumi bulb is largely capable, but it still has some growing pains to resolve—namely with functions in the app often requiring multiple attempts before they “take.” It’s also one of the most expensive bulbs on the market, which makes it best suited for users who require a Bluetooth-only solution.
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Christopher Null is a veteran technology and business journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive, PCWorld, and Wired, and operates the websites Drinkhacker and Film Racket. Disclosure: He also writes for Hewlett-Packad's marketing website TechBeacon.