After the introduction of the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter product line last month, I’ve spent nearly a week testing the new devices. These use Bluetooth and/or Thread for their connection and are available in a $19.99 A19 bulb and an 80-inch Light Strip kit for $49.99. How well do they work? Great once you have them paired to a Thread network. But there are currently some limitations.
Effectively, these smart lights are the same as previous Nanoleaf Essentials products. They gain a pre-installed firmware update for the Matter certification badge
Thread radio, however, making them available to use with the Matter standard. That’s what allows the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter lights to work with your choice of smart home ecosystem and digital assistant.
you have to use it’s recommended to use the Nanoleaf app for the Matter pairing. (See my update below as not using the app worked better for me)
The process is no different from setting up other Matter devices. You simply open the app, click to add a device, and scan the Matter QR code. Unlike my prior Matter experiences, the pairing itself takes two seconds or less. I had no problems pairing either the bulbs or the light strip when using the Matter app. And at that point, I had full control of both lighting products but only in the Nanoleaf app itself.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. If you’re using an iOS device and pair one of these with the Nanoleaf app, you will get the option to add it your Apple Home. I did and that worked. However, I couldn’t get the bulbs to connect to my Google Home. I’ll explain why shortly.
Likewise, if you use Android and the Nanoleaf app, you get the option to add the bulbs to your Google Home. I did that as well during testing and it too worked perfectly. However, I couldn’t then see the Nanoleaf products in my Apple Home app. I did see them in the Google Home app on both Android and iOS.
As it stands now, there doesn’t appear to be a way to connect the Nanoleaf Essentials Matter products to multiple platforms. Nanoleaf does point out these phone platform requirements and limitations in its online manuals, but you might not have known that at the time of purchase. And I fully expect the process to change in the future so these lights do work across multiple platforms. Nanoleaf says it’s working on adding Google Home onboarding for iOS devices with the expectation that the feature will be soon available. That will resolve the basic pairing to an ecosystem challenge. However, there’s still the open question of supporting multiple platforms in a Thread-based smart home.
UPDATE: After several hours of removing and re-adding the bulb and light strips from both Apple HomeKit and Google Home, I eventually did get multi-platform support working. During my troubleshooting, I noticed that the products were appearing multiple times in the iOS Matter Accessories list. I cleared those out from iOS and chose not to use the Nanoleaf app for the setup process. Onboarding the devices through Apple Home and Google Home did work. I am now able to control the lights with Google or Siri. I’ll attribute some of my experience with the HomeKit issues I’ve been having since iOS 16.1HomeKit issues I’ve been having since iOS 16.1. At least one commenter just received his Nanoleaf Essentials Matter product and he hasn’t had the problems that I did.
Having said that, how well do these smart lights work? If you’re familiar with the current Essentials bulbs and light strips, they provide the same experience. The only difference here is the Matter support, which preps your smart home for the future.
I was able to control the products by voice and apps (Apple Home, Google Home and the Nanoleaf app, depending on the test setup) with no issues. And thanks to Thread, device latency is practically non-existent. It’s an immediate device response when changing the brightness or colors. Both of these lights support Nanoleaf scenes and music-coordinated playlists as well.
As much as I like my Philips Hue bulbs, I find the color saturation of the Nanoleaf products a bit more robust. While I’m not a fan of the funky bulb shape on the A19, the truth is, I can live with it. I set my bulbs up so that you really don’t see them; you just see the light output.
If you’re looking for Thread-based RGB lights that also support tunable white temperatures, Nanoleaf provides a solid option. I suspect many people won’t be concerned about the multi-ecosystem challenge in its current state. I have three different ecosystems in my home whereas others have likely centered around Amazon, Apple, Google or Samsung. These don’t yet work using Matter with Amazon Alexa because Amazon has only introduced Matter over Wi-Fi, not Matter over Thread. I didn’t test SmartThings compatibility because I don’t have Samsung gear.
So if you’re unlike me and have just one smart home system, namely from Apple or Google, I think you’ll like these Nanoleaf Essentials Matter lights. If you do have multiple platforms in your house, you might want to wait and see how the multi-controller support shakes out.
Updated on 4/14/2023 to reflect that Matter’s multi-platform support is working.
Jon Smirl says
Matter certainly supports having the bulb commissioned to Apple Home and Google Home both simultaneously. I have that running on my desk right now with testing devices, but I don’t have a Nanoleaf.
Commission the device using Apple. Go into Apple Home and say ‘share the device’ and it will give you a sharing code. Go into Google Home. Add a Matter device, don’t scan the QRCode, below the camera use the link for ‘other’ pairing method. Enter the pairing code there. Hopefully both Apple and Google will now have access.
Kevin C. Tofel says
Yup, that’s what I tried during the review period, Jon. I can get the sharing code but in the iOS app for Google Home, there isn’t an option for Matter codes. Using my Pixel 7 and the Google Home app doesn’t work when typing the pairing code provided from my iPhone.
Jon Smirl says
Go in settings/apps. Find Google Play Services. Down at the very bottom of the app page there is a section saying ‘installed from store’ Tap on it. If you have an ‘Update’ button available, do the update.
Jon Smirl says
Searching for GPS in store will not display this button, you have to get it from the app settings page.
Kevin C. Tofel says
Nope, no update available for Play Services.
Siobhan Ellis says
Hi Kevin, enjoy your posts.
I’ve been using Nanoleaf for some time, and you made a mistake. Nanoleaf essentials bulbs have not just gained a Thread radio, they’ve had one for quite some time. Indeed, they were one of the early adopters.
The difference here is the firmware that is shipped and, possibly, the hardware resources as Nanoleaf have said they can’t update existing HomeKit Essentials bulbs.
Kevin C. Tofel says
Indeed, you are correct! Thanks for that info, Siobhan. Even the firmware that shipped, at least to me, is already outdated. I saw a firmware upgrade this morning for both devices and am re-testing.
Pairing with multiple ecosystems *is* possible: https://helpdesk.nanoleaf.me/en-US/sharing-your-essentials-(matter)-lights-between-ecosystems-215493
I would recommend to do some background check before creating an article with completely wrong information.
Kevin C. Tofel says
It *should* be possible, yes. I may not have been clear enough in the post but following that process isn’t working with these lights. I do see that the Nanoleaf app was upgraded yesterday and there are firmware updates available today for both products, so I’ll be applying those upgrades and doing additional testing.
If the experience changes, I’ll off course update the article. Cheers!
Yes, it *is* possible:
I just received my brand new Essentials NL67 bulbs today. It took me less than 3 minutes to add them to Apple Home by use of the Home app. Without the need of a firmware update or such.
Afterwards I shared it with my Google phone by means of ‘Turn On Pairing Mode’ in the Home app Settings of the NL67. Then commissioning it to Google with the GHA on Android took another 2 minutes.
Now I can control the very same bulb with both Siri and Google voice assistant.
This btw also works with Samsung SmartThings and it would already work with Amazon Alexa if Amazon would have already released their Matter Thread support. But this will not take long.
Of course all this only works if you have the latest and greatest shipping version installed on your Google and Apple devices.
And: you have to have at least one Matter-capable hub of every ecosystem you are using. Which might not be too obvious…
Jon Smirl says
This hub requirement is not so obvious, but it is needed. Any hub can be the thread router for all three – Google, Apple, Amazon. However, it is the hubs which are implementing the voice support. So when you say “Siri, turn on the light” that goes up to Apple for voice processing. And then it comes back down to the Apple Hub which turns on the light. It does not come back down to your phone, since you may not be in your house.
So if you want Google voice control to work you have to have a Nest Hub. And for Amazon you have to have an Echo. This will likely never change. These companies have invested too much into these hubs to converge on a common protocol.
It is even worse: even if you want to commission a Matter device to an ecosystem you need to have a hub of that ecosystem. So not only because of the voice assistant case. And it is totally understandable: without an ecosystem hub there is virtually no functionality available. No automation. No remote access. No voice control.
And yes: this will probably never go away.
Jon Smirl says
Thinking about this for another minute, it is more than voice control. It is all control on Google, Apple, Amazon. That’s because all three of those work if your phone leaves the house. When you tap on something in the Google Home app, it is sending a message to the cloud and then the cloud sends a message back to the Nest Hub. Again, it has to work this way since the phone can leave the house. When the phone leaves the house it is not longer on the LAN.
It is possible that they have implemented two forms of control — when you are on the LAN the phone sends direct Matter command, and when you are off the LAN it uses the hub. But I doubt if they made the effort to do this. Some time with Wireshark would tell the answer.
Note that Matter does not REQUIRE this cloud component. Google/Apple/Amazon are doing it so that when you walk out of your house the phone apps will will continue working. It is perfectly valid under Matter to write a phone app which will only work inside your house on the LAN. If you leave the house it will just stop working. Matter does not force cloud use.
Jon Smirl says
It is not true that you have to have a hub in an ecosystem. You only have to have the hub if the ecosystem is going to work outside of the house. So far the only vendors who have done that are Google/Apple/Amazon/Samsung. All of the other vendors using Matter are in-house only solutions which don’t use a hub.
Note that Matter has multi-vendor support. So you could simultaneously be using it with a Google hub and a hubless, in-house Vendor app.
Jon Smirl says
Nothing prevents you from creating an automation hub which only functions inside the house. That’s what the Home Assistant people are doing with Matter. You can write all of the local scripts you want on that hub.
If you want external control you have two choices 1) open up a port in your firewall (risky) 2) have a continuously running cloud component. The hub then opens a socket up to the continuously running cloud component. Once the socket is established the cloud component can use it to send commands to the hub.
Google/Apple/Amazon/Samsung all use #2.
JD Roberts says
I think much of the confusion over all this has come from the way Matter has evolved from its original conception to how the device manufacturers have chosen to implement it. So we have the theoretical (as defined in the specification) and the practical (as the device manufacturers are bringing Matter to market).
First, to get one bit of confusion out of the way, there’s no such thing as a “Matter hub” in the specification, although it now seems inevitable that some manufacturers are going to label their devices that way.
Instead, the original concept was of a “Matter controller” which could just be an app on a smartphone if all you had were WiFi devices. It could also be a smart speaker, maybe even with Thread support. You wouldn’t need a hub. Simple automations could be handled be the phone itself or the smart speaker.
Or…the automations could run in a cloud somewhere. Of course at this point a lot of people are going to say, “Wait, I thought Matter was supposed to be local.” And, yes. But Matter just defines how the devices communicate with the controller. Matter specifically did NOT define scenes, routines, or other automations, leaving all of that to the UI side. There’s nothing in the specification to say your automations have to run locally.
CLOUD-BASED AUTOMATIONS WITHOUT A HUB? HOW DOES THAT WORK?
How does that work in practice? Just look at SmartThings. Over 90% of SmartThings customers do not have a hub at all. They have a Samsung smart television or appliance, or even just a Galaxy device. They can still have a nice setup with a lot of cloud to cloud integrations: Meross or Kasa smart plugs, Leviton WiFi or Lutron Caseta light switches, maybe a Philips Hue bridge and bulbs, Ring doorbell, Yale or Schlage WiFi lock, Arlo cameras, Switchbot curtain openers, Shelly WiFi sensors, etc.
Sure, they may have multiple WiFi bridge devices, maybe even one for each brand, but they don’t need a SmartThings hub. And some devices, like the WiFi smart plugs, handle their own internet connection. The automations run in the SmartThings cloud, btw. These days SmartThings customers only need a ST hub if they use zwave or zigbee or thread devices. But stick to WiFi or cloud connected devices and you get the app, sophisticated automations, out of home control and voice assistant integration all without needing a ST hub. But most of it is cloud-based.
LOCAL AUTOMATIONS WITHOUT A HUB?
One other interesting example is Wiz Bluetooth bulbs. They work with an app on the phone, and the phone has to be on the same WiFi network, but all the processing is done on the smartphone, no hub needed.
MOST MATTER PLATFORMS ARE GOING TO REQUIRE THEIR OWN HUB TO USE MATTER
OK, so it CAN be done, and it’s probably what Amazon imagined Matter would be.
But it’s not rolling out that way. Both Apple and Google will require their platform hubs if you want to use Matter devices. It looks like IKEA will as well.
BUT NOT ALL!
But there is one interesting exception. I found one app-only Matter controller: the LG ThinQ app.
Although normally used to control the LG smart appliances, in 2022 they added the ability to use it as a UI for HomeKit devices as well. It was sort of a weird integration because you couldn’t add the appliances to HomeKit or HomeKit Automations. But if you wanted to be able to see your HomeKit light switches and your LG smart appliances in the same app, now you could.
And LG is now using the same architecture for matter. The app is itself certified as a matter controller, no LG hub required.
The matter standard does not require a hub, and a hub is not the same thing as a controller. But all the controller gives you is local communication with the matter devices. It doesn’t say where the rules will run or anything about out of home control, defining both those as part of the UI side which is left up to the individual device manufacturers to implement however they want.
Most of the big home automation platforms, including Apple and Google, are going to require that you have their platform’s hub in order to work with matter.
But LG proves it is possible to have an app-only matter controller for at least limited features.
It’s understandable that discussions about this issue have been very confusing: there’s been a lot of change between theory and practice.
I hope this helps somewhat in explaining the current market situation.
Jon Smirl says
Matter has four independent things…
1) Controller. A controller has to run in the house on the LAN and likely within Bluetooth range. The purpose of the controller is to authorize devices onto the local network. There is no need for the controller to be continuous running. For example a phone app controller disappears as soon as you close the app. The controller controls granting permissions on the network. So if you want to script a device, the device doing the scripting has to be granted permission to do that. Controllers are part of the Matter spec.
2) Border routers and bridges. These are physical devices this have multiple radios in them such as a Matter to Zigbee bridge or a wifi to thread border router. Bridges convert protocols, border routers convert transmission medium. Bridges and border routers are part of the Matter spec.
3) Automation control. Any device can control automations under Matter. The device simply has to have permission to access the devices it is scripting. That permission is granted by a controller. You can do anything you want using the Matter APIs subject to the permissions granted by the controller. This is in the spec but it is not obvious how, is is under client clusters. (server clusters are the devices).
4) Remote access. Remote access is a device on the local Matter network which connects to the cloud. This remote connection is able to use the Matter APIs anyway it wants, subject to the permissions granted by the controller. This also uses client clusters, it is just a variation on automating things.
What is confusing is that various vendors are making different combinations of these four features in a single device.
What you don’t need anymore is separate support for each vendor. Like Hue, LIFX, Yale, etc.
Technically you don’t need a physical device from Apple, Google, Amazon either. If they wanted to, they could give you a Windows program which implements the same capabilities on your PC, but they don’t want to do that. It is also inefficient because that PC is going to use much more power than these small devices do.
Kevin C. Tofel says
Awesome, glad it’s working for you! Out of curiosity, what is the firmware version for the NL67? And just to clarify, you couldn’t get the bulb on Google Home through Matter using iOS, correct?
I do have a HomePod mini and Nest Hub 2 in the home for testing, so my issue isn’t the lack of a Matter hub for both Apple and Google.
I noticed this morning in my iOS Settings under General -> Matter Accessories, both the bulbs and light strips I was pairing, removing and repairing appear multiple times. Something clearly isn’t right there, so I’ve removed all of those entries and…. I’ll try again!
The firmware of the NL67 is 3.2.0.
The GHA on iOS does not have Matter commissioning support yet so you cannot use it to onboard a matter device.
Yeah, the Matter Accessories list in the iOS Settings app is very strange. The list gets longer and longer and it seems that entries do not get removed ene when you remove a Matter device from the Home app.
Nope. If you remove your Google hub from your system you cannot onboard a Matter device on Google anymore. This is not the case for non-Matter devices tho.
The same applies to Apple.
Hi – Great review.
Quick question. Does the new matter version of the devices you tested still support adaptive lighting when used on the Apple ecosystem?
Matter doesn’t officially support adaptive lighting so I wouldn’t expect it to work on other ecosystems but this functionality was supported on the same model when pairing with HomeKit.
Is it still the case or the new matter devices don’t support this anymore?
Kevin C. Tofel says
Unfortunately, the Nanoleaf devices I tested using Matter don’t work with HomeKit adaptive lighting. However, you can set up a similar function called “Circadian Lighting” in the Nanoleaf app.
Eric Lawson says
I tried to pair three Nanoleaf BR30 bulbs last evening. I was able to accomplish the firmware update, which appears that only one update can occur at a time. I was able to get 2 to pair with Apple, the other 1 has not been able to pair. The two that have been paired, took many many attempts.
Reading the support article it looks like matter devices can only be paired for the first 15 minutes or they have to be powered off. I tried resetting the bulb, powering on/off, etc. I’m on the latest Apple releases, have the new HomeKit Architecture, 7 Apple TV’s 4K (with thread), 8 HomePod Mini’s (with thread).
At least for me, I’m pretty sure these are going back to Nanoleaf. As these were also my first Matter devices, I’ll say I’m not impressed so far – perhaps it’s just the way Nanoleaf has implemented.
Jon Smirl says
Matter requires that commissioning window only stay open 15 minutes without requiring manual intervention of some kind. This is security provision so that you don’t unknowingly leave an uncommissioned device sitting around a long time waiting for a hacker to find it.
It is manufacturer choice as to what resets that window. It can be button, power cycle, etc.