Philips Hue Excludes 3rd Party Bulbs With Firmware Update

Joel Ward —  December 11, 2015

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.

hue-zigbee-faq

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.

27 responses to Philips Hue Excludes 3rd Party Bulbs With Firmware Update

  1. I’ll go out on a limb and guess the native app should work with certified Zigbee bulbs, as described in the one FAQ, and bet this breakage in inadvertent. As opposed to making those bulbs, of varying capability, available via the Hue API for third party apps and services. Either way, it sucks.

  2. I hope you are right, Dave. However, the info we’ve found so far may point to something less appealing. Here’s hope that Philips steps up and shares some good news!

  3. I have 4 or 5 osram bulbs connected to my hue, I have the osram (and wemo) gateways, but really like the unification (not the wemo) on the hue bridge. Isn’t zigbee 3 supposed to unify Zigbee LL and HA anyway?

  4. What a kill-joy! Hopefully, they’ll get an earful, realize that they’re no Apple, and back down. It’s one thing to never allow access to the API in the first place, but many of their customers made purchase decisions based on a capability that they’re now taking away. That’s unsat.

  5. I can’t wait for when Smart Refrigerators start refusing to cool any food items that don’t come from affiliated corporations. I give it 12 months…

  6. Now that i have an amazon echo i was looking at replacing my Staples connect. This is disappointing. Any suggestions for a replacement?

  7. tomm1313, check out SmartThings. Dave just did a review of SmartThings on TechHive.

    Philips Hue can actually work with Amazon Echo, Staples, Connect, SmartThings and more. But hubs like SmartThings and Staples Connect can also control ZigBee lights directly. However, I liked attaching all ZigBee bulbs to the Hue hub because then it simplified (to some extent) management and use of the bulbs but also allowed the other hubs to control them via the Hue API (over IP).

  8. Chucky: funny ’cause it’s true. They’ll never learn, will they?

  9. Our options are dwindling… Staples Connect doesn’t seem to be getting updates, Smartthings is powerful but complex with all sorts of competing paradigms in presentation and incomplete local control, Wink may be on life support while seeking a buyer also with problems functioning locally when the Internet blips or their servers have issues. I’m pretty frustrated. Wondering if it’s time to unload Hue in favor of the Lutron smart bridge and more Caseta gear. Or maybe I double down on Hue, despite the surcharge (given lack of all-white BR30s which I need).

    I think Richard Gunther of DigialMediaZone is mostly Insteon these days. Another pal has gone mostly Lutron and Hue, with Hue frustrations, but enjoying HomeKit control via Lutron and Alexa gluing a lot of different things together via IFFT. Beyond Hue and Lutron, I also have three Wemo bulbs in the mix at my place (plus it’s mini plug-in hub) and Belkin does advertise support for some third party Zigbee bulbs like Osram. But that platform has its own set of issues. Definitely a messy period of transition.

    The other thing to consider… while Hue may now be locking you in, they’re also updating their bulbs. Many Zigbee bulbs are in need of firmware updates, but there is no one providing them as the companies don’t have their own dedicated hubs. Messy, messy.

  10. “Messy, messy.”

    Not really.

  11. I just ordered a smartthings hub, also keeping eye on openHAB, the v2 alpha looks a lot more user friendly. And can run it from a raspberry pi. Figured with smartthings I can connect my old staples connect to retain use of my pico remotes to control some hue lights. And if hue kills all my Osram bulbs I can link them directly to smartthings (though they all have the euro firmware so would need to figure out how to get them back to zigbee HA from LL). Added mess.

  12. I’ll take a wild guess why they did this.

    Supporting other manufacturers bulbs probably added a large amount of overhead to development.

    Also, the certification is quite old at this point, so limiting it to only Hue lights means that Philips can innovate a lot faster, without having to worry about tons of other manufacturers they have no control over.

    Source: Been involved in similar types of projects and compatibility while highly desirable, often hinders speed of innovation, especially in very new and evolving areas.

  13. I demand Philips being kicked out of the ZigBee Alliance for that. I will return as much as possible of my gear (at least 3 new bridges and 2 starterkits) for full refund and move on to better (Dresden RaspBee or Ubisys) ZB 3.0. Philpis is a shame for the Netherlands!

  14. “…and there are a few FAQs to the effect on the MeetHue site as well…”

    http://www2.meethue.com/en-us/support/search/?q=Another+brand

    Not anymore. Clicking that link gets me a page that says “0 search results within: ‘Another brand'”

  15. Philips does, however, now have an informative page up explaining this change and their rationale behind it:

    http://www.developers.meethue.com/documentation/friends-hue-update

  16. Josh, thanks for finding that! That’s what we were looking for. How did you come across that?

  17. Wonder what, if anything, Philips charges for Friends of Hue certification and marketing…

  18. Joel, I followed the link from the article above (“officially in the MeetHue developers forum Philips alluded to the change…”) and further down in that thread, was this post:

    http://www.developers.meethue.com/content/does-philips-block-bulbs-other-manufacturers-latest-firmware-update#comment-1016

  19. “Wonder what, if anything, Philips charges for Friends of Hue certification and marketing…”

    The industry standard 30% of the price of all items sold seems about right, no?

  20. Nah, 30% is for when you use their digital storefront to sell, serve, and market your software.

    Hardware certification like this is different. Apple’s “Made for iPhone” certification, for example, is a lot lower: http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/02/07/apple-lowers-mfi-lightening-licensing-fees-paving-way-for-more-affordable-ios-accessories-

  21. “Hardware certification like this is different. Apple’s “Made for iPhone” certification, for example, is a lot lower”

    Meh. 10% is for losers. 30% is classy.

  22. “Hardware certification like this is different. Apple’s “Made for iPhone” certification, for example, is a lot lower”

    Huh. I quickly parsed your link, and missed the point. That 10% was the old rate, and now they’ve backed off to something actually halfway reasonable.

    Make Apple Great Again! 30% on everything!

    Phillips can dare to be great.

  23. So Phillips backs down. The terrorists have won with their sharia standards-based interoperability.

    Make Phillips Great Again!

  24. With Philips reversing its decision. If i am happy with Staples connect but i want to control the bulbs via echo am i better off getting the Hue for bulbs and connecting the hue to the connect?

    i saw some people doing that.

  25. Just get a Homey. It is open source and will literally chew Philips old dinosaur “bridge” in half.

  26. The updated firmware that supposedly rolls back the 3rd party bulb limitations is out:
    http://www2.meethue.com/en-us/release-notes/

    I haven’t tested it…yet.