I first reviewed LIFX light bulbs in 2014. Since then I’ve tried numerous LIFX bulbs. If you’re wondering if LIFX bulbs last or if you’re having problems with LIFX lights, you can check out my initial review here, or jump to the bottom to see my update after I re-tried new LIFX light bulbs for my 2023 review update.
LIFX smart bulbs
I first reviewed LIFX smart bulbs in 2014. Back then they were finicky and not intuitive. Since then, the user interface hasn’t improved, and many of my LIFX lights have simply died after a couple years, despite boasting about longevity.
- No hub/bridge needed
- Multiple sizes, brightness
- User interface is finicky
- Buggy set up
- Forced Apple HomeKit integration
- Bulbs reach end of life well before they should
LIFX light bulbs review
I tested a pair by LIFX, a US company that got its start on Kickstarter. LIFX is a Wi-Fi enabled, multi-color, energy efficient LED light bulb that you can control with your smartphone. Why would you need to use your smartphone for a light bulb? Wi-Fi connectivity allow you to use your phone as a remote control, dimming or brightening light from where you sit, or even adjusting colour and hue. Unlike many other smart lights, LIFX lights do not require a seperate hub to function; it’s built in.
The LIFX bulbs arrive with just a tiny basic instruction booklet in a nice heavyweight box. All I’m supposed to do is download the free LIFX app and click on it to begin the set up process. While they required minimal set up (just screw them in and turn them on) I did have some difficulty initially getting them connected out of the box, since neither would link to the app.
I hit Google and the company’s website for solutions and found each bulb (older LIFX bulbs) has a tiny reset button on it. I flipped the switch, and the bulbs connected almost instantly. Once they were installed, the fun began.
Experimenting with LIFX colour & light
The lights have a wide array of colors and brightnesses. For the basic ‘white’ light most of us use every day, there’s a host of variations; on your smart phone there’s a dial which allows you to control whether you want a cool bluish light, or a warmer pinkish yellow light. In the house, in rooms like the bedroom and living room, I prefer a warm soft glow. Cold light to me, i.e. blue reminds me too much of the harsh fluorescent lights of the workplace, so I avoid it wherever possible. On each of the variations of the white setting, you also have the ability to brighten or dim the bulb from your smart phone. It’s very easy to control, and the color wheel setup in the app makes it easy to see what you’re getting or what else is available to change it to.
I wasn’t certain I’d be using the colored bulbs settings, after all, who needs a red light bulb in their lamp? As it turns out, I did find several great uses for the various colors. On Halloween night, I dialed up a bright orange light in one of our lamps and set it in the front window. It was an instant signal to trick or treating children to come to our house for a candy bounty. Similarly, at Christmas time, I could definitely see using red or green settings in a lamp to create a festive atmosphere.
Now that Halloween is over, I find myself setting up a lavender color or warm orange or yellow, just to warm up the house as winter weather sets in. In the summer, I could see a cool blue or green giving off a nice refreshing vibe, on a hot summer night. I also really like the fact that there’s not just your standard red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple range of colours; there is every shade and tone in between so you can find a colour that perfectly suits you and your moods. So as far as colours go, I actually did find I used them frequently, which is not what I was expecting.
LIFX works with other smart home gadgets
LIFX bulbs also work with a product I love and recently reviewed, the Nest thermostat. As soon as your Nest switches itself into Away mode, LIFX can make it look as if someone’s home by automatically turning on and off your lights throughout the house. A feature LIFX says it’s adding with an app update is the ability to set timers for the bulb that will allow you to dim yourself to sleep, or wake up to a gently brightening light in the morning.
While these are likely not bulbs that will replace each and every light bulb in your home, in a few key fixtures such as lamps, or dining room lighting, they are perfect to give you variety and atmosphere. In the bedroom, or children’s rooms, they will also provide a nice ambiance, or a little more fun for kids.
LIFX says their bulbs are designed to last 40,000 hours, which if used at 4 hours per day is 27 years. That’s a good thing, because the bulbs are not cheap. Whereas traditional bulbs, or even compact fluorescents can be had for a dollar apiece or less, the LIFX cost $99 from the company’s web store.
LIFX review 2023 update
If you started at the top of this article you know when I last reviewed LIFX smart bulbs, they were a welcome novelty, but finicky to run. I recently decided to give LIFX bulbs another look so in this review I’ll talk about my experience with them today, how the set up process is, if any improvements have been made, and how these bulbs integrate into my smart home.
2023 LIFX smart bulbs review
I recently ordered LIFX 1100 lumen larger format bulb and the LIFX 800 lumen colour bulbs which are the size of a traditional bulb, and both have the standard E26 screw base), so those are the bulbs I’m focusing on today.
What makes LIFX lights special?
Unlike many other smart lights, LIFX lights do not require a separate hub or bridge to function; the smarts and the Wi-Fi connection ability is built in to each bulb. Not needing a hub means you don’t need to worry about setting up an extra gadget Plus there’s no extra cost like there would be with a Philips Hue bulb for example.
In my initial review of LIFX bulbs, they were difficult to set up, they often took several attempts at connection, and over weeks and months would often randomly disconnect or become unreachable for no reason, requiring a complicated reset process. Also, over the six or so years I had LIFX bulbs, several of them simply ceased to function altogether meaning I had to toss them away; an expensive prospect at their price point of about $40-60CAD each. I’d say of the 8 LIFX bulbs I’ve owned, four have already reached end of life. And while in this short review period I won’t be able to judge longevity, I will be watching to see how the newer generation of bulbs hold up.
Are LIFX smart bulbs improved?
I’m disappointed to find LIFX bulbs are no easier to set up than when I previously reviewed them. They continue to be buggy, difficult or just plain broken.
How to set up LIFX lights
Screw in the bulb, and make sure the power is on and the bulb comes to life. Then use the LIFX app to connect to your bulb by choosing the ad device prompt. The app should find your light bulb immediately and then it’s a simple matter of tapping to connect and following the instructions.
Somewhat maddeningly, the LIFX app forced me to integrate with Apple HomeKit.
Forced Apple HomeKit integration?
Now, I do have HomeKit set up but I don’t use it day to day and instead rely only on it for testing new gadgets) For this HomeKit connection will absolutely need to ensure you save the small paper instruction booklet that comes with each lightbulb, as there is an Apple HomeKit code on it that you will need to complete the set up.
Enter the set up code or use the camera to scan the QR code on the back of the paper. The LIFX app will then get you connected.
If you don’t have that HomeKit code, it is possible to get that code off the serial number that is on the light bulb, but it’s a bit hard to read. I waited several minutes for the HomeKit set up to complete, but all I got was a spinning wheel.
One bulb died during set up
All of a sudden the bulb went out and I couldnt get it to turn back on again. So that was a complete dud. I pulled another light from its box and tried again.
This time it seemed to connect correctly, even with HomeKit, but during the set up it not only forced me to add it to a room, but also to create a group within it. Despite the fact I didn’t want it to be grouped.
LIFX app isn’t intuitive
This brings me to the LIFX app. While it is nicely designed and laid out, it’s not very intuitive or easy to navigate in my opinion, and I’m saying this as someone who’s used hundreds of smart home apps. The way the app tends to want to group your lights and devices doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And it’s extremely difficult to figure out how to redo the groupings or to re-organize your home.
There appears to be no way to simply get a basic list of all of your lights so you can choose among them to navigate or adjust settings. You seem to have to navigate through groups or favorites.
In short, I found trying to work with the app to schedule and change colours on the lights was extremely frustrating.
The lights do have a wide array of colors and brightnesses. For the basic ‘white’ light most of us use every day, there’s a host of variations; on your smart phone there’s a dial which allows you to control whether you want a cool bluish light, or a warmer pinkish yellow light. You also have the ability to brighten or dim the bulb from your smart phone. It’s very easy to control, and the color wheel setup in the app makes it easy to see what you’re getting or what else is available to change it to. You can also set schedules for your lights to behave a certain way each day ad I can say that this actually worked well in my testing.
Yet another LIFX light dies after just a few years
One last little twist of the knife.. as I was working on this video, another of my LIFX lights died; I’ve had to factory reset the light strip I have multiple times when it stops working in the two years I’ve had it. Today, it just quit completely and wouldn’t turn back on, so into the garbage it went..
Are LIFX bulbs better today?
Overall, I continue to be disappointed with LIFX light bulbs.
On the pro side, they don’t use an extra hub, and the colours are fun. There are two different sizes and brightness levels to play with so you should be able to find one that fits your fixture or brightness need.
On the con side, there’s enough red flags with these bulbs that I’m still not going to recommend them…the app isn’t intuitive or easy to use, and the forced Apple HomeKit integration makes set up finicky—if it lets you complete it at all. One of the four bulbs I bought died during set up, and others I’ve owned in the past have a very short shelf life, with a big price tag. LIFX says their bulbs are designed to last 40,000 hours, which if used at 4 hours per day is 27 years. That’s a good thing, because the bulbs are not cheap. Whereas traditional bulbs, or even compact fluorescents can be had for a dollar apiece or less, the LIFX cost about from $35-50 depending on if you get the 800 lumen version or the 1100.
Should I get LIFX or Philips Hue?
I don’t see any major improvements to LIFX bulbs since I first reviewed them back in 2014. For that reason I would warn you away from LIFX bulbs and steer you towards Philips Hue which is infinitely more reliable and leagues easier to set up. You can check out my reviews of several Philips Hue smart lights here, or see the Abode smart light kit, Wyze, or Cync by GE.