Earlier this month, I noticed a half-price sale on C by GE bulbs and of course, I couldn’t pass that up. The package cost $25 and included four dimmable smart bulbs and a smart plug. Upon delivery, I was less excited than when I placed the purchase though. The products I bought are an earlier generation of Bluetooth bulbs, not the newer “Made for Google” Wi-Fi ones.
It turns out, however, these older bulbs aren’t a bad solution, and still work with Google (or even Alexa) thanks to that included smart plug, which acts as a Wi-Fi bridge of sorts for the bulbs.
Setting up the bulbs is fairly easy, although you do need the C by GE mobile app. And you’ll also need to enable Bluetooth on your mobile device if it’s not on by default. To install the bulbs, you just insert them into a lamp or fixture, manually turn the power on to the bulb and initiate the in-app setup. I started to do them one bulb at a time, but if you’re in Bluetooth range of multiple bulbs, you can add them all at once.
Being older bulbs, I did have a firmware update for each of them, which added some setup time. Even with that step, I don’t think it took me more than 10 minutes to have all four ready to go.
Since these are Bluetooth bulbs I decided to test them strictly from the mobile app at first, as opposed to installing and using the included Wi-Fi smart plug, which acts as a bridge so one can control them over a greater distance. I wasn’t thrilled with the experience.
I don’t know if it was because of Bluetooth range issues or the mobile app itself, but the bulbs would often show as disconnected for a few seconds, even when I was standing next to them. And when the bulbs appeared as connected and controllable in the mobile app, there was a noticeable lag when turning them on or dimming them. I think I’m spoiled by using smart home hubs and Wi-Fi smart devices.
So I decided to leave the Bluetooth-only world behind and that made all the difference in the world. Installation follows the same process as the bulbs by using the C by GE mobile app, but with one caveat: Being a Wi-Fi smart plug, you have to enter your wireless network information.
The plug actually has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios inside so it effectively connects the Bluetooth bulbs to a home network.
I found that to vastly improve the overall response time and connection stability of the smart bulbs, which I expected.
And it brought the added benefit of being able to control any of the Bluetooth bulbs, or the plug, by voice with either Alexa or Google; I added them to a Google Home setup by linking my C by GE account in the Home app. Now I use voice to activate a Himalayan salt lamp that’s connected to the Wi-Fi plug.
Whether you use the smart plug or not, you can set up basic rooms, scenes and automations in the C by GE mobile app. I replaced our family room bulbs for testing, where we typically have the lights turn on at dinner and off 11pm.
It was easy to recreate that automation in the app and it worked perfectly.
And I appreciated the “Fade” customization setting: Lights can turn on/off instantly or fade from several time intervals between 5 seconds and 30 minutes. I set that to 15 seconds for a nice effect.
But you can’t extend automations or scenes to non-GE smart devices unless you integrate them with some third-party solution, a hub or a supported digital assistant. Such are the limitations of older smart products!
When I took delivery of this package and realized these were older products, I immediately thought to return it. I’m glad I didn’t though. Thanks to the inclusion of that Wi-Fi smart plug and support for Amazon and Google smart speakers, these bulbs are working just as well as any more recent ones I’ve tried. And they didn’t break the bank.
If you’re looking for basic smart bulbs and can find some of the older C by GE ones with a smart plug at a deep discounted price, don’t be shy about making the purchase. Just be sure to use that smart plug!