What if you could call out to turn off the chandelier in your dining room or the lamp in your bedroom? It may sound a little futuristic, but smart bulbs are here to help you spend more time taking care of the tasks that are important (like catching up on your favorite shows or relaxing in bed), and less time worrying about whether your 5-year-old remembered to shut the lights off in the bathroom for the umpteenth time. Now, instead of getting up off the couch, you can tell Siri a simple command like, “Hey Siri, turn off the living room lights,” with smart bulbs that work with HomeKit, Apple’s smart home interface that can control compatible products using the "Home" app.
Maybe you’ve strolled the aisles of your local home improvement store or spent some time scrolling through the internet mulling over your options for smart bulbs. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out which bulbs work with HomeKit—and if the bulbs actually live up to their reviews. That’s where we come in. Our editors tested the best smart bulbs that work with HomeKit. Of the ones we tested, the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit (Generation 3) (available at Amazon for $199.00) is our favorite thanks to a slew of useful features and an easy-to-use app. However, there are other Apple-enabled smart bulbs out there that you may want to consider.
These are the smart bulbs we tested, ranked in order:
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit
Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit
Philips Hue White A19 Starter Kit
Lifx + A19 Night Vision
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Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 Starter Kit (Gen 3)
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit (Generation 3)
Across the board, the Philips Hue smart bulbs light topped all of our tests thanks to an easy setup, a robust suite of features, and an intuitive app. Additional support with smart assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant add tremendous benefit to an already impressive portfolio. Once you throw in the additional rainbow of possible light colors, these are without a doubt the best smart bulbs you can buy.
The only downside is that unlike some other smart bulbs, the Hue bulbs do require a hub in order to work. Additional hardware isn’t usually a strong point, but it’s a small price to pay for the sheer performance and reliability the Hue bulbs offer—especially if you opt for the Starter Kit that comes packaged with the hub.
Philips also continues to sell its second-generation starter kit, which was our previous Best Overall pick. It lists at $175.00, with the only difference being that the third-generation kit comes with "richer color" bulbs.
Hi, I’m Sarah Kovac. I’m the smart home editor here at Reviewed, and I’ve tested hundreds of products over the last five years on this site and also for outlets such as PCMag and Wirecutter. I use smart home devices constantly in my own home and talk to Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri several times a day (mostly to turn off whatever annoying music my kids have decided to play on repeat that day… I’m looking at you, “Baby Shark”). We’ve had smart bulbs in our light fixtures for several years, and I am personally acquainted with the benefits and potential pitfalls of installing connected light bulbs.
To find out which smart bulb is the very best on the market today, we bought the bestselling, highest rated bulbs and tested them in an actual home, with a regular router, in a typical lamp. We installed the bulbs’ apps on both iOS and Android to assess their ease of use and see whether the experience was the same on both platforms, testing response times over WiFi connection and data. We connected each bulb to HomeKit (Siri) to measure each bulb’s functionality and responsiveness to voice commands.
What to Know About Smart Bulbs
After spending a few years testing and writing about smart bulbs, we've learned a few things that can help you decide which smart bulb to buy, and what to expect from your purchase. Switching from regular light bulbs to smart bulbs may be a bit of a hassle up front (and a price increase), but once everything is set up, the bulbs are easy to control and there are so many benefits to how you can customize your home’s lighting.
Setting up a smart bulb goes a bit beyond simply screwing the light bulb into a socket and calling it a day. Now, there's the question of whether or not it needs a "hub," works via Bluetooth, or can function on your WiFi network alone. Smart bulbs that work with a hub are most common. Once you've set up a hub, you'll go through an in-app setup process to identify your bulbs, assign them to rooms, and give you full control over their features.
Smart bulbs can do much more than turn your lights on or off via your phone or a smart speaker. Smart bulbs can control brightness, adjust color temperature (a cool blue/white light to a warm yellow), and change the light to any color in the rainbow.
Outside of color and brightness, most smart light bulbs will have additional options for creating scenes or setting schedules. Scenes are pre-existing or custom settings of color and brightness that you can easily select—making it a snap to change your room from a bright white light to a soothing dim blue that's easier on the eyes. Schedules are exactly what it sounds like. You can set your bulbs to automatically adjust based on time of day, alarms in the morning, or even changes in your location, such as turning lights off/on as you leave or come home from work.
All the smart bulbs we tested are compatible with Apple HomeKit—just make sure to double check so you're not buying an outlier.
Other Smart Bulbs We Tested
The Lifx A19 offers something rather unique in that it has an app for Microsoft phones as well as iOS and Android. It’s compatible with HomeKit, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant, so it can assimilate easily into the ecosystem of your choice. The Lifx A19 is a color bulb that has lots of options in the settings for interesting effects: It can respond to sound picked up by your phone’s mic, adjust the light according to the time of day, and perform wake-up and bedtime routines. Lifx integrates with Nest, so when there is activity in one of your Nest Cam’s motion zones, or if a person is detected, you can choose which lights turn on, or you can have random bulbs turn on in unpredictable patterns. If you use your Nest thermostat with your power company’s Rush Hour Rewards program, your lights can blink green and orange to let you know that you are entering a rush hour (the power company will adjust your thermostat during times of high energy use). And if your Nest Protect smart smoke alarm detects a problem, you can set the Lifx to blink in response. The Lifx can do lots of things, but all that functionality comes at a price—it’s the most expensive bulb we tested.
Each of the Philips Hue smart bulbs has a near identical app experience and setting up each of the bulbs was about as flawless and painless as it could be. The only real difference in each kit lies in the level of control you get over each type of bulb.
The Philips Hue White Ambiance bulb lets you adjust the color temperature of the bulb. That means you can adjust the light through a range of warm yellow and cool blue/white colors. There are also four default “recipes” that alter the light based on whether you’re relaxing, reading, concentrating, or looking to get energized. If you don’t need a bunch of flashy, vivid colors, the White Ambiance is a great runner up that gives you some white color options without paying for the premium package.
While the White and Color Ambiance and the White Ambiance smart bulbs topped our charts, the standard White bulb came in a little lower on our list. While the app and setup were identical to the higher ranking Hue bulbs, the lack of features or control left us a little disappointed.
You’ll still be able to set a schedule, control them remotely, and dim them (the same as the other Philips Hue bulbs), but that's about it. The Hue White bulbs are the definition of a regular bulb that’s gotten only the barest bit of smart features, which is reflected in the starter kit's low price. While that might be all some people are looking for, in a roundup of the best smart bulbs, it just doesn’t compare.
The LIFX + A19 Night Vision adds something either totally amazing and applicable to you, or nothing at all. Nearly identical to the LIFX A19, this model features the addition of infrared light. What does that mean? Well, when the bulb is turned off via the app, it'll emit infrared light that's meant to enhance any night vision used by your security cameras. It worked brilliantly during our tests, but ultimately won't matter much if your home isn't equipped with night vision security cameras.
Sarah Kovac is an award-winning author and smart home editor for Reviewed. Previously, she worked with a multitude of outlets such as Wirecutter, TIME, PCMag, Prevention, The Atlantic, Reviews.com, CNN, GOOD, Upworthy, Mom.me, and SheKnows.
Rachel Murphy covers smart home for Reviewed. She holds a journalism degree from the University of Central Florida. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer for several major outlets including Mashable and MSN, and as an associate editorial producer for ABC News' Good Morning America.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.