Philips made a splash a while back with the Hue Connected Bulb. The colorful, Internet-connected light bulb is available in Apple Stores as well as a lot of other retail outlets, and it works with an accompanying app to let you change the color of the light to suit your mood. Well, there's another smart bulb in town -- the Lumen Bulb from Tabu (US$49.99). Like the Hue, it has an app that goes along with it for controlling the bulb.
The Lumen Bulb looks a bit like a traditional and now forbidden incandescent bulb, except for some fancy metal "fins" on the side. Like any other light bulb, you simply screw it into a standard socket. Unlike most light bulbs, however, the Lumen is Bluetooth-enabled so you can turn it on or off with a tap on the free Tabu Lumen app.
The app provides a way to control single Lumen Bulbs or group them. For groups, you can turn all of the bulbs on and off with one tap, or get them all running a particular program (anyone for a houseful of disco lights?) simultaneously.
At the most basic level, you can control a bulb by turning it on or off with the app, change the hue from "warm white" to your almost infinite choice of colors, flash a light so that you know which one you're controlling with the app, or change the name of a bulb.
In warm white, you have controls for 90, 70, 50, or 30 percent intensity, plus three hexagonally-shaped buttons. Those buttons let you have the light flash at a rate and color you select when a phone call comes in to your iPhone, set a time to have the light begin slowly turning on (you can change the duration so that the light comes up like a sunrise over 10 or 15 minutes), or set proximity. The latter is pretty cool. Imagine having a light turn on automatically when you enter a room and then turn off when you've left the room for a few minutes -- that's the proximity control. My only gripe about that is that it requires Bluetooth to be enabled on your iPhone 24/7...
Go to the color mode and you have an amazing array of colors and brightness that you can set for the bulb or group of bulbs. In addition, there are a number of presets (these are my names for these modes):
Disco Ball -- flashes the Lumen Bulb in changing colors about once a second
Fast Disco ball -- a truly seizure-inducing flash, changing several times a second in varying colors
Ambient romantic -- simulates a romantic sunset by cycling through warm colors like yellow, orange, and red.
Ambient relaxing -- cycles through blue, pink, purple, magenta for a relaxing color scheme
Music sync mode -- flashes the light in time to music that's playing on your iPhone while changing the color
Proximity mode -- similar to that described for the warm white settings
Phone call mode -- similar to that described for the warm white settings
The Lumen Bulb is described as an RGBW bulb -- that is, it can create any RGB (red green blue) color in almost 16 million distinct hues, and it also has 7 watt white LEDs that create more than 400 lumens of light.
Energy-wise, the Lumen Bulb can provide the lighting equivalent of a 40 W incandescent light bulb at one-tenth of the power consumption. The Lumen uses Bluetooth 4.0 for connectivity, so it will work with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5/5c/5s, iPod touch 5th-generation, iPad mini, iPad Air, and 4th-generation iPad. Tabu sells the Lumen Bulb through Amazon.com and a number of other retailers, and is currently working on a Kickstarter campaign for a "mini" version of the bulb.
If you want to begin dabbling with app-controlled lights, I can't think of a better product to try than the Tabu Lumen Bulb. While the Lumen Bulb doesn't provide quite the home automation flexibility of the Philips Hue (which can be controlled by IFTTT scripts as well as an app), it's easier to set up and perfect for those homes or offices where you just want a couple of "custom" light bulbs.
Rating: 3 stars out of 4 stars possible