The Philips Hue Smart Button is an add-on button that controls your Philips Hue lights. That’s really it, and in theory it couldn’t be more basic: If you don’t want to fish for your smartphone or holler at Alexa to turn the lights on or off, just press the Hue Smart Button It’s about the size of a quarter, so you can place it anywhere.
The button itself is self-contained within the small cylindrical device in the center of the wall plate shown in the photo. The plate is strictly decorative, and it attaches to the wall via sticky tape. The button itself has a magnetic back that lets it in turn adhere to the wall plate, and is easily removed should you need to change the coin cell battery inside. If you don’t want to use the wall plate, a smaller base with sticky backing is also included that lets you, say, unobtrusively stick the button underneath a table. Just the ticket for spooky lighting effects at séance!
My Smart Button arrived with a totally dead battery, but after I replaced it with one of my own, it was simple to set up: Just hold down the button for three seconds, and then pair it within the Hue app as an accessory. (Be sure to note that the Smart Button requires a Hue Bridge on your network, and it only works with Hue lighting—not other brands of Zigbee bulbs.)
Once initially configured, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Hue Smart Button is quite full featured for something with just a single toggle. A single press doesn’t just turn the lights on or off; by default, the system is set to “time-based light” mode. You can carve the day into five blocks of time, and the button will have a different effect during each of those windows. If you want energizing cold light in the morning, and a soothing warm light at night, it only takes a few taps within the Hue app to set this up.
You can also switch the whole motif to “scene cycle” mode, so each tap cycles through several scenes. Oddly, I found that even while I was in time-based light mode, rapidly pressing the button cycled a tunable white bulb through a variety of color temperatures, effectively letting you use the time-based light and scene cycle light modes together.
Press-and-hold gives you another chance to customize the button. By default, this works as a dimmer, dimming when the light is already on and brightening when it’s initially turned off. It can also be tweaked to other functions, but the dimming system is the most useful.
If I have any complaint about the Smart Button—aside from the DOA battery—it’s that it can be a tricky to get button presses to register properly; specifically, I found that I often had to press the button a couple of times in a row to get powered-up lights to turn off. That said, I think with practice I’ll get more in tune with the rhythm of the Smart Button.
At $20, the Hue Smart Button is on the pricy side when compared to, say, the $15 Samsung SmartThings Button, but Philips’ option is incredibly compact and quite impressive in its flexibility. There’s no reason to switch to the Hue ecosystem just because of the button, but if you already have Hue devices in your house, it’s an easy sell to extend your existing lights’ capabilities.