Living in the Future: "I Talk to My Lightbulbs"

Living in the Future: "I Talk to My Lightbulbs"

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Brittney Morgan
Mar 29, 2017
(Image credit: TP-Link)

Every night when it's time to go to sleep, I follow the same routine: Shut the bedroom door, turn off the lights and meander my way to my bed in the dark, because my light switch—and the only major lighting in my room—is on the complete opposite side of the room. Or at least, I did, until a few weeks ago when I bought a light bulb I could talk to instead.

While sometimes it was annoying (because ow, no one likes banging their shin right into the sharp corner of the bed frame when they're trying to wind down for the night) my light situation wasn't something I ever really thought about beyond "maybe I should buy a floor lamp?" and then remembering I didn't have room for one in my tiny Brooklyn apartment bedroom, so I just had to deal with it. It wasn't until I got an Amazon Echo Dot—well, more like 5 hours into playing with it after I set it up, but whatever—that I realized there might be a better solution.

(Image credit: TP-Link)

Enter: The TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb

While I was poking around in the Amazon Alexa app, I realized that there were a lot of "smart home" options. Further research on Amazon taught me that, for $19.99, I could buy a smart LED light bulb that could be controlled both through an app and by voice by way of Alexa. Don't get me wrong, I knew that smart light bulbs existed already and I knew that people talked to their houses, but I had just never thought about it as an actual thing I would or could do myself.

I wound up buying one 50W white LB100 model bulb from TP-Link (full disclosure: it was the least expensive one I could find, and I didn't do much research on the different brands or options because I wanted to spend as little as possible). I know that TP-Link makes other smart bulbs with multicolor options, so you can turn your lights pink or green—or any other color of the rainbow—through the app, for example. I thought about it, but at more than double the price, it didn't seem worth it for me personally since I had no real use for it. Since I ordered it through Amazon Prime, it arrived 2 days later, and I was excited.

TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb, $19.99 on Amazon

First Impressions:

Setting up my smart bulb was actually a pretty easy process. I replaced my old bulb with the smart bulb, then downloaded the Kasa app as per the instructions in the box. Once I made my account with Kasa and was logged in, I connected to the device's WiFi network, and returned to the app to follow the instructions, which included logging in to my apartment's WiFi network through the app, naming my light bulb and turning on the remote option (so it could be used with Alexa). Then, I had to connect it to my Echo Dot, which was also fairly straightforward—I had to enable the Kasa skill in the Alexa app, log in and detect the device. It was a lot of small steps, but it only took a few minutes.

Once it was all said and done I spent a good 10 minutes just laying in bed talking to Alexa and testing out what the new smart bulb could do. I learned that I could just ask Alexa to "dim the lights" and it would get darker, but I could also say specific numbers or percentages (whether I said "1 percent" or simply "25" didn't matter) and it would change to a different light level. At 100 percent, the light wasn't as bright as I expected it to be, but it works just as well as any regular bulb would.

And then, of course, once I figured out what the smart bulb could do, I excitedly showed it to my roommates—and later that night, as we were throwing a party, friends who put their coats into my room. I also learned that 60 percent makes for great casual party lighting, for the record.

3 Weeks In, It's Like Having (Imperfect) Superpowers

It's been 3 weeks since I switched out my normal light bulb for the smart bulb, and while it hasn't really made any sort of major change in my life, my bedtime routine is definitely more pleasant. Now, I shut the door, ask Alexa to dim the lights to the lowest setting, crawl under the covers, and ask Alexa to play ocean sounds (I know that has nothing to do with the light bulb, but seriously, I highly recommend it). After I settle into bed, I ask Alexa to turn off the lights, and the room slowly goes dark. It feels a little strange going from fumbling into bed in the dark and sometimes using my phone as a flashlight to avoid stubbing my toe to calmly asking a robot (okay, so, not really a robot, but you get the point) to turn off the lights from under my down comforter, but in the best possible way.

Outside of my nighttime routine, I have noticed that it makes little things I never really thought of before a lot easier—like when I walk into the room with my hands full. I used to drop what I was carrying on my bed in the dark, go back to turn on the light switch, and then put everything in its rightful place. It's a lot easier to walk into the room and just say, "Alexa, please turn on the lights" (yes, I say "please" to my not-actually-a-robot-robot, don't judge me) and be able to see what you're doing right away.

There are, however, also occasionally times when it makes things more difficult. The other night, for example, I went into my room to get something from a storage box under my bed, asked Alexa to turn the lights on, and nothing happened—all I got was a response that my Echo couldn't recognize the device. Since I didn't have my phone on me to use the app, I flipped the light switch off and on, and then it turned on to the dimmest setting, which I couldn't adjust because it still couldn't connect.

Similar issues have happened 3 or 4 times since I set up the smart bulb—I can't tell if it's an issue with the bulb itself or with Alexa (or even my internet), but it usually resolves itself within a minute or two, and I can still use the app to control it when it does. But, when you have to leave a room to get your phone so you can use an app to turn the lights all the way on, it feels pretty backwards. When I don't have those issues, it definitely feels a little like having superpowers, so all-in-all, despite the occasional reminder that technology can't solve everything all the time, I'm happy I made the switch so far.

Scoring:

Usefulness: 7

Using this smart bulb over my regular light bulb is absolutely an improvement and feels totally cool, but I had to dock it some points for the issues I mentioned above—it is definitely a little frustrating when the connection doesn't work.

Jetsonsness: 7

I feel like other people will probably think there are way more interesting technological advancements they could be using in their homes, but still, being able to ask my lights to turn themselves on and off is something I never even considered that I'd be able to do some day, and I feel extra magical when I do it.

Value: 6

"$20 for a single light bulb?" was my initial reaction, but I can talk to it, so I digress. If I had to buy more than one, I probably wouldn't, but since I only have one overhead light in my room, it's NBD. And I obviously can't tell how long it will last after only having it for 3 weeks, but the product description says it has a lifetime rating of 13.7 years, so we'll see.

Final Grade: 6.7

I'd say, of all the ways to add a little luxury into your everyday life, this smart bulb is probably worth it. It's cool, but it's not the coolest thing you could buy, you know?

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