Consider smart bulbs your basic building blocks for making a nice, interconnected smart home. Get these blocks wrong and expect a world of frustration coming your way. Based on my years of experience with smart bulbs, my advice is to invest in a well-reviewed system, and you’ll likely have little to no issues. Budget smart bulbs always have compromises and that’s totally fine. What isn’t fine is when the compromise lies on sub-par reliability, glitchy apps and lacklustre aftersales support. Is there a manufacturer out there willing to raise the quality ceiling in the budget category? My journey towards the answer continues as I go hands on with the Abode Smart Bulbs.
Abode smart light bulb
It’s a decent product for about $23 USD. Don’t expect too many bells and whistles here but I can safely recommend Abode bulbs if you have a room or two that needs some extra color and remote control.
- Easy to use app
- Easy to set up/install
- Lots of colour options
- Great starter product
- No gateway needed for basic operations
- Light controls disappear in app if light is off
- Gateway needed for additional functions (scheduling)
Why choose Abode Smart Bulbs?
The Abode bulbs I chose are standard bulbs and both white and colour enabled, meaning your have a huge range of options for decor and ambiance.
One of the key features of the Abode system is that you can integrate it with other smart bulbs including Philips Hue and LIFX. Another is that it doesn’t need a hub or bridge to operate… but as you’ll see, you’ll miss out on some features if you don’t have one.
Before I get to the reliability of the smart bulbs themselves, I want to give a brief overview of Abode to paint a small picture of the company’s reputation as a smart home solutions provider. Abode was founded back in 2014 but made a big splash in early 2018 with the launch of their Abode Security System. Abode continues to sell the product at the time of writing and customers praise it for being easy to set up and offering good automation support for popular platforms including Alexa and IFTTT.
Abode’s reputation with their security products gives me a bit of confidence in choosing Abode smart bulbs over the other cheap options coming from questionable brands. I also appreciate the fact Abode doesn’t force you into a costly proprietary ecosystem.
Abode says it’s possible to link its smart bulb to Apple HomeKit, Alexa and Google Assistant platforms without issues. Because the Abode smart bulb is platform agnostic, the bulb should play well with those other smart home products too.
Set up: refreshingly easy
Setting the Abode bulbs up was actually pretty quick and easy. You’ll first need to download or log into the Abode app which is pleasantly uncluttered and easy to navigate. With just a couple of quick taps on the app screen my bulbs were connected instantly.
The app’s home panel features a Quick Actions bar that lets you control various aspects of your Abode Security System and any connected Abode bulbs. Moving on to the bulb itself, the Abode Smart Bulb is pretty competitive with the GE CYNC I reviewed not too long ago while costing a few bucks less. The brightness maxes out at 800 lumens, you can pick from a 16-million color palette with white temperatures ranging from 1,800K to 6,500K).
The Abode app integrates with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Ecobee and Sonos.
Do you need a Hub/Bridge for Abode smart lights? No and yes…
One of the main characteristics of any smart bulb is its reliance on your wireless network to function and the Abode smart bulb is no exception. While many smart home systems do require a hub or a bridge to bridge the gap between the lightbulbs and your router or modem, in this case, no extra equipment is necessary for these smart bulbs to function at their most basic level. You simply screw in the bulbs, turn them on, and then during the set up process you’ll be able to connect them to Wi-Fi using just the Abode app. This means you won’t have to cough up extra on a hub or bridge (as you currently do with Philips Hue) to put your bulb on the smart home map.
This can be a good thing if you want to save money and have a capable home router or mesh network for the devices in your home. It can also be bad thing if the opposite is true as poor Wi-Fi reception can introduce unpredictable behavior for your devices especially when you add more to the mix.
But it should be noted that without a hub, you get only the most basic functions of the bulb, and that’s lighting: Yuu can turn them on and off with the app and adjust the colours, but that’s about it. No hub means no way to add automations, like setting light schedules, connecting them with other devices to create routines or connected tasks, like having the light turn on when connected to an Abode motion detector, for example.
Automate lights: sort of…
One of the great things about smart lights is that you can set them to do things all on their own. For example it’s possible to set your Abode smart lights to turn on and off at certain times without needing any further intervention from you—so long as you have that hub. For example, you can set the Abode bulbs to automatically turn on your lights as it gets dark, set your lights to turn on 10 minutes before sunset or make light switches turn on with a separate motion sensor after sunset.
Unfortunately a user unfamiliar with this app will struggle to figure out how to do this, since it’s not at all obvious.
How to add schedules with Abode smart bulbs
If you’re searching the app trying to figure out how to put your lights on a timer or a daily schedule you will not find any options. That’s because unless you do have the Abode bridge installed in your home, these functions are simply unavailable and will not even appear in the app. Because these bulbs are designed to be a bit modular and to give you options for a smart home system that can grow with you and your budget, if you want to add those additional functions you will need to eventually add that hub or bridge.
Workarounds do exist… may seem confusing
If you do have another smart home device that does have a hub or gateway built-in (for example certain Google Home or Alexa devices), it is possible to bypass needing the Abode Hub and get additional functionality. For example I was able to use my Google Home’s integrated smart home hub-tech to get voice control over my Abode bulbs. My Google Home system automatically located and added the Abode bulbs to my Google home app giving me additional ways to control and automate the lights.
Automations with Google or Alexa
With whichever smart assistant you prefer to operate, you can set up a routine to place your home in “away” or “home” mode to apply several presets and switches that affect the state of your Abode security products, cameras and bulbs all through a single voice command. You can also instruct the motion sensors or alarms to change the colors of the Abode Smart Bulbs when they are triggered, if you want to get fancy.
How Does the Abode Bulb Compare to Philips Hue?
For the average consumer keen on creating their first smart home, the Abode bulbs are a great choice. They’re inexpensive, simple to use, and they work just great. They can easily display a number of colors, brightness levels, and are easy to operate both with voice control or the app.
On a technical level, the Philips Hue products are a cut above because a Philips Hue setup, you only need to connect the Philips Hue Bridge to the router via Ethernet which, while a bit more costly, is surefire way for a hassle-free setup since the bridge will see and add bulbs automatically. Plus, the Philips Hue Bridge offers its own Zigbee-powered mesh network that doesn’t interfere with your ordinary Wi-Fi devices.
How much better it is over the Abode smart bulb is ultimately your call because you need to evaluate your budget, house size and layout, the number of Wi-Fi devices in your house, the placement of your smart devices and your network router arrangement. A strong network setup can eliminate those connectivity bottlenecks to the point that you only need to be concerned with the overall quality of the Abode smart bulb itself.
All that technical stuff aside (which tbh, most people don’t care about) the Abode bulbs are definitely on par with Philips Hue when it comes to operation, and when you factor in that you can buy into the Abode system without the hub, and with cheaper bulbs, it’s a pretty appealing system for beginners and more experienced smart home lovers. Finally, since it is possible to get Abode, Philips and LIFX all working together, that’s a pretty strong bonus.
Overall Thoughts on Abode Smart Bulbs
After spending several days working with the Abode smart bulb; it’s a decent product for about $23 USD. Don’t expect too many bells and whistles here but I can safely recommend Abode bulbs if you have a room or two that needs some extra color and remote control.
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