What to look for when buying a Smart Bulb to use with or without Amazon's Alexa

Smart Bulb Guide

The last few weeks of Alexa posts have really gotten me excited about smart home products and home automation.  While I would love to try out some of the really fancy devices (like a smart thermostat or the Ring doorbells with video), I don’t have the funds to install such devices.  (Plus, the doorbell would, ideally, sync with an Echo Show, which is also out of my budget.)  What can I swing?  Smart bulbs.  So I tried a few smart bulbs, did my research, and found a great bulb at a lower price.

With all of these bulbs, you do not need Alexa to use them!  They work with Alexa, yes, but you can use them through the companion apps that come with the bulbs.  So if you’re interested in these gadgets, but aren’t sure about Alexa, go ahead and give them a try!

The Complicated

The Phillips Hue lights are a popular choice, but I don’t endorse them.  First of all, they are expensive.  A starter kit with two plain white bulbs and a hub costs about $70.  No colors, no fanciness… just two dimmable white bulbs and a hub.  Secondly, they require a hub.  They aren’t just plug-and-play.  You need to make sure the hub is properly connected, then deal with connecting lights… it’s not worth it.

The OK

I have two Alexa-enabled light bulbs, the ALLOMN Wifi Smart Bulb and the Wi-Fi Smart LED Bulb by Tastech.  I bought two lights because they were inexpensive.  I didn’t want to — and can’t afford to — spend tons of money on trying new things out just for the heck of it.  These two bulbs are passable.  They connect to Alexa.  They change color. They are dimmable.  They don’t require hubs or anything overly complex.

The downside? The apps kind of suck. They’re very basic. There’s no ability to set favorite presets.  For example, I can’t find a particular shade of blue that looks great with my decor and be able to save it.  Also, these lights don’t sync with music like many other, fancier bulbs can.  Also, the white is preset and not changeable. Some people like a whiter white, others prefer something softer and more yellow. With these bulbs, white is white is white. If you want something yellower, you have to go through the colors, find the right yellow, desaturate it… blah, blah, blah. Not worth the effort. And then, you can’t save it, so the next time you want it, you have to find it all over again.

Do I recommend either? I do not recommend the bulb by Tastech (which uses the SmartLife app).  The colors are often slightly skewed; the “orange” setting is more yellow; the “pink” is nearly white.  We’re putting it in a socket by the door, so that we can say, “Alexa, turn on the family room light” when we get home.

The ALLOMN light has richer, more true colors, but an equally simple app (eFamilyCloud). It’s ok. I don’t not recommend it, but I don’t recommend it either. It’s kind of a meh review.

The Good

My living room during the last Packers game... of course the smart bulbs are Green and Gold!
My living room during the last Packers game… of course the smart bulbs are Green and Gold! (Green is Yeelight; Gold is ALLOMN)

What do I recommend for a beginner to the whole smart bulb thing?  What is an option that won’t break the bank, but still be a great product?  I recommend the YEELIGHT Smart LED Bulb.  Right now, it’s only $25 on Amazon (just a few bucks more than the ones I don’t suggest), and, in my opinion, it is way better.

So what’s so good about it?  First, it has the same features as the other bulbs.  It’s dimmable, has fully customizable RGB color, works with Alexa, and doesn’t require a hub.

What sets it apart from the other bulbs is the incredible companion app.  The app allows for you to do so much more than the other apps.  First, you can choose your white.  If you prefer yellower whites or whiter whites, you can easily control that in the app.  Also, you can set favorites.  Found your perfect shade of white?  Set it.  Found the perfect pink for your princess’s room?  Set it.  You can access your favorites and come back to that color whenever you want.  Alexa doesn’t recognize favorite colors, though.  (You can’t say, “Alexa, change bulb to Perfect Pink,” and get that custom color.)  I think that’s more of an Alexa failing than an app failing, though.

Also, you can sync the bulb with music.  Just open the music flow in the app, place it by a speaker, and now your light is changing with the music.  It’s great for mood lighting at parties, or for a living room dance party with the kids.  It doesn’t stay on the sync setting forever, though.  It lasts for a couple songs before turning itself off.  Saving the battery, I guess.

The app also allows for you to turn the bulbs on remotely.  It’s nice for if you’re away and want to give the house the look of someone being there.  Or you can turn it on from the car when you’re picking the kids up from daycare and you won’t have to walk into a dark house.

The timers are great, too, and you can set them in a variety of ways.  The traditional timer is your on time – off time kind of timer.  You can also set a sunset timer, which gradually dims the light.  It’s great for a kid who needs a little more than a nightlight to fall asleep, but doesn’t need it like that all night.  The best timer?  The sunrise timer.  It gradually brightens up, waking you as if the sun were slowly rising in your window.  Personally, I only tried this timer once, since the bulb is in my living room, and I was already awake because I was sleeping on a less-than-comfortable couch.  So I can’t attest to it’s actual ability to wake someone, but I really like the concept and I think it would work if you’re a light-sensitive person… like my husband.  Maybe I should take a nap today and see how well it wakes me from that nap.  Any excuse for a nap, right?

The only caution with this bulb: be careful which server you select when you set up your app!  In order to get Alexa to sync with your bulb, you need to make sure you have selected the Singapore server, not the China server.  Once your bulb is set up on the Singapore server, you can enable the Yeelight skill on your Alexa app, sign in, and discover devices.  Boom!  You can control lights with just your voice now!


Thank you to everyone who entered!

Other “Fun with Alexa” posts:
Movies with Alexa
Music With Alexa
Skills with Alexa
TV with Alexa
Books with Alexa
Having Fun with Alexa
Around the House with Alexa
Learning with Alexa
Where to Start with Alexa

Below are an affiliate links to purchase the various Alexa enabled Amazon devices.  If you purchase them through my link, I get a small commission, and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.  Thank you for helping to support this blog!

What to look for when buying a Smart Bulb to use with or without Amazon's Alexa.

Promotional disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  Purchasing products through these links does not cost you anything extra, but I receive a small commission for the sale.  Also, Yeelight is providing one giveaway bulb at no cost to me.  I purchased the bulb I reviewed and am giving away the free one they provided me.

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