If you’ve been around the smart home for a while, you’ll remember Lifx. One of the first smart lighting companies, Lifx was Philips Hue’s main competitor in its heyday, both being known for high-quality products and compatibility with all the major platforms. But over the last few years, the Australian-based company and its Wi-Fi smart bulbs have struggled, almost going out of business in 2022. Now, Lifx is back, and it’s promising to be better and brighter than ever.
Purchased by US-based Feit Electric early last year, Lifx now has an influx of cash and a robust distribution network to lean on and is ramping up for a big 2024. “Two years before the acquisition, we had one product launch; in the next 18 months, we’ll be launching 11 to 12 new products and updating our line to support Matter,” says Mark Hollands, chief technology officer of Lifx, in an interview with The Verge.
First up, the company is branching into outdoor lighting, an area Philips Hue has had a lock on for a number of years. The launch includes new Wi-Fi-powered outdoor string lights, path lights, spotlights, and an outdoor flex light strip (an indoor light strip launched late last year).
Here’s a look at the new outdoor lighting line from Lifx, which is available to buy starting February 28th at The Home Depot (online and in-store, US-only). All the products work with the Lifx app for creating scenes using the lights’ full array of colors, tunable white light, and ability to blend colors across zones:
- Lifx smart string light, $149 — full color and tunable white, 24 feet long, 600 lumens, Wi-Fi compatible (Matter compatibility coming soon)
- Lifx smart neon flex light, $169.97 — full color and tunable white, 16 feet long, 2,150 lumens, IP67 outdoor rating, Wi-Fi and Matter compatible
- Lifx smart round or square path light, $149 — full color and tunable white, with color blending technology across six addressable zones, 10 inches high, 500 to 800 lumens, IP66 outdoor rating, Wi-Fi and Matter compatible
- Lifx smart spotlight, $99.97 — full color and tunable white, with color blending technology, 1,600 lumens, IP66 outdoor rating, Wi-Fi and Matter compatible
In the past, a big selling point of Lifx lights over Philips Hue was that they don’t require a proprietary bridge since they work over 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. However, today, there are dozens of inexpensive Wi-Fi smart bulbs from well-known brands such as Wiz, Govee, and Meross.
Lifx believes it can stand out from the crowd with its superior color rendering, smooth color blending, and unique ability to maintain brightness levels in color as well as white light. Lifx has been known for these features, and Hollands says the new products build on that heritage while bringing brighter colors and whiter whites. The new lights offer an impressive range of 1,500 to 9,000 Kelvin for the tunable white light, bringing a wider range of brighter whites. By comparison, Hue’s lights range from 2,000 to 6,500 Kelvin.
Lifx’s outdoor lights will support Matter-over-Wi-Fi, making them compatible with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Home, Samsung SmartThings, and any other Matter platform. Hollands says all the new launches this year will support Matter, and the company is working to upgrade existing products to the new standard — including its beam, light strips, and smart switches.
However, Hollands says it’s unlikely the company will get Matter to work on the older Lifx bulbs, “Matter is very resource-heavy,” he says. The company plans to retool the older products, launching new versions with new features and higher lumens where possible. He confirmed the company will continue manufacturing its entire line, including the signature E26 / A19 and BR30 bulbs. But a few niche bulbs, such as the infrared night vision light and germicidal light bulb, are being discontinued.
Lifx’s new lights will work with both the Lifx Wi-Fi protocol and Matter-over-Wi-Fi, meaning you can still use Alexa, Google, and SmartThings through the cloud for more advanced lighting control. However, the new products will not work with HomeKit, instead working with Apple Home through Matter. This means you will be limited to Matter’s existing features if using the bulbs through Apple Home, but you can use the Lifx app to access things like dynamic lighting scenes.
You might want to retain those cloud integrations because Matter’s lighting features are still limited to basic on / off, dimming, and color changing; there’s no support for scenes or dynamic lighting in the new smart home standard. Hollands says it’s coming soon, though.
Lifx is part of the lighting subgroup in the Connectivity Standards Alliance, the group behind Matter, and Hollands says the team is hard at work on dynamic lighting. ”It will be in an upcoming spec,” he says. “We want to see it adopted, and the ultimate goal is dynamic lighting working across different brands in one platform.”
Hollands says Lifx has also explored adding the wireless protocol Thread to the line. “We looked at Thread very carefully we don’t have anything to announce today, but we are looking at adding Thread support.”
This new fight in Lifx is a great sign for the smart home. More choice is always a good thing, especially on the higher end, where Philips Hue has been largely unchallenged for a few years now. Lifx products are expensive but worth considering for those who value excellent color clarity and brightness, features the company has long been associated with and that I expect to see continued in its new lights.