Philips’ Hue lighting systems use an open platform, so there are many apps available that can control them and provide additional features or effects beyond the official app.
In fact, it was partly because of this flexibility that I featured Philips Hue in my A-Z guide of the top smart home lighting systems this year.
After initially writing a piece on the top Philips Hue lighting ideas, I realized that specific Apps can make the difference between a good versus bad experience.
While in most cases with a bit of effort you can make your own themes, these apps allow you to use cool-looking presets in a matter of seconds or sync the lights to output from your TV or music system.
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#5 SyFy Sync App
This iOS and Android app from the SyFy Channel helps provide show information on your iPhone, Xperia, Galaxy or iPad as you watch an episode or movie. It was designed for the company’s own shows like Sharknado and other delights, so is probably of interest to younger users.
One of the side benefits of a recent update is that it links to Hue lighting to change the color and atmosphere of the room to match what’s happening on the show.
This part of the experience is limited to SyFy’s own, and quite a limited range of shows, but is being updated for newer ones to add a distinctly cinematic experience. It uses the Hue lights to match the action on screen which gives an impressive peripheral extension of the screen, or is just groovy to use when friends come round for that Sharknado marathon.
It also works with the new seasons of The Expanse and 12 Monkeys and expect most new shows to support the feature.
If your Hue light system is a paint box to play with, then iOS app Lightbow is the Picasso that can come into your home and make great art with it. It combines the use of presets, triggers, groups and effects to create a pleasant or whirling set of lighting changes to go with your mood. Note that it also supports LIFX and WeMo lights.
Compatible with iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, you can use it for free to create your own themes, or pay to download cool themes and effects as in-app purchases. The Apple TV edition makes a great way to run themes that are centered around what’s on the screen.
Otherwise any device can be used to set up your lights, using custom animation loops, static colors and variable brightness across groups. Presets can have transitions, including crossfade while triggers such as alarms can be used to set off a light show.
#3 Hue TV
Here’s an interesting idea, point your camera smartphone at the TV and the Hue TV app will color match your lights to the dominant ones on the display to help add to the ambience when watching a show. That’s an improvement over SyFy’s show-specific app, if you ignore the fact that you need to point your camera at the screen, and can’t do anything else on the device while this is happening, Hue TV offers one way to extend the screen color space around the room.
There are a few apps like this and most users report some degree of lag, as the processing and commands are sent out. Perhaps one set of developers will figure out the magic ingredient that makes this “just work”, but for now it is a novelty idea that has its uses, the app will also work with LIFX lights.
If you don’t like this app, there are a few just like it, so give one a try and see which provides the best experience. Do let us know which one you get the best experience with.
This iOS app brings a glittering array of features to your Hue lights.It can run a range of themes and dynamic effects, and makes them smarter by basing them on the position of the lights within a room using light links, light bands and base groups.
There’s a large range of dynamic effects that you can buy as in-app purchases to discover, making for a neatly crafted way to enjoy your Philips Hue system, all presented in a neat and polished app. Among the features on offer are gradient effects, dynamic changes based on music, positional effects that make best use of your Hue lighting layout and many more.
Control apps for Hue lights are plentiful on the App Store, but one of the most effective is the iConnectHue for iOS. It is a little pricey but comes with a well-designed interface and a range of extras you can buy as and when you need them. One benefit of the good design is that the iPad and iPhone versions are custom designed to make better use of the available screen space.
Either app allows for total control over your Hue lights, in terms of grouping, settings and function. It is faster in use than the native Hue app, and stores all the data on the bridge, so there’s no need to have the app open all the time, except when making changes.
It also supports Apple Watch, so you can set the scene without even needing to look at your phone.
With a host of features beyond the standard Hue app, iConnectHue looks like a decent investment for those who want the best experience from their smart lighting.
What lights up your home?
There’s a whole mini industry of apps to control your smarthome lighting, let us know what your favorite is or which provides the best functions that you can’t live without.
With these apps providing themes based around popular events, special days and holidays (Halloween seems popular), they can help add value to your smart lights that you might not otherwise think of.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!