Things I wish I’d known before I bought Hue bulbs

Things I wish I’d known before I bought Hue bulbs:

  • The Hue system is a bit rubbish.
  • The company appears arrogant, hostile to partners and apathetic of customers.
  • It’s possible the company has heard the word ‘privacy’ but I can see no evidence of this.

I got a starter kit of bulbs and hub, as well as a bulb from a Hue partner (Osram) that allowed changing the colour. (Yeah, oddly enough, you can’t change the ‘hue’  of the actual ‘Hue’ bulbs in the starter kit.)

What I wanted:

  • Bulbs I could dim from my phone or tablet, that were at least as good as other dimmable bulbs. Playing with the colours and the API might give me other ideas.

What I got:

  • Bulbs that are so dumb they reset to 100% brightness when I switch them off.

The justification Hue comes up with is that if there’s a fire, rescuers should be able to turn the light bulbs on and have them come on at full power. That sounds like a load of bollocks to me.

I don’t think treating light switches as legacy systems they can ignore is the right approach here. The notion of having to replace every light switch (only $40 each!) just so I can use expensive bulbs from an arrogant company that doesn’t understand privacy is just so wrong it’s very easy for me to decide not to do it.

What makes me think they’re arrogant? Two things. First of all there was the debacle over an update Philips sent out that stopped all the ‘Friends of Hue’ partner bulbs from working. Philips deny this was a land-grab to get people to buy more bulbs, and eventually backed down. Still, do you want to do business with a company that acts this way towards its partners? And it backed down this time but will it try something else - something worse? - in the near future? Can you trust them not to?

The second thing is their attitude to people wanting the simple ability to have their bulbs come on at a specific brightness and hue - the problem I described above. Just check out the support thread and watch people get angrier and angrier at Philips’ handling the request.

Privacy is another problem. Putting aside the problem of adding a hub to your network that may or may not spy on you and ‘call home’, even the apps to turn the lights on and off spy on you.

The idea of the app is to turn lights on and off, dim them, and maybe even have profiles you can select for specific light settings. That all sounds straightforward enough.

So why does the Hue app on Android mandate access to my location? I don’t even know if there’s any location-specific aspects to the app, but if there are I don’t want them. I should be able to use the app without having to let Hue know exactly where I am all the time.

And why does it need access to my pictures and media? I don’t have anything to hide but I’m buggered if I want to share anything with Hue. I should be able to dim my lights without letting Hue copy all the photos I’ve taken.

And even worse - why the hell does the app require the ability to use my cameras? I don’t want Hue stealing pictures I’ve already taken so I certainly don’t want it taking more pictures behind my metaphorical back.

Android Marshmallow has a new mechanism for dealing with app permissions - apps no longer specify up front what permissions they need, but instead ask for them before they use them. And the user is in control - they can deny the permission request.

Hue’s answer to this is a big Fuck You to the user - as soon as you start the app it asks for all the permissions and if you decline any of them - any! - the app exits. If you want to dim your lights, Hue needs to know where you are and be able to take sneaky pictures of you.

I just wanted a nice way of dimming bulbs from my tablet and phone. Hue isn’t it.

Tags: Clueless Idiocy
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