First announced at the Made by Google event in New York on Oct. 9, the Smart Light Starter Kit packs a Google Home Mini smart speaker and a GE C-Life Smart Bulb into the same box. You can buy the kit now for $55 on the Google store and electronics stores like Target. That’s a good price, as the Google Home Mini costs $50 on its own and a two pack of GE’s smart bulbs costs $30.
Beyond the affordable price, the pairing marks Google’s first foray into helping you set up your smart home. You’ve long been able to control a wide variety of smart home devices with Google’s smart speakers like the Google Home Mini or the original Google Home. Thanks to Google Assistant built into those smart speakers, you could use your voice to control Philips Hue lights, August locks, Nest Thermostats or any of roughly 10,000 devices from 1,000 brands. For each of those devices, you had to do the initial setup using the provider app such as the Philips Hue app for Philips Hue bulbs
These GE C-Life Smart Bulbs are the first you can set up directly from the Google Home app. We opened up the Starter Kit this week to see if the process is as seamless as promised.
Setup for success
In short, the process is quite seamless. You can even set up your Google Home Mini and your GE C-Life Smart Bulb at the same time. Setting up the smart speaker is fairly self explanatory. Plug it in, then download the Google Home app. The app will prompt you through the process of connecting it to your Wi-Fi. The Google Home Mini will update. The app will walk you through a few features and you’re done.
You go through roughly the same steps with the bulb. Find the lamp or fixture where you want it, then turn it on and open the Google Home app. Hit the add button on the main page of the app, then “set up device.” Click “New Devices” from the set up page as opposed to the “Works with google” option. The latter is what you’d use to sync your Google account with your Philips Hue account to control bulbs you’ve already set up in another app.
If you have multiple homes established in the app for your apartment and your office, you’ll pick the appropriate one for the bulb. Then the app will show your bulb and the light will blink so you know you’re setting up the right one. Pick a room for your device, give it a name, and you’re done. You can set both up the bulb and the Home Mini together by adding the two new devices at the same time.
Once your smart speaker and light bulb are up and running, you can talk to your Google Home Mini and say “Hey Google, turn off the light.” You can also call it by the name you’ve given it, but Google’s smart enough to respond simply to “light.” You can turn it on too, and adjust the brightness. If you have multiple lights, you can turn them all on or off at once or control all of the lights within any room you’ve created.
Why this matters
Google recently made a concerted effort to improve its smart home credentials. Again, the Google Home and Google Home Mini have long been handy devices if you wanted to control your established devices with voice commands. At Google’s October event, the search giant took a few important steps to be more important to your smart home than just one of your options for voice control.
The revamped Google Home app and the recently debuted Google Home Hub both put well organized touch controls for your smart home front and center. With the app, you’ll have a handy way to control your gadgets if you’re not within shouting distance of a smart speaker. If you have a lot of connected gadgets, both the app and the Hub will help you visualize your smart home as a whole and provide a handy way to look up and control a gadget if you forget what you named it.
With these extra options for controlling the smart home on the table, setup is the last key piece that could make Google’s all-encompassing smart home complete. Thanks to the new Google Home app, you no longer need to bounce between several provider apps to control a variety of devices, but you still need those apps for setup — unless you have one of these GE bulbs.
Google is in a heated competition to control the smart home landscape with Amazon. One of Amazon’s smart speakers, the Amazon Echo Plus, can talk directly to smaller smart home sensors thanks to a specialized radio frequency called Zigbee. The Echo Plus can also help gadgets connect to the internet by sharing your Wi-Fi credentials in a process called Wi-Fi Simple Setup.
On its own, being able to set up a single smart home device with the Home app doesn’t change much in the battle of Google vs Amazon. It is a step in the right direction, though. When Google Home launched in 2016, it only worked with four smart home brands and a handful of devices. If Google can expand its roster of gadgets with native setup at the same rate, the seamless setup of this simple GE smart bulb could indeed point to a more complete Google smart home.