In defense of GE's stupid smart bulb reset video

Commentary: Yes, GE's tutorial video is cringey -- but being able to reset your smart bulbs using the light switch is a good thing.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
3 min read

A C by GE smart bulb, the internet's latest punching bag.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Screw in a smart bulb and turn it on. Then pair it with a control app on your phone or with a voice assistant such as Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant. The benefits are plain to see -- convenience, automation and security. There's also accessibility, something that's particularly important to people with disabilities and other mobility issues.

And, unlike a lot of today's smart home tech, smart bulbs are accessible to most budgets, too. With perfectly decent bulbs available for as little as $10 each, it's one of the easiest and most affordable entry points into the connected home -- and one that doesn't harbor the same sort of privacy concerns as things like smart security cameras and smart speakers that are always listening for a wake word.

None of that stopped the internet from being the internet and crapping all over the category this Wednesday after a tutorial video from GE Lighting went viral on Reddit.

In it, GE demonstrates how to manually reset one of its Bluetooth smart bulbs by turning the switch on and off five times -- 8 seconds on, 2 seconds off, repeat. GE shows how it works in real time, with repetitive voiceover instructions at each step. Yes, it's a little bit cringey to watch -- especially when it's devoid of any context.

But that context matters. For starters, just about every smart bulb on the market today features a manual reset feature like this. It's nothing new. And it isn't a mandatory part of the setup process or anything. It's an option for people who might want to give their smart bulbs to someone else and need to erase their automations and third-party connections first, or for folks who want to start organizing their smart home gadgets from scratch, maybe after switching from one control platform to another. It's a nice option to have, and also easier for manufacturers to implement than putting a physical reset switch on the bulb. That helps them keep costs down.

Watch this: Get your smart lights in line with a manual reset

And if the 8 seconds on, 2 seconds off approach sounds arbitrary, well, it isn't. It's designed to be specific enough that your kids won't accidentally reset your bulbs if they're playing haunted house and flicking the lights on and off. Sure, you might need to pull up GE's video to see how to do it -- but once you do, I suspect you'd actually appreciate GE's clunky, real-time approach. Just follow along and turn your lights on and off at the same time, and you won't even need to count.

And, honestly, is it really that hard to turn a light switch on and off five times?  

What really annoys me the most here are my fellow tech journalists, many of whom were quick to pile on and decry GE's video as evidence of smart bulb stupidity simply because such a notion was trending on Reddit. 

That's good for easy clicks, I suppose -- but a major part of our jobs is to put tech into the proper context. We don't always get it right, but we ought to try. 

In this case, GE's video was taken completely out of context, and most of the internet's takeaways were misinformed. Call me a dork, call me a buzzkill, call me whatever, but tech journalists shouldn't run with bad information about new and worthwhile technology just because it's trendy to do so. 

But hey, on the bright side, at least we all know how to reset GE's smart bulbs now.