Can Phillips Hue Be Used Without a Bridge? [Full Guide]

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Incandescent bulbs were considered one of the greatest invention of the 19th century, a light-bulb moment you might say. But, LED bulbs are the new kid on the block and Phillips Hue is paving the way.

Not only are they simple to use and work nicely with other smart home devices, but the vast range of Hue bulbs and smart lamps means you’ll always find something to suit your needs. However, one of the downsides is that you have to invest in a Phillips Hue bridge, or at least you did up until now.

The latest generation of Phillips Hue bulbs can be used without the bridge, however you’ll be limited to a Bluetooth connection which is more restrictive than using the bridge. Using Bluetooth, you can control up to 10 bulbs from your smartphone, or via a Bluetooth enabled smart speaker such as the Echo Dot, Plus or Show.

Keep reading to find out all the pros and cons of using the bridge and how to connect without one.

What is a Philips Hue Bridge? 

Philips Hue bridge is the brain that runs your Phillips Hue lighting system. You can connect as many as 50 lights, switches and other accessories to the Philip Hue bridge which operate in a mesh network, meaning each bulb only has to be within range of one other bulb. The bridge then connects to your WiFi and acts as the gateway to interactions with the app and other smart home devices.

With the Hue bridge, you can use your smart light bulbs with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home to create integrated routines and control your lighting with your voice.

That’s not all; the bridge allows you to control and manage the lights via the Hue App. The setup takes a few minutes and it’s all breezy from that point forward.


Can I Use Philips Hue Without a Bridge?

The Short Answer:

For the most part, you do need a bridge to get the full use out of Phillips Hue bulbs.

However, if you have the latest generation of Phillips Hue that supports both Zigbee and Bluetooth (look for Bluetooth symbol on the box or bulb itself), you have the option to connect using the separate Phillips Hue BT app. Doing so does limit you to 10 devices and your phone must be within range of the bulbs to operate them.

If you happen to have a smart speaker that also supports Bluetooth, such as the newer Amazon Echo Dot/Plus/Show or Google Home, you’re in luck as you can pair the bulbs to the speaker and access voice control without a bridge. Keep reading to find out how to connect.

The Long Answer:

In 2019, Philips Hue started shipping their newest devices with built-in Bluetooth in addition to the usual Zigbee protocol. You’ll be able to tell if you have the newer Bluetooth model from the standard Bluetooth symbol on the top right corner of the box or on the bulb itself.

Phillips launched a new Phillips Hue BT app to accompany the new bulbs. Once plugged in, this app will allow you to connect with them using Bluetooth. You’ll be able to connect up to 10 Hue light bulbs to your Hue BT app at any one time and control them all from your phone provided it is in range.

This is a clunky way to control lights, but was designed so that smart home newbies could experience the brand without having to fork out for the pricey bridge. In our opinion, it’s not a great way to control your lights, getting your phone out and unlocking it to turn a light on or off is surely more hassle than getting up to press the switch.

However, if you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker that supports Bluetooth, you can make use of this to control your bulbs and can connect your bulbs directly to them using the Alexa or Google Home apps. This is slightly more intuitive, but you still miss out on some features such as Hue Scenes, and you will be limited to the predefined colours of the smart assistant, as opposed to the full colour spectrum.


Why Doesn’t Phillips Hue Work With Other Zigbee Hubs?

Given that Phillips Hue works over the Zigbee wireless protocol, you might expect the bulbs have the ability to connect to other Zigbee hubs for a seamless experience. This is rarely the case, why so?

Well, just to make things confusing, there are two type of Zigbee:

  • Zigbee Light Link (ZLL) – Used exclusively for home lighting
  • Zigbee Home Automation (ZHA) – Used for all smart home devices such as switches, sensors, etc

Phillips Hue bulbs communicate over ZLL, but when connected to Zigbee hubs other than the Hue bridge such as SmartThings, they must switch to ZHA. This can sometimes work, but is usually unreliable and will eventually fail.

That’s where the bridge comes in, this allows the Hue bulbs to form their own ZLL network and the bridge acts as a gateway to other Zigbee ZHA devices as well as the internet at large.

As Zigbee becomes more standardised, we hope that this issue will be resolved, but for now, the bridge is recommended.


Pros and Cons of Using the Hue Bridge

Using the bridge brings a number of benefits that you otherwise wouldn’t experience when connecting your bulbs in other ways. Here is a run down of those pros and cons to give you a full view:

ProsCons
Access the full colour spectrum, use photos to create scenes and other features of the Hue appCost of the bridge
Connect up to 50 Phillips Hue lights and accessoriesAn extra hub in your home
Large mesh network - bulbs only need to be in range of one other bulb or accessoryRequires an ethernet connection to your router
Control your lights whilst away from home
Third party Hue apps - the developer community is huge and there are all sorts of apps from light shows to house parties
Create groups of bulbs within rooms

Do I Need a Bridge to Use Philips Hue with Google Home?

Yes and No. A bridge is the optimal way to connect your Hue bulbs with Google Home and is recommended for the reasons outlined in the pros and cons table.

However, if you have the newer bulbs that support Bluetooth (look for Bluetooth symbol on the box or bulb itself) and you have a Google Home speaker that supports Bluetooth, then you can connect your bulbs directly to the speaker and use voice commands.

Your Google Home device such as Nest Hub or Google Home Mini will act as your hub for controlling your lights.

How to Connect Phillips Hue BT to Google Home without a Bridge

1. Ensure you have the Bluetooth-compatible version of Hue bulbs by locating the Bluetooth logo on the bulb or box.

2. Connect, and turn on the bulbs.

3. Download the Phillips Hue BT app and use it to update the firmware of the bulb.

4. Go to the Google Home app.

5. Tap on the “+” icon, which is present on the left side of the screen.

6. Then tap on “Set up Device.”

7. It should now discover your Phillips Hue bulb and you can select it.

8. Hey presto, it’s complete.

Once everything is set up, it is time to set Rooms for the light bulbs. Rooms help concisely group the bulbs for different places, rooms of the house.


Do I Need a Bridge to Use Philips Hue with Alexa?

Again, Yes and No. The bridge is the most optimal way to connect your Hue light bulbs with Alexa and will ensure smooth running.

However, there are two other ways you can connect:

  • If you have an Echo Plus or Echo Show, these have a built in Zigbee hub which you could connect directly to, although this is known to be unreliable for the reasons shared above. This does, however, give you some additional offline capability.
  • If you have the new Bluetooth-compatible version of the bulbs, you can connect to Bluetooth-compatible Echo devices including the 3rd gen Echo dot. More on this below.

How to Connect Phillips Hue BT to Alexa without a Bridge

Add Hue skill on the Amazon echo app to configure all the lights from the App itself.

1. Ensure you have the Bluetooth-compatible version of Hue bulbs by locating the Bluetooth logo on the bulb or box.

2. Turn on the Philips Hue Lights.

3. Connect, and turn on the bulbs.

4. Download the Phillips Hue BT app and use it to update the firmware of the bulb.

5. Open the Amazon Alexa App on your smartphone.

6. Head to the devices tab and tap the “+” icon in the top right hand corner.

7. Select “Add Device” and choose Phillips Hue from the popular brands area.

8. When asked if your light is Bluetooth enabled, select “yes”.

9. Follow the on-screen instructions to put your Hue bulbs in to pairing mode and ensure it is near your Echo, select “Discover Devices” in the app.

10. Once Alexa has found your device, select “Set up Device” to set a name.

11. And that’s it, you’re ready to go.

We hope you’ve found this article useful, if you have more questions about using Hue without a bridge, feel free to get in touch!

Featured image credit: Phillips Hue