Smartplug’s Hue integration is no substitute for Siri [Reviews]

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Zuli smartplug smartplugs
The Zuli smartplug and its app have some cool features, but it can't make your living room blue.
Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

Zuli Smartplug Presence 3-Pack

The Zuli smartplug has been out since September, but starting today, it’s gained some cool new functionality: You can now use its companion app to control Philips Hue smartbulbs.

This joins the device’s existing features like Presence, which turns on lights and adjusts the thermostat as soon as you enter a room, and schedules and tracks power usage of connected devices through the app. But if you have Hue devices and don’t already own Zuli, is its new superpower enough to justify the purchase?

Probably not, honestly. But it has enough going on that you might want to check it out, anyway.

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It’s really easy to get the Zuli companion app talking to your Philips Hue bulbs. All you have to do is tell the app that you own Hue, and then press the giant button on the Philips hub. And it’s great to be able to keep an eye on how much power those bulbs are using. But it can’t do everything.

Zuli can dim your smartbulbs, turn them off, and even schedule them to switch on or off at specific times. But it doesn’t have access to any preset scenes you’ve set up. So if I want to activate my super-useful “Predator” scene, which turns every bulb in my apartment red for those times I need to get up at weird hours without sacrificing my night vision, or the extremely useless “Adventure” scene, which makes one of my living-room lights blue and the other the same shade of yellow as Jake the Dog from Adventure Time, I still need to go into the Hue app. Or if I want to be really quick, I can use Siri.

That’s the main issue with the new integration: Speaking commands into my Apple Watch or iPhone will always be faster than using an app, and I have more control there, regardless.

And that’s not to say that the Zuli smartplug isn’t incredibly useful, anyway, although the Presence feature temporarily turned my life into a Buster Keaton movie.

I can’t really fault the plug, however. It just so happened that if I was sitting on the couch in my living room, I was close enough to the plug in my bedroom to turn on that light. So then I’d tell Siri to switch off the bedroom lamp, and then sometimes the lamp I was sitting next to (which wasn’t part of the scene I was running) would turn on, and then I’d go into the app to switch it off, and then the bedroom light would turn on again.

It was more an issue of my apartment being too small for the geofences you set up than any inherent problems with the function, but it got ludicrous and frustrating after a while, so I just had to turn it off.

If you live in a house like a grownup, you probably have the space to make Presence work. And if you’re looking for a way to add a bit of automation to your home without buying all new appliances, the Zuli smartplug has some of the best features we’ve seen. But if you own Hue bulbs and are looking for a slick way to control them, you’re best off sticking with Siri.

The Zuli Presence Pack is available now for $159.99 at Amazon and directly from the manufacturer. The company provided Cult of Mac with a free set for this review.