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Smart Home

Philips Hue to sync up with Apple HomeKit this fall

Soon, you'll be able to control your color-changing Hue LEDs directly from Apple's iOS-based smart home platform.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

The first HomeKit-compatible products are here, and now, the big players are starting to fall in line as well. That includes Philips Lighting, which announced today that all existing Hue LEDs will be able to sync up with Apple's iOS-based smart home platform beginning this fall.

Tim Stevens/CNET

HomeKit support for Hue LEDs is hardly a surprise. Apple singled out the color-changing smart bulbs as a HomeKit partner when the platform debuted at last year's WWDC. The news today simply makes it official -- and also confirms that you won't need to buy a whole bunch of new bulbs in order to bring Siri into the picture.

What's less clear is whether or not you'll need to upgrade or even replace the Hue Bridge that plugs into your router to translate Wi-Fi input from your phone into a Zigbee signal the Hue bulbs can understand. HomeKit certification comes with specific hardware requirements -- we'll have to wait and see if Philips can meet them with a simple firmware upgrade, or if users will need to buy a new Bridge altogether. For now, Philips is only telling us that it'll have more info in September.

It's also unclear just how deep HomeKit's Hue controls will go. Telling Siri to turn lights on and off is one thing, but whether or not she'll be able to change them to a perfect shade of chartreuse remains to be seen. As a point of comparison, it's worth noting that the Amazon Echo smart home speaker, which offers its own third-party voice controls for Philips Hue, can't change the colors of your bulbs.

A September compatibility rollout for Philips Hue -- largely seen as one of the principal players in the connected home -- lends some credence to earlier reports of a HomeKit delay. Apple denied those reports, and pointed to the June debut of five HomeKit-friendly gadgets as evidence of everything being on track.

Still, with rumors of sluggish development for Apple TV (a piece of hardware that plays a key role in Apple's connected home vision), and with other high-profile pieces of HomeKit-friendly hardware pushing back to fall after aiming for a spring release , one has to wonder if Apple had hoped HomeKit would have been a little further along by this point.