The Swedish retailing giant Ikea is continuously expanding its range of affordable smart lighting, making its competitors feel uneasy, especially when it comes to catering to the bottom of the pyramid.
Last few years have witnessed the creeping in of the innovative Edison-styled LED light bulbs; which from being the trademark lighting of a certifiable hipster, has emerged as a staple in the mid-century modern. It was only a matter of time that the incandescent bulb slightly went off the sight. The traditional look of the light source has started bouncing back as few lighting designers took the initiative to recapitulate the modern LED lights into an Edison-styled glassy package.
Ikea – the European multinational group that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories, among other useful goods and occasionally home services – is now making its presence felt as a lighting solution provider, while giving tough competition to the industry’s top players by bringing in the smart lighting at comparatively low cost.
This Swedish home furnishing retail giant entered into lighting just a couple of years back in 2017, when it first introduced Tradfri range of smart lighting with its remote-controlled dimming bulb, positioning the same as more affordable than rival products already in the market. At that time, it was an entry level solution incorporating basic features and wasn’t designed to change colour temperatures just to keep it affordable.
Expanding Tradfri Range
From then onwards, the retailing giant never looked back and continued to expand its line-up of Tradfri range of smart lighting. This time it has come out with a decorative Edison-styled bulb. The newly-announced smart light bulb from Ikea features dimming capabilities and emanates a warm 2200K glow. As the name suggests, it sports a transparent glass globe instead of the opaque diffuser typically seen on other smart bulbs.
It suddenly became talk of the town for its affordability. There is nothing unique in its list of features. Where Ikea’s new Edison smart bulb shines is in its pricing. Available at $9.99, the Ikea’s smarty significantly undercuts the other comparable smart bulbs in the market for now.
The E26-sized (the big socket) bulb glows warm at 2200K, and is made to resemble those vintage Edison-style filament bulbs so popular in Brooklyn haunts. It’s dimmable via the Ikea Home Smart app or an Ikea wireless dimmer, which is available on separate purchase. However, the company doesn’t recommend connecting it to a hardwired dimmer. This is same for the Philips Hue.
In general, Philips Hue bulbs offer better dimming than Ikea’s Edison-styled smart bulbs, wherein the former is characterised by smoother transitions and a greater range of illumination than latter. But the extra features, if at all needed, are available at an extra $15 per bulb.
Just over two years ago, Ikea made a splash into the world of home automation with a series of affordable smart devices ranging from bulbs and smart plugs to sensors and more. Since then, the brand has filled out its Tradfri lineup with many other smart devices wherein this Edison-style smart LED light bulb is the most recent addition.
At $10 per light, Ikea’s new bulb undercuts almost all the other smart filament bulbs in the market without sacrificing on features. When compared with premium offerings like Philips Hue, the new Ikea smart bulb is undoubtedly a bargain for the budget-focused smart homeowners. Philips Hue sells for $25 wherein the additional perk of $15 per light is charged for its smoother dimmer transitions.
Reports suggest that Philips Hue launched its first version of the connected lighting accessory only a few months back, similar to the likes of TP-Link. Looking to undercut both in terms of price, Ikea’s new filament smart light bulb captures the same Edison-style design. Once paired with Ikea’s Tradfri hub, this new smart bulb offers facilities like smartphone control, Alexa voice commands, and even HomeKit support. Thus, it’s not a standalone release like we’ve seen from other brands.
Philips Hue Vs Ikea’s Tradfri
Both these bulbs need a hub connected to a Wi-Fi router to provide gateway through which smart light communications go. Once connected with the hub, these bulbs can be controlled with smartphone, get integrated with other smart home systems, set to run on a timer, and can be controlled remotely while being away from home and more. Besides, both the bulbs are made compatible with Amazon Alexa devices, the Google Assistant app, and with Apple’s HomeKit platform. The point to be noted is that as against Ikea’s Tradfri, Philips Hue app is more advanced, making it much easier to set timers, change colours, and adjust brightness.
In terms of features, Philips Hue surpasses all its competitors. This is perhaps because it’s been around the longest, and Ikea is just a new kid on the block. The range comes with a syncing app that matches the lights to movies and video games for example, and several other apps produced by third-party developers too. Comparatively, Ikea Tradfri has less features to show, and is also the newest product in the smart range. These are more for the budget-conscious user with basic needs.
The market reports, tallying total number of installations, evince that Ikea’s low-cost / good-enough smart bulbs pose a real threat to Signify, the owner of Philips Hue. In September this year, Ikea announced that 5 million smart bulbs and accessories have been sold in the financial year; while Signify’s 2018 annual report says that it installed 14 million smart lights – including both home and business installations.
It’s not an exact comparison, but Philips has been selling smart lights since 2012 while Ikea’s Tradfri range came into being just a couple of years ago. Ikea, the world’s largest furniture retailer, reported record sales this year whereas Signify, one of the world’s largest lighting companies, has reportedly lowered its annual outlook citing deteriorating market conditions.
For context, there are an estimated 26 billion light points worldwide and only a tiny fraction of those are smart. In other words, this battle has only begun while the only low at Ikea is its range of offerings which is far less than what Philips Hue range comprises of.
Philips Hue line gets the widest choice of bulbs and light fixtures, the best and most advanced app, and the greatest choice of third-party apps and integrations. But it isn’t necessarily the best choice for everyone. No doubt the introduction of low-cost smart lighting solution by Ikea under its Tradfri brand is making it possible for those with tight budget to enjoy the affordability factor. But Ikea still has a long way to go when it comes to competing with technology giant like Signify on many fronts including advanced features.