I’ve used Philips Hue smart lights for close to a decade. The company’s colorful bulbs, dimmer switches, and motion sensors have been among the most reliable, responsive smart devices in my home. Hue’s stuff is expensive, but due to its bridge and Zigbee mesh network, the lights, remotes, and sensors don’t have to rely on congested Wi-Fi channels to communicate. Hue also works with every platform. I’ve had Hue lights working with Amazon Alexa, Apple Home, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, and more, often simultaneously, and it’s been rock solid.
Then I migrated my Hue Bridge to Matter.
Now, my lights are slow to respond to voice commands. They frequently disconnect from my smart home platforms. I can’t add any new bulbs to Apple Home. I’ve had to delete and re-add every single bulb and sensor six times while troubleshooting these issues. And I can’t get them to work on two platforms at the same time, let alone three or four.
In other words, I’m having the same problems with Hue that I’ve had with every Matter device. Hue approached Matter about as well as it possibly could have, outside of avoiding it: it committed early but moved cautiously. It didn’t make big structural changes, like getting rid of its bridge or abandoning Zigbee for Thread — a wise move in retrospect, given the current issues with Thread. It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that the problem with Hue’s current implementation of Matter is that it implemented Matter.
Right now, outside of a couple of specific scenarios, you aren’t going to see any benefit from upgrading your Hue system to Matter. Based on my experiences, it will probably make everything worse.
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This question has puzzled me. Unlike the other local, reliable smart lighting system in my home, Lutron Caseta smart switches, Philips Hue has been a vocal champion of the Matter standard since day one. The new chair of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, the organization behind Matter, is from Hue. Matter is now the default setup option when you connect your Hue Bridge to Apple Home through the Hue app and will soon be the default for the other platforms, too.
But Hue was already reliable and easy to use. It already works locally, and it’s compatible with every platform. Assuming Matter works as intended, what does Matter do for Hue?
Hue says, “Since Matter simplifies the way smart home products communicate, you may experience improved performance with some cloud-based integrations that become compatible with Matter.”
For platforms like Google Home and Alexa that connect to Hue via cloud integrations today, upgrading your Hue system to Matter lets those platforms control your Hue system locally, which (in theory, but not in my experience) makes your Hue system feel more responsive to voice commands and automations from those platforms. (Apple Home’s HomeKit integration with Hue is already local.) And, as other smart home devices support Matter, they become compatible with more platforms and those integrations can become local, too.
In other words, most of the perceived benefits of Matter on Hue will come from other devices getting Matter. And you’ll see those benefits — when they materialize — regardless of whether your Hue system is connected through Matter or through its existing integrations.
However, there are one or two reasons you might benefit from upgrading to Matter. For everyone else, my advice is to hold out. If you’re determined, however, then check out my blog on how to set up your Hue Bridge with Matter.
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The Hue Bridge is limited to around 50 devices. While it sounds like a lot, if you use motion sensors, remotes, and smart bulbs in a few rooms, and maybe some outdoor lights — not to mention the new contact sensors and cameras — it is easy to top out.
Previously, only Apple HomeKit allowed for multiple bridges; if you used other platforms, you were limited to the maximum amount allowed on one bridge. With Matter, you can connect multiple bridges to platforms such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
The Hue Bridge lets you connect some third-party Zigbee bulbs, including Osram, Cree, Innr, and Ikea’s Tradfri bulbs. These bulbs are much less expensive than Hue’s and can be handy for rounding out your lighting. No one wants to spend $20 for a bulb in your broom closet, but you might want one that turns on when you open the door and off when you close it.
With Matter, those third-party bulbs are now exposed to the platforms you pair to, including Apple Home. However, with Matter, you now have more options for cheaper third-party bulbs that will work with every platform, so this benefit really only applies to existing setups.
Apple’s Adaptive Lighting isn’t supported in Matter, so when you upgrade, you lose that function. Hue has its own “natural lighting” feature that has a similar function of adapting the light based on the time of day. But that will only work with Hue bulbs; Apple’s version also works with a selection of (non-Matter) lights from Nanoleaf and Eve.
If you want to keep Apple’s Adaptive Lighting feature and have your Hue bulbs in Matter, it is possible to run the bridge in HomeKit and in Matter simultaneously. However, you’ll have duplicates of every light in your Apple Home app, which you can’t remove. This might still be worth doing if you want to use Apple Home as your foundation for Matter and pair devices to other Matter platforms from it, which will keep your connections all local.
There are still some bugs in the Hue / Amazon Alexa Matter integration, especially if you have a big setup. Personally, I was excited about upgrading my Alexa / Hue connection to Matter, as I thought it might improve the speed and reliability of voice control in scenes that contained multiple lighting brands.
However, I ended up with duplicates of every Hue device, despite having thought I’d disconnected the Alexa cloud integration. (Pro tip: log in to your Hue account on the web, navigate to your bridge, and remove all the legacy cloud connections you find there before upgrading to Matter.)
I removed the bridge and bulbs from Alexa and started with a clean install of Matter on Alexa, but within a few hours, all the devices disconnected and then started repeatedly reconnecting as new devices. My notifications on my iPhone were out of control (see video), especially as each Hue motion sensor showed up as four separate entries (the sensor itself and three separate sensors with default names for temperature, light level, and motion). The only way I could stop it was by removing the Hue Matter integration from Alexa.
After trying this process several times, I eventually gave up and reconnected the bridge through the cloud using the Alexa skill, where it’s been working fine ever since.
Here’s where I think something is broken with Matter’s Multi-Admin feature, where your devices can connect to multiple platforms at once. One of my goals in testing Hue’s Matter integration was to get it working on Apple Home, Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings simultaneously. You know, the way it used to.
After three months of trying, I could only get the Hue bridge into two platforms at any one time — and only for a few hours before it would disconnect from one or show as unresponsive in the other. I never got it into three platforms at once and gave up on trying a fourth or fifth for my sanity. (Five is the maximum number of platforms Matter will allow you to connect to.)
I spoke with the companies from some of the platforms, as well as Philips Hue, to troubleshoot the issues. None of them could give me a clear answer for why it was happening. But as the problems almost exclusively occurred when I added a second platform into the mix, Matter’s Multi-Admin seems to be a prime culprit.
Case in point? I had everything set up and working fine in Apple Home through Matter. I added the bridge and bulbs to Amazon Alexa using a Matter pairing code from Apple Home. Within hours, the Hue Bridge showed as unresponsive in Apple Home and only started responding again when I removed the bridge from Alexa. A similar issue occurred with Google Home, but instead of being unresponsive in Apple Home, this time the lights didn’t work in Google Home. The whole time, they worked fine in the Hue app.
As is often the case regarding any smart home issues I have, the companies want to blame my setup. Granted, I have a large Hue system in a complicated smart home with multiple bridges, mesh routers, smart speakers, and connected devices. But others have had similarly poor experiences with Hue and Matter, so I don’t think my problems are entirely attributable to local issues.
However, I can see how issues like this may affect legacy setups more than new ones. It’s hard to pin down a broken link in a large smart home setup. So, to test this, I tried setting up a brand-new Hue Bridge with just two bulbs and a motion sensor connected to it. That system paired with Apple Home through Matter and then to Alexa through Matter with no issues and stayed connected and responsive. Yay.
Then, I tried to add them to Google Home. At first, the bulbs showed up, both named Bulb. Two days later, the correct names appeared, but at no point have they been online or controllable through Google Home.
Hue already had its own version of Matter’s Multi-Admin working very well through the cloud and other avenues. If you want to use Siri on your iPhone or Apple Watch to control your lights and have the option of barking at an Amazon or Google smart speaker to shut them off or use a third-party motion sensor to turn your Hue bulbs and your Lutron smart switches on at the same time, stick with the way it all works today.
It may be a while until Matter reaches the point where its promises of speed, reliability, and interoperability exceed those Hue already offers.