Color-changing smart bulbs are bundles of fun, but it isn't always practical to fish your phone out of your pocket in order to control them. Therein lies the appeal of the newest Philips Hue accessory, the Hue Tap. Stick it up on the wall next to the light switch, carry it around in your pocket, or leave it sitting out with its remote control brethren on the coffee table -- wherever it is, you'll be able to toggle your smart lights at the push of one its four buttons, no phone necessary. It also draws kinetic energy each time you use it, so there aren't any batteries or wires to worry about.
That sort of practicality makes abundant sense in complement to the clear novelty of a Philips Hue setup, and the Tap's kinetic-powered design adds in a unique cool factor of its own. At $60 in the US and £50 in the UK, the Tap is pricier than I'd like, but I still think it makes plenty of sense for anyone who's already using Hue LEDs in their home.
Design and features
Designwise, the Hue Tap fits in well with the established white-and-gray Philips aesthetic. The round, minimalist build lends a little futurism to the Tap's look, which might help it blend especially well into homes featuring modern decor. It would probably stick out amid more classic furnishings, though.
The plastic-bodied Tap is also surprisingly light, weighing less than 2.5 ounces (70 grams). That might sound flimsy for such a relatively expensive controller, but it's largely a product of that kinetic powering mechanism. Lose the batteries, and you lose most of the bulk, too.
The Hue Tap comes with a backing that you can mount on the wall using screws or sticky tape. The Tap itself snaps into place, then twists back off whenever you want. That's a cool design touch, as it gives the Tap a permanent resting place, but still lets you grab it and go.
The tap has three small buttons on its face, which is a large, fourth button in its own right. Because of the kinetic-powered design, you need to press the small buttons hard enough to depress the large button, too. This requires more than a mere tap, and takes a little getting used to.
Within the Hue app, available for Android and iOS devices, you'll be able to add as many Taps as you like, then customize what each button on each one does. A button can turn a single bulb on, or it can control multiple bulbs at once. If you're using multiple Taps, you can set each one to control different sets of lights, which is a nice feature if you've got an elaborate, multiroom, smart-lighting setup.
One key feature is absent, though, and that's integration with IFTTT, the popular automation service that lets you connect things like Web services, social networks, and smart-home gadgetry using "If This, Then That" style recipes. Philips Hue LEDs were among the first connected devices to offer IFTTT integration, letting users connect their LEDs with other home automation systems, or automate their home lighting using things like weather alerts or how close they were to home.
The Hue Tap offers no such integration, which is both a surprise and a shame. The ability to use one of those four buttons as a dedicated "IFTTT button" capable of triggering whatever recipe you want would have been especially welcome, and would have potentially made the Tap exponentially more useful.