Lumen Bluetooth 4.0 LED bulb takes on Philips hue

Color-changing LED lighting is probably the most obvious way of introducing some smart home tech, and though Philips' hue is the best known system, that hasn't stopped startup rivals from trying to take its crown. Lumen turned to crowdfunding to get its TL800 Bluetooth 4.0 bulb off the ground, and now it's headed to store shelves, promising direct control from your iPhone or (select) Android handset.

Similar in size to a regular screw-fit bulb, the $69.99 TL800 is rated for 40W-equivalent light output – Lumen claims 400 lumens output; hue bulbs are around 600 lumens – and should last for up to 30,000 hours, the company says. Inside are white, red, blue, and green LEDs, which can be mixed for up to 16m combinations.

Whereas hue uses a base station that hooks up to a WiFi router and then acts as the starting point for a ZigBee mesh network connecting each bulb, however, Lumen uses a direct connection between bulb and phone. The advantage, Lumen says, is in installation, which is a case of just screwing in the bulb and then pairing a phone to it with Bluetooth 4.0.

On the downside, however, is the fact that each TL800 bulb can only connect to one device at a time. A single phone can adjust up to ten bulbs simultaneously, but there's no shared control as the hue app allows. The Bluetooth link can stretch to around 30ft, and the lights can be set to turn on and off automatically as the phone comes in and out of range.

There are also a number of different feature modes, including flashing the bulbs on incoming calls, in time to music, or as you wake up to mimic a sunrise.

We've seen a number of remote-control bulbs hit crowdfunding sites, though few of them have made the same commercial impact as hue has managed (and even for Philips' system it's still early-days, despite getting a coveted spot on shelves in Apple Stores). What remains to be seen is whether Lumen shows the same willingness to open up its bulbs to third-party developers – as hue has done – and other smart home tech, such as Revolv's Hub.