LED technology keeps getting more and more common. As it does, the costs keep going down, and the cycle of innovation and placing them into more and more common items continues. Sansi, through their Loftek brand, has an LED bulb that doesn’t need a hub to be “group-able” and controllable from an app on your mobile device. I was sent a sample for testing.
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The overall look is similar to an incandescent bulb, but the weight is different (heavier, with the weight more toward the globe, rather than the connector) and there is a doughnut-shaped hole in the center, rather than the usual semi-spherical shape we all know. The lower part, between the standard screw base and the top frosted “lampshade”, is opaque plastic and perforated for ventilation.
Once you download their app, you are able to see bulbs and edit their names. You are also forced to change the password and to make it more than “password” or similar. (This is a Good Thing™.) Connecting is a bit awkward, since the bulb has its own wifi network, rather than a dedicated hub. Once you download the app, and join the bulb’s network, you can change it to your network and let it reboot. From then on, it is on your network. This must be done for each bulb, which is a configuration headache, but once done, it’s done. You can then create groups, or see just the bulbs that are not in any group. You can change the settings for groups of bulbs, or tap “Global Control” and turn all lights to 100% brightness, or 50% pink, or whatever. You can still do the same with individual groups or bulbs as well, if you select that particular entry.
The response time is pretty quick when you launch the app (I’m on iOS 10, on an iPhone 6s Plus, but there is an android app, too.) Once selected, the bulb is very responsive, changing colors easily when you drag your finger across the color wheel on your screen. You can save four “favorite” colors, and turn the lights on/off individually or as a group. I really like that you have full control, and don’t have to have a hub. This makes getting into using this tech very easy. (The bulbs retail for $55, but are commonly seen at half that price. By contrast, a hub-based system (Philips’ Hue, as a comparison) sells for $200, for three bulbs and a hub. I’ve found no other way to purchase a hub, which is required to use the system.)
While it’s nice for getting started or testing the waters, the accuracy of dragging across a color wheel to set the color is a bit futzy. Your finger covers the portion of the wheel you are selecting, and although they do have a nice magnifier that shows the pixelated color map under your finger, it’s still a crapshoot when you release your finger. It may or may not stay on the exact pixel you want.
I like the light from this bulb, but it’s a bit different from regular incandescent lights, and from CFC or other LED bulbs. It may be that it’s a “cool while” bulb or some other attribute of the LEDs, but it’s just a little – um – pink, maybe? You can get used to it, and a shade definitely helps, but you may want to check out the color on a test unit before ordering enough for your entire home.
I think my biggest gripe with this all is that you have to always use the app to turn things off. If you turn the light off from the switch, the wifi radio in the bulb is shut off, and you have to go back to the switch when you next want the light on. Also, from the app, there is no way to know if the light is on or off. Obviously, if you’re within sight, you can see if the light on, but there is no “off/on” indication with the bulb, or the groups. With a hub based system, you see the status of bulbs, not just their presence.
Eventually, hopefully, switches will talk to bulbs the same way the apps do, leaving the radio on while turning off the illumination. Maybe this will lead to different types of premise wiring, like the mobile phone and computer industry has done. Meanwhile, this bulb is an interesting foray into remote controllable lighting.