The Best Smart Light Bulbs of 2016

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Like door locks and security systems, light bulbs have grown exponentially smarter in recent years. You can now replace your standard incandescent bulb with a variety of connected lighting solutions that you can control with just a few taps on your smartphone or tablet. But with so many options flooding the smart home market, which one is right for you? We've rounded up our ten highest-rated smart bulbs, along with some points to consider while shopping, to help you decide.

Price
Smart bulbs use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and a variety of technologies to work, so they are more expensive than traditional bulbs. That's important to keep in mind, especially if you want to upgrade your entire house. But smart bulbs also use less energy and last a lot longer—meaning you can save money in the long run. And as you can see, all of the options on this list fall well below $100, so the price of entry isn't as steep as it used to be even a year ago. The TikTeck Smart LED, for instance, costs less than a movie ticket.

Color and Luminance
Some of the bulbs on this list are just white, while others have the ability to take on any color of the rainbow. Color is a fun way to add atmosphere to your home, but often results in a pricier bulb.

Most of the smart bulbs we review are marketed as equivalent to 60-watt incandescent models, which sounds self-explanatory, but some bulbs are brighter than others. To see just how bright a light is, you need to look at the lumens it puts out (listed in the table above): the more lumens, the brighter the light. But even then, the light can disperse in a narrow beam or distribute brightness in a wide swath, so make sure to read the reviews to find out how each bulb works.

Another factor to keep in mind is color temperature. Higher temperatures, like 8,500K, look like harsh office lighting, which is fine for staying awake or working. Lower tempeartures, like 2,500K, translate to a cozy, warm glow that's perfect for relaxing.

Control
Since you'll mostly be controlling these lights from your phone or tablet, you want to make sure that it's easy to do. If you have multiple bulbs, for instance, you'll want a companion app that lets you easily arrange them in groups, and adjust the brightness and/or color of an entire group at one time.

Of course, any bulb plugged into a socket can always be turned on or off by just flipping the switch. We pay close attention to how each app works, and provide a detailed overview in each review.

Features
Smart bulbs offer a degree of control and interactivity you just can't get with traditional bulbs, like scheduled timers and remote control options. They're also more convenient; it's easier to tap on a smartphone screen than to get up and trudge over to a wall switch.

Aside from keeping you out of the dark, most of the bulbs listed here can be scheduled or controlled remotely, which is great if you want to save on energy costs or you often forget to turn off the lights before leaving the house. Some bulbs use geofencing, which means they work with the GPS in your smartphone to pinpoint your exact location, and can automatically turn the lights on or off when you reach a certain point. Color-changing bulbs are great for mood lighting, and some can even sync up with certain movies and TV shows.

Some bulbs hook up with Amazon's Alexa or Apple's HomeKit, so you can control your home lighting with your voice. You can also integrate some of the bulbs on this list with security cameras, thermostats, and other smart home devices. If This Then That (IFTTT) compatibility lets you create recipes that automatically cause your lights to react to certain triggers, like phone notifications or changes in weather.

Right now we don't recommend bulbs that do double-duty as a speaker (like the Sony LED Bulb Speaker), as we haven't found any particularly good ones in testing.

Do You Need a Hub?
There's one more important factor to keep in mind. Many smart bulbs need to connect to your smartphone through a home automation hub, like the forthcoming Wink 2 or the Philips Hue Bridge 2.0. Other bulbs cut out the middle man and connect to your phone or tablet directly via Wi-Fi, like the LIFX models. Others connect with Bluetooth, but in that case, you're limited to control only when you're within Bluetooth range, which means you can't change the lights when you're away from home.

Adding a hub also means spending a bit more money and adding another step to the installation process, but based on the bulbs we've seen so far, the best ones typically use hubs.

With all that in mind, we've gathered the best smart bulbs we've tested here. Depending on your needs, any of these options is a good place to get started in connecting your home lighting to more than just a wall switch.

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