Color-changing smart bulbs are a fun novelty for the connected home, but the good ones still cost too much. Enter Qube, a San Francisco-based startup fresh off of a highly successful Indiegogo campaign. Qube's pitch: a Wi-Fi connected color-changer that's brighter than Philips Hue -- for just $19 per bulb (about £13, or AU$27).
That's less than a third of the per-bulb cost of Philips Hue and other options, like the Lifx Color 1000, too. Like those Lifx bulbs, the Qube LEDs connect directly to your home network via Wi-Fi. That means you can use each bulb as soon as you screw it in, no bridges or hubs necessary.
Another similarity with Lifx: an emphasis on brightness. Qube promises that each bulb will put out 1,000 lumens at max brightness, well above the 800 lumens you'd expect from a 60W replacement LED, and significantly more than the 734 lumens offered by the latest Hue bulbs.
Qube gets you that brightness from a stated power draw of 11.5 watts (by comparison, the Lifx Color 1000 puts out 1,014 lumens from a power draw of 11 watts). That's a good number, and one that I'll look forward to testing out in our lighting lab.
On the app front, Qube promises iOS, Android, and Windows compatibility along with support for the Apple Watch. Compatibility with Apple HomeKit, the set of smart home protocols programmed into Apple's mobile devices, is also a possibility -- Qube says it's already applied for MFi certification. If it happens, that would allow you to turn your lights on and off, dim them up and down, or change their color simply by asking Siri. A channel on the free online automation service IFTTT is also said to be in the works -- we saw that do wonders for Philips Hue and Lifx, so it would be a good move for Qube, too.
Also interesting: the bulb features Bluetooth in addition to the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi radio. Qube says you'll be able to trigger automated lighting changes whenever you enter or leave each bulb's Bluetooth range. That would allow your smart lights to "follow" you around the home, at least if it works -- in my experience, automations based on Bluetooth proximity have been hit and miss. We'll have to wait and see which category Qube falls into.
Markup in the color-changing smart bulb space has been borderline egregious for years now, with standard smart lights like the Cree Connected LED and the GE Link LED showing that it doesn't cost a fortune to pack a radio into a light bulb. A cheaper color-changer that works as well for smart home setups as bulbs like those is long overdue.
The question is whether or not Qube can deliver. We've seen plenty of other startups offer cheaper color-changers only to fizzle out, but with a crowdfunding campaign that netted more than five times its goal already under its belt, Qube looks to be off to a good start.
Qube is still accepting preorders through its Indiegogo site, and estimates that it'll begin shipping bulbs out worldwide this June, with bases and voltages for all parts of the globe. We'll keep an eye on it and aim to test one out as soon as we can get our hands on one.