Earlier this year, we reviewed the C by GE Smart Bulb — the first light bulb that connects directly to your Google Home using a mesh Bluetooth network. It's great to have a smart home device that doesn't require yet another app or account, and not only did the bulb work flawlessly for its intended purpose, but it's still a great value (you can currently get a two-pack for $17).
GE announced at CES 2019 that it would release color versions of the Smart Bulb, and now it has done just that. The confusingly named "C by GE A19 Bluetooth Smart LED Light Bulb Multicolor" is just as good as its predecessor, making it one of the best smart lights you can get.
|Bulb Type||A19 LED (65W equivalent)|
|Brightness||Up to 760 lumens|
|Price||$43.99 for two bulbs|
|Setup||Using the Google Home app, the light bulb takes less than a minute to set up.|
|Functionality||The bulb is dimmable, changes color, and works great with the Google Home app and Assistant smart speakers.|
|Reset process||If you replace your Google Home, or need to reset the bulb for some other reason, the connection process is rather tedious.|
|Compatibility||GE's Bluetooth bulbs can only be paired to a Google-made smart speaker. If you decide to switch to Alexa, or you want to use a third-party Assistant speaker instead, you'll need to buy GE's C-Reach bridge to keep using the smart bulb.|
Design, installation, what's in the box
Like the original white bulb, this uses LED lighting with a maximum brightness of 760 lumens. GE estimates it will last around 13.7 years if you only use it three hours a day. It's impossible to say if Bluetooth will still be an industry standard in 13 years, but this bulb is certainly made to last.
Installation is as simple as screwing in the light bulb. There are no extra hubs to plug in and get connected to a Wi-Fi network, unless you plan on using this with non-Assistant smart speakers — more on that later.
GE sent us the 2-pack model for this review. As far as I can tell, there isn't a Home Mini bundle available like there is for the original white bulbs, but perhaps that will arrive in the future. The box just contains two bulbs, and nothing else.
The software/pairing experience is the main reason this bulb is worth talking about. Just like the original GE Smart Bulb, it doesn't connect to a Wi-Fi network or a dedicated hub device. It pairs directly to a Google Home speaker using Bluetooth, and the speaker acts as the hub. As long as your Home is connected to the internet, the bulb can be controlled from any device or Assistant smart speaker.
Once you screw the bulb in, it should appear on the Discover tab of the Home app. If not, you can scan for it by going to the Home tab > Add > Set up device > Set up new devices in your home. Provided you have a Google Home somewhere close to the bulb (I got mine to connect from a different level of my house, but your mileage may vary), the whole process takes less than a minute.
After the process is complete, the bulb appears alongside all your other connected smart devices in the Home app. You can change the brightness, add it to a room, rename it, and so on. If you want to turn the light on or off at certain times, you can add it to a routine (which admittedly isn't as user-friendly as setting timers with most other bulbs).
I'm a bit bummed you can't select any RGB or Hex color value, but the Home app does let you pick from several shades of every color. You can also tell Google Assistant something like "set the lamp to orange-red," and if you have a smart display, you can scroll through all the available colors just like on the Home app.
It's important to note that this bulb still has all the limitations of the original GE bulb. It can only be paired to a Google-made smart speaker (Google Home, Home Mini, and so on). It won't directly connect to a third-party Google Assistant speaker, an Alexa speaker, or even a Samsung SmartThings Hub. However, once it's connected to a Google Home, you can control it from third-party Assistant speakers without a problem.
If you decide to switch to Alexa speakers at some point, GE does sell an optional 'C-Reach' hub (above), which allows you to use the C-Life bulb (along with the company's other 'C by GE' products) with any Alexa/Google Assistant speaker. However, the accompanying mobile app has terrible reviews on the Play Store, with many users citing connectivity and account issues.
Should you buy it?
Yes. As long as you have at least one Google Home speaker, GE's new Multicolor bulbs are fantastic. They take no effort to set up, they don't require another app or account, and they work reliably. Smart home devices don't get much better than that, and we're giving it our Most Wanted seal of approval.
However, GE's bulbs are only a good option if you're firmly entrenched in Google's ecosystem. If you have Alexa smart speakers in your home (and maybe a HomePod or two), you should get a platform-agnostic alternative, like TP-Link's Multicolor bulb or Philips Hue lights.
Buy it if:
- You only have Google Home speakers, or you're willing to buy one.
- You want a simple smart bulb.
Don't buy it if:
- You use non-Assistant smart speakers.
- Best Buy