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Surprise! Your Lifx Tiles are about to become touch-sensitive

The color-changing LED panels supported touch all along, the company says. In February, it's finally turning the feature on.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Lifx Tiles are a set of color-changing LED panels that you can mount on your walls. They're a slick smart home art piece, but they lack the touch controls of their chief competitor, Nanoleaf Canvas.

Now, at CES 2019, the company tells me that's about to change.

By February, you'll be able to tap on your Lifx Tiles to switch between color-changing presets.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Apparently, Lifx Tiles were touch enabled all along. Lifx hasn't rolled out the software that enables those touch controls yet, but plans to no late than February of this year. That means that, within weeks, all existing Lifx Tiles will become touch sensitive, allowing you to tap on them to change between your preset scenes.

"It was just a matter of focus and resources," Lifx CEO Tim Peters tells me, explaining that the company has a habit of launching products with "latent capabilities." Sounds like Lifx was eager to get its Tiles on the market before Nanoleaf, which was already finding big success selling multiple versions of its own color-changing panels at major retailers like Best Buy, pulled too far ahead.

It might also explain why the software that powers those Lifx Tiles felt a bit buggy and under-developed when we tested them out at the CNET Smart Home.

For now, the touch controls seem very basic, but they're still a step in the right direction. Tapping on a Tile to switch between presets is nice -- dragging your finger on a tile to paint on them would be killer. It sounds like Lifx still has some work to do before that level of functionality is introduced.

Still, it's a nice, unexpected get for early adopters who bought into these things with no expectation of ever being able to control them using touch. We'll see if Lifx has any other surprises in store for us as the year goes on.

CES 2019: See all of CNET's coverage of the year's biggest tech show.

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