Philips Hue reverses course, will continue to work with third-party bulbs

After customers cried foul, Philips will roll back the software update blocking users from adding third-party smart bulbs to their Hue setups.

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.
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Ry Crist
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The Philips Hue Bridge.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

After upsetting some of its user base, Philips Hue is announcing that it will roll back a recent system software update that blocked customers from pairing third-party smart bulbs with their Hue Bridges.

Philips issued the software update due to "an increased number of interoperability issues" stemming from third-party smart bulbs that use ZigBee, the same wireless communications protocol as the Hue Bridge and the Hue bulbs it controls. Users had long been able to add these outsider bulbs to their setups and control them alongside Hue bulbs using the Hue app. Many felt betrayed when last week's software upgrade shut the door on those bulbs, which include popular and relatively inexpensive options like the GE Link and Cree Connected LEDs.

Philips admits that it underestimated the impact that the change would have on its user base, and says that it's now working to reverse that software upgrade altogether. However, Philips continues to maintain that interoperability issues may occur in setups using third-party bulbs. To that end, it's sticking with the new Friends of Hue partnership program, which will allow Philips to test and certify third-party bulbs for performance and system compatibility. Though it will no longer block uncertified bulbs, Philips warns that it can't guarantee the seamless performance of systems that use them.

A full statement from a Philips spokesperson is included below:

"We recently upgraded the software for Philips Hue to ensure the best seamless connected lighting experience for our customers. This change was made in good faith. However, we under estimated the impact this would have on a small number of customers who use lights from other brands which could not be controlled by the Philips Hue software. In view of the sentiment expressed by our customers, we have decided to reverse the software upgrade so that lights from other brands continue to work as they did before with the Philips Hue system.

We are working on the reversal of the upgrade and will shortly confirm when this will be available.

Philips remains committed to providing our customers with the best possible connected lighting experience. That is why we launched the Friends of Hue partnership program to test and certify that products and platforms from other brands work seamlessly with Philips Hue. Customers using uncertified lights may continue to have the same incompatibility issues as before, such as lights not dimming to off, creating the right colors or scene experience. Philips welcomes other brands to join as Friends of Hue so that we can work together to ensure seamless and great lighting experiences."