CONCLUSION Initially confusing setup and rather expensive for a light bulb, even one with a builtin speaker, but we can’t deny its novelty.
Why are we reviewing a light bulb? Because it’s an energy saving LED light bulb (rated at 3W), dimmable and controllable via your smartphone, plus it’s also a wireless Bluetooth speaker.
Designed as a throwback to standard filament bulbs, the MiPow PlayBulb fits any standard E27 socket; screw it in, flick the switch and the light comes on. If you want to use the dimming function though, you’ll have to download the app. Since it connects via Bluetooth 4.0, only the iPhone 4S or higher, iPod (5th gen), iPad (4th gen), iPad Air, iPad mini and Android 4.3 or higher devices are supported. The app quickly finds all PlayBulbs in range, but you can only control one at a time. As a gimmick, Shake mode lets you shake your smartphone to dim/ brighten the light. Other options include 4 presets: Wake Up, Energy Saver, Night and Sleep. These are basically timed events for different brightness and volume settings.
The PlayBulb uses a second Bluetooth radio for its speaker function and here’s where it took some trial and error to get working. It’s a bulb, how hard can it be right? That’s what we thought. The lighting functions worked without a hitch so we tried to use the app’s integrated music player next—which by the way was very simplistic, and had an EQ button that did nothing (Android version). Music played through our phone instead of streaming to the PlayBulb. After several attempts at reinstalling and using different phones, we realized that the PlayBulb must first be paired as a standard Bluetooth speaker before using the app. In fact, when we paired through the app first, we could no longer find the speaker when searching for a Bluetooth device.
Once paired though, the PlayBulb works as a standard Bluetooth speaker. All audio, from any app will be streamed to the bulb. The good thing about it is that since it’s a light bulb installation, it’s always on. You can even turn off the light (via the app) and still stream music. Basically, you treat the PlayBulb as two devices: an LED light with dimming that only works through the app and supported devices, and a standard Bluetooth speaker that will work with just about any Bluetooth-capable device.
I won’t beat around the bush, for $99, you’re better off with a standard light bulb and dedicate speakers for better audio quality and functions, but I can see the PlayBulb being a cool gadget in a kid’s room or anywhere you want some background music from the convenience of a stand lamp without bothering about another device you’ll have to find a socket for recharging.
The PlayBulb app offers easy light control, but the music player will not work unless you have separately paired the bulb as a BT speaker first.