playbulb

The three products sent to me from Best Buy to review are the PLAYBULB garden, the PLAYBULB rainbow A19 Smart LED Light Bulb, and the PLAYBULB LED Smart Candle.

Playbulb smart lights Connectivity

 Each of these smart bulbs connects to your smartphone or tablet, assuming you’re running an iPhone 4S, iPad 3, 5th generation iPod Touch or newer with iOS7 or better, or any Android device running 4.3 or newer with Bluetooth 4.0. This, to me, was the first surprise: that these bulbs and devices connect over Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi.

The difficulty here is that a device that connects with Bluetooth can be secure with a pin code used to prevent unauthorized users from taking control over the device, but that’s not something built into PLAYBULB. I was able to “Set Password To Device”, but the only message I get there is “Set Password Success”—I wasn’t able to specify a password. I presume that this has locked the bulb to my app, but it leaves questions as to what would happen if I changed devices, upgraded my operating system, or simply deleted and re-installed the app. When more than one device was available, the ability to set a four digit pin became available, but had to be reset each time the device lost power—not bad for a plug-in bulb that you leave plugged in, but a pain for the battery-powered devices.

IMG_2731.jpgNone of these questions were answered in the virtually non-existent support documentation. The support site leads through to Mipow’s dedicated discussions page, unfortunately I was unable to find a discussion in written english to take part in.

Connecting to a bulb or device for the first time simply involves turning your phone on and ensuring Bluetooth is turned on. Opening the app will see it populate with the available PLAYBULB devices. From there, hit connect and wait a few moments as the connection is established.

Grouping devices for direct control is very easy; simply select group and put a tick mark beside each device you want to group up. Name the group and you’re good to control the lot of them.

PLAYBULB rainbow 

10379924.jpgThis is the device that is most directly comparable the Philips Hue bulbs on the market. It’s a lightbulb that fits in a standard socket that can be dimmed and that can display any colour from a selectable colour wheel.

Like other smart bulbs, it has a palette that can set colours easily, a slider for dimming, and some mode settings like flash, pulse, and candle that can stay with one colour or cycle through the rainbow—as per the product’s name.

There’s a rudimentary music player built into the app that allows you to select from songs on your device. Mipow does manufacture a bulb that plays music. Unfortunately for me, the Playbulb Rainbow that I was sent from Best Buy does not include this feature. However, it does react to the music that you are playing by changing the intensity of the light. It’s a pretty cool effect, and is neat when you have more than one device synced up. I would imagine if you had a whole batch of these around the house it would make for fun at parties to have the lights in tune with what you’re listening to.

There’s a “scene” mode, which I had originally believed would allow me to create “scenes” of lighting where one touch of a button would adjust the lighting across multiple bulbs to a set level. Examples of scenes might be “watching a movie” to dim your bulbs or “going to bed” to turn off everything except a night light. That’s not the case here; Mipow allows you to select a photo from your library and use the colour dropper to select a specific colour. It’s an interesting feature, but I’m having trouble finding a time when I would actually use it.

The lack of memory in the app is troubling as well; hopping around through settings would see the bulb forget my dimming settings, so returning back to “Control” would constantly see it return to 100% brightness.

PLAYBULB Candle

candle.jpgThis is an interesting product; it’s a small, battery-powered light that runs on three AA batteries and connects with Bluetooth 4.0. All of the lighting features are the same as the PLAYBULB, with the exception of the candle mode making more sense here.

The bonus feature with Candle are scent discs. Assuming you like candles when you take a bath and you’re looking for something aromatic, there are three scent discs that come in the package with the Candle unit. They sit around the base of the light, and presumably give off scent when exposed to open air. One of the discs I received had no discernible scent, while the others were faint. I checked the Mipow website to see if I could order replacements, but there are none listed there, and none listed on Best Buy’s site.

PLAYBULB garden

10379923_3.jpgThis is my favourite of the PLAYBULB products (with the rainbow being a close second) because of the big solar panel up top. This is a garden light, a flat, round disc that sits on top of a stake that you implant into your garden (or in my case, leave on your patio table on your condo balcony).

It recharges during the day, and shines at night. You can control it via Bluetooth with the above mentioned PLAYBULB X app. 

The garden works well, except in a group setting, where it would turn off after 30 seconds. Setting levels on that device alone didn’t cause this to happen, which leads me to believe it’s a programming issue.

Conclusions

PLAYBULB devices are a good solution for anyone looking for wireless lighting control on a budget, with the caveat that you’re going to have some frustration with buggy app code and some quality assurance issues like levels resetting themselves between screens. It’s not unworkable, and if it fits your budget it makes sense. If you want to try wireless lighting control in your home, check PLAYBULB out.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. I have bought several mipow products and I must warn people that the product that I have bought (playbulb string and playbulb zoo) were poorly constructed and poorly supported by the manufacturer. The string died after 3 month use and the company refused any form of compensation. The playbulb zoo was a terrible speaker and the light was not stable. The app was terrible as well. They hardly live up to their kickstarter. Poor product and company. Do not buy

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