Here’s a color-changing smart bulb that Siri can control for $25

Color-changing smart bulbs are a likable smart home novelty, and most of them pair extremely well with voice controls. The problem is that many of them are much too expensive, with popular options from names like Philips Hue and Lifx starting at about $40 per bulb. 

There’s an emerging crop of lower-cost alternatives, though, including a new, color-changing LED from Feit Electric that costs $25. It uses Bluetooth to communicate directly with your phone, so it doesn’t need a hub plugged into your router like with Philips Hue or with other budget-friendly options like Sengled. It doesn’t have its own app, either. Instead, it’s designed to work with Apple HomeKit, which means iOS users can set it up directly from Apple’s Home app, then control it using Siri voice commands such as “make the smart bulb red,” or “set the lamp to 10 percent brightness.”

That’s the same approach taken by the Sylvania Smart Plus LED, another HomeKit-compatible Bluetooth bulb that changes colors. The upside to leaning on HomeKit is that these companies don’t need to spend time or money developing an app of their own. The downside is that the Home app’s software and controls for color-changing bulbs are rather mediocre. 

Feit’s bulb is plenty bright at just about every color setting — but it struggles to put out the color orange.


Ry Crist/CNET

Now 5 years old, the Home app makes it easy to pair bulbs with your phone and assign them to a room or a group of devices, but it still suffers from an unintuitive interface for choosing colors and fewer features than Philips Hue or Lifx. The Siri commands still come with quirks of their own, too — and neither Alexa nor Google Assistant are currently supported at all, so it’s Siri and the Home app or bust.

Still, this isn’t a bad bulb. With an energy draw of 10.5 watts and a measured 878 lumens at its default, soft white setting, it’s about 10 percent brighter than advertised, and brighter than most of the competition, including the Philips Hue. Feit’s bulb was brighter than the Hue at every color setting I tested, too, except for red. You might notice that weak red setting if you try dialing Feit’s bulb to orange — to my eye, it couldn’t do much better than beige.

If you can tolerate trade-offs like that (and if you’re committed to building your smart home upon a HomeKit foundation), then the Feit bulb isn’t a bad budget pick for something like a kid’s room. With such ample brightness, it’s especially well-suited for a bedside reading lamp. But Philips Hue and Lifx boast better-looking colors, better apps and a much longer list of compatible products and platforms, including IFTTT, Alexa and Google Assistant. Both are expensive, but they’re still the first names you should consider if you’re serious about filling your home with smart, color-changing light.

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