Review: Philips Hue Tap reimagines the light switch

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2015
Philips recently introduced its first physical control accessory for the Hue Wireless Lighting system in Hue Tap, a battery-less four-button switch that connects directly to a Hue bridge for control of bulbs, light strips and more.




Everything old is new again. With the Hue Tap, Philips breaks out Hue system lighting controls to the physical world, offering independent control over the Hue Wireless Lightbulb and accompanying Friends of Hue accessory lineup in a sort of reimagining of the light switch.

Design

For $60, Philips' Tap does not exude the same level of fit and finish quality seen with the company's equally-priced Hue Lightbulbs. Where the bulb is weighty thanks to an aluminum and glass construction, the Tap feels unsubstantial with an exterior made from plastic composite.




Luckily, the internal mechanism, which is compatible with the ZigBee Green Protocol and does not require a batteries, is easy to operate and feels like it can withstand years of operation. Not quite spongy, the buttons offer an appropriate level of feedback when depressed and quickly spring back into position when released.

Tap features four buttons, each labeled with a symbol denoting buttons one, two, three and four. The large central button, labeled with a single dot, also serves as the kinetic power generator and is "clicked" with every button press. In other words, the smaller buttons are cantilevered atop button one's actuator so that it is activated each time Tap is used.

In our tests, we did notice presses near the edge of button one, as well as hard presses on buttons two and four, would sometimes cause the actuator to wedge itself against the surrounding silver bezel. Internal spring strength or a tap on the unit's bezel would ultimately pop the main button back into a resting position, though for $60, the design could be better.

Setup

Like other Hue products, the Tap is a breeze to install and set up with Philips' ZigBee-compatible hub. Tap's mount can be stuck to a wall via two integrated sticky strips, while the button-carrying portion is removable for remote control operation.




Pairing with our control hub was also easy. Following the in-app instructions, we performed a "push and hold" gesture on button three until the device was recognized by the app, then assigned control schemes to each button. The Tap is not an on/off toggle, meaning at least one button must assigned to turn off lights.

By default, the large central button -- button one -- is assigned to power down a bulb, a set of bulbs and accessories, or an entire system. Users must go through the app to select which lights to power down. Since in-app scene editing allows users to turn on and tune specific bulbs and other accessories, the option is not duplicated in Tap's configuration menu.


Performance

For a kinetically-powered device, Tap can operate at surprisingly long distances. On the box, Philips rates connections up to 30 meters, or about 100 feet, and testing revealed equivalent performance even through walls.



In the Philips Hue app, users can preset button functions, or more accurately, the app configures the hub to recognize incoming Tap signals and output the appropriate controls to connected lights. The solution is seamless and allows operation even without a nearby iPhone.

Tap can choose from four scenes, one slaved to each button. In configuring our unit, we set up the three small buttons to our favorite scenes, two of which include multi-color light mixtures, while the main central button was left as an off switch.




Switching between scenes works as expected, though we noticed flipping between selections did not always produce the usual "fade in, fade out" effect seen with the app. The same can be said for switching lights off; the bulbs don't fade to black, but simply turn off.

The three small "on" buttons are concave, setting them apart from the substantially convex curvature of the central button for nighttime use.

One of the benefits of having dedicated hardware is app independence. For households with two or more people, there may be one or two who don't have an iPhone or dislike constantly opening the Hue app to turn lights on and off. With Tap, everyone can change up light scenes and, most importantly, turn off the system without a phone.

Conclusion

Tap breaks out control from the Hue iPhone app into the real world, but the hardware is somewhat limited. With one button slaved to power-off the system, that leaves only three scenes from which to choose. For many, the selection is more than enough, but may be inadequate for those who like to experiment with different lighting moods.




For users already invested in the Hue system, however, the Tap does come in handy. For users with two or three favorite scenes, the accessory is great.

Instead of pulling out an iPhone or relying on geo-fencing and timed automation to turn a set of lights on or off, users can simply press a button. Another plus is kinetic powering, meaning the Tap isn't a battery hog.

If you're looking to control on/off operation, Tap may be a bit pricey, though it does prevent Hue from resetting to a bulb's default warm setting every time the power is cycled.

Overall, Hue Tap is a decent addition to Philips' growing lineup, keeping quick controls at the ready, while leaving customization to the iPhone. With its limited functionality and high price tag, however, Tap is serving a niche audience.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

image

Pros


  • Fast button response time
  • Unassuming design
  • Kinetic power means no batteries to replace

Cons


  • Limited to three scenes and "lights off"
  • Button one sometimes sticks
  • Expensive

Pricing and Availability

Philips' Hue Tap is now available in U.S. Apple Stores for $59.95.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    bigmikebigmike Posts: 253member
    The best thing is that it does not "require a batteries."
  • Reply 2 of 17
    fred1fred1 Posts: 346member
    Great. A review of a product that allows you to not use your Apple product ("Instead of pulling out an iPhone . . . ").
    What else can Apple "Insider" review that we can use without our Apple devices? Boggles the mind!
  • Reply 3 of 17
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    From the looks of force used in the picture above, shouldn't it be called Mash instead of Tap?

  • Reply 4 of 17
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,133moderator
    I've heard of fat fingering as an expression, but that that second to last illustration? Whew, the literal fat finger! Not attractive, to say the least.
  • Reply 5 of 17
    A thorough review, dudes, confirming my good decision not to spend $60 on a lightbulb in the first place!
  • Reply 6 of 17
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    Looks like a great concept and perfect addition to the product line....that was executed terribly and resulted in a cheap product, poorly made and overpriced.

  • Reply 7 of 17

    Apple's design influence is everywhere. I think I have remembered correctly, where an high-level BMW surmised the large amount of white BMW's being sold was due to Apple.

     

    I like what Philips is doing, but I would like to hold one to really see the build quality.

     

    I have a friend that put in to Nest's in his house and they are pretty cool. Very smooth when you move the wheel. And the orange an blue hue is neat.

     

    But not now that Google's involved.

     

    Best.

  • Reply 8 of 17
    This is a very small nitpick, but why didn't they put the "numbers" (dots) in clockwise order?
  • Reply 9 of 17
    chabigchabig Posts: 627member

    "...the Tap feels unsubstantial with an exterior made from plastic composite"

     

    Plastic composite, or just plain plastic?

  • Reply 10 of 17
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 834member
    as someone who has purchased a fair number of LED lightbulbs at various price points, I was surprised by how the entire Phillips Hue product line feels cheap and insubstantial. If I was Apple, I would tell them to shape up and improve the fit & finish of their products. A cheap feeling $60 light switch is unacceptable. Improving the quality of the device would only increase the parts bill by $1 & some change. Corporate greed run amok.
  • Reply 11 of 17
    flabberflabber Posts: 100member

    So that's $60 for a switch, $200 for 3 bulbs and a Hue Bridge, and another $60 for each additional bulb? So in an average house where you might want 10 bulbs, you'll pay about $680 júst for some light. As much as I like the Hue-system, the prices are, in my opinion, quite ridiculous. A few coloured LED's and a wifi module in a bulb can't possibly make it worth $60 right?

     

    A decent quality LED bulb cost about $11, so you're basically paying about $49 for a wifi module and the brand… quite a bit too much for something that feels a little cheap (I've seen them in person, and was not impressed).

  • Reply 12 of 17
    chabigchabig Posts: 627member

    You're not wrong to question their value, but you're wrong to compare them to generic white LED lamps. These are multi-colored, controllable, bulbs.

  • Reply 13 of 17
    flabberflabber Posts: 100member

    I understand that, but multi-colored just means 3 differently colored LED's in a bulb. It's not much more than that. And there's a minuscule little controller to control them, sure. But you can buy meters worth of LED's with the same functionality for the same amount of money… I've actually got one hooked up to the back of my TV, and it works wonders. I just don't see the value if I compare it to what's actually inside of these bulbs.

  • Reply 14 of 17
    bobringerbobringer Posts: 105member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by BadMonk View Post



    as someone who has purchased a fair number of LED lightbulbs at various price points, I was surprised by how the entire Phillips Hue product line feels cheap and insubstantial. If I was Apple, I would tell them to shape up and improve the fit & finish of their products. A cheap feeling $60 light switch is unacceptable. Improving the quality of the device would only increase the parts bill by $1 & some change. Corporate greed run amok.



    Does Apple run Phillips QC department?  Huh... who knew?

  • Reply 15 of 17

    OH MY GOD I was totally going to comment about this

     

    too funny.

     

    "a batteries" ;)

     

    And english is NOT my first language. And i think his error is kinda cute

  • Reply 16 of 17
    bigpicsbigpics Posts: 1,380member

    This stuff is gonna be a fraction of the price and have more tricks in a few years. 



    I'll wait 'til then, thanks.  Being "first on my block" for the purpose of being first has never mattered to me (thank goodness).  If I like what some tech does I'll get it when it's a good value, even if it's become "passé" in the press.

  • Reply 17 of 17
    frykefryke Posts: 217member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by johnfrombeyond View Post



    This is a very small nitpick, but why didn't they put the "numbers" (dots) in clockwise order?

    Because it's not a clock? Or because they are used to "left to right reading"? Once you've set scenes to each button, you won't ever think about them as "button II" or "button IV", you'll simply press "the left", the "lower" or "the right" one. I have it in use for a couple of weeks now. It's great to have the feeling of turning all the lights off when leaving the flat with a real button. Even though I could check and turn off the lights over the internet even when I'm far, far away (from vacation for example).

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