Philips just released firmware for the Philips Hue bridge that may permanently sever access to any “non-approved” ZigBee bulbs. We previously covered third party support in January 2015, when Philips indicated it was not blocked – and have since benefited.
The recent change seems to suggest any non-Philips bulbs from manufacturers such as Cree, GE, and Osram will not be supported in many situations, whereas “Friends of Hue” branded product are. At the time of publication, it’s unclear whether 3rd party bulbs will stop working immediately after the firmware update or if they may only become inaccessible after the bridge is reset. We’re also not sure if being “reset” means rebooted or factory reset. This appears to apply to both the round v1 bridge and square v2 HomeKit-compatible bridge after the latest firmware update is applied.
Philips has not said a lot about this new development, even though the community of enthusiasts has been hammering the company online on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and other forums. From what we have gathered, the firmware update will block access to the Hue API for any non-approved bulbs essentially rendering them useless. It’s possible even the official Hue app would not likely be able to control them given mixed reports from people who have updated their hubs.
Officially in the MeetHue developers forum Philips alluded to the change and there are a few FAQs (since removed) to the effect on the MeetHue site as well.
While Philips does have the right to change their software to meet their needs, the way this has been handled so far has been disappointing to say the least. Little transparency about the change has been shared either ahead of time or after the fact. That coupled with the fact that the customers who have attached standard 3rd party ZigBee bulbs to the Hue hub are probably some of the most faithful Hue customers. They (and I’m including myself) have invested in the platform and had high hopes it would remain open and flexible.
Here’s hoping Philips clarifies things and keeps at least unsupported “support” for 3rd party bulbs part of the platform. Everyone will be better for it, even Philips!
Update: Philips retired their early FAQs on this matter in favor of a much more extensive explanation as to what’s going on. The end result is the same, but at least we have a bit more clarity on the why and the how.