Ikea's Tradfri line is a good and inexpensive gateway to Apple's HomeKit system

Cupertino, September 13, 2019
As the global furniture chain expands its HomeKit range, Ikea may well be the means by which Apple will finally integrate its system with the general public - if the devices are sufficiently efficient.

Worldwide, Ikea is more present than in the United States: there are 50 stores in the United States and 374 others everywhere. Ikea does not just sell the products, it manufactures them itself and an increasing number of them are compatible with HomeKit.

HomeKit is not flawless, but it's so good that the chances are that if you try it, you're going to get addicted. You have to know it to try, however, and so far, not only has HomeKit been overtaken by advertising generated by alternatives such as Amazon's own lineup it was also expensive.

That is why the adoption of Ikea HomeKit could be extremely beneficial for Apple. Not only is it currently stocking a range of HomeKit appliances, but most of them, even if they are not all, are cheaper than ever. The combination of these two factors will mean both that a greater number of people are simply informed about HomeKit and that more people can afford it.

The upcoming Smart Shades from Ikea

The upcoming Smart Shades from Ikea

In some cases, the Ikea HomeKit range is not just cheaper, it can be much cheaper for a system that includes smart light bulbs and outlets that will change your buying decision. HomeKit ceases to be a serious investment and becomes one thing that you can try first.

Only, that makes Ikea crucial. If the first experience of HomeKit by people is mediocre, they will not come back.

Living with Ikea Tradfri

Ikea's Tradfri range includes various HomeKit bulbs and this is really the goal of the company. Even though it also has HomeKit motion detectors and power outlets, these products are all stored in the lighting department next to the bulbs.

He also had to have a blind blind, called Smart Shades, but this was delayed. In the meantime, we have tested Tradfri's main components, bulbs and outlets.

The short version is that they are not cheap HomeKit products in the sense that they are imitation or poorly made. These are inexpensive but strong devices. We were sent a light bulb and what is called a gateway, the Ikea equivalent of the bridges of other systems, but we bought the outlets and we will buy some others .

IKEA HomeKit $ 10

The $ 10 Ikea HomeKit point of sale is a bargain

The first thing that strikes Tradfri of Ikea is his philosophy. Seriously, Ikea has a different way of thinking about HomeKit than other suppliers. In the end, it offers an app and you can control it via Apple Home, but that's not the first thought of Ikea.

Phillips, for example, seems to expect you to become an iOS user who wants to control your Hue devices through an app, which is pretty standard for a HomeKit manufacturer. However, Ikea expects you to control your bulbs mainly via a physical switch.

When you buy most Tradfri bulbs, you get one of the different types of physical switches, which Ikea also calls the directional appliances. Although there are different kinds, each is both an installation device and a remote control. You associate one with a light bulb and then associate it with a gateway. But then you use them as a physical dial to darken or turn on and off a light bulb.

You can see how this adapts to society as a furniture and home store, and you can see how it could fit into its current audience. You go to Ikea to buy physical objects such as tables and lamps, so here again exactly that. It even includes a wall bracket for this steering device to appear as a conventional dimmer.

The first installation is rough

This philosophy of putting a physical device in the foreground means, however, that sometimes the HomeKit side seems to be an afterthought.

Apple's Home app recognizes HomeKit devices through the serial number printed on them or their packaging, but no Ikea Tradfri device has it. Instead, the Ikea app shows you a HomeKit code that you can use, but only after going through a long setup sequence with the steering gear.

It will sound like a joke on Ivaea's famous assembly instructions, but that's true. These Tradfri appliances come with instructions written in the same simplistic way as those concerning furniture. They are also identical in that you can understand them completely - afterwards.

Some examples of the many errors and quirks we had during the installation

Some examples of the many errors and quirks we had during the installation

It took a lot, a lot, a lot of exasperation to install our first light bulb. That's largely our fault, because we had a hard time forgetting what Phillips Hue is doing and we rather understood the idea of ​​coupling the Ikea steering device to the bridge, the bulb to this unit of direction, and the gateway to HomeKit.

Your mileage may vary, and we'll tell you now that the second time we had a lot better. That's because we learned some things that the instructions did not tell us, starting with the fact that every step of the process is much slower than expected.

This involves holding the steering wheel near the bulb or the walkway and waiting, but it is so slow that you will assume that you have done wrong and that you will start again. Stick to that.

In addition, the instructions change depending on what has already been associated with what. So, having repeatedly held the steering device next to the light bulb, we forgot that the instructions had been changed to tell us of it by now beside the catwalk.

Even then, however, we arrived at a stage where Ikea's application said that she had found the light bulb - and no, she had not found it. At another time, when installing this first light bulb, the Ikea application insisted that we had already installed four of them before and that none had been lit in 348 days.

The much happier state of (L-R), the application of Ikea, Apple Home and third-party application Home 3, after the installation

The much happier state of (L-R), the application of Ikea, Apple Home and third-party application Home 3, after the installation

What probably happened was that we managed to couple the steering gear to the light bulb and that before anything else we had to separate it. Like most HomeKit bulbs, you can reset a light bulb by turning it on and off six times in a row. We did this, looking like a lemon in a strobe light, but the installation worked afterwards.

Second installation is good

As we say, the instructions are obvious after reading them once. Thus, when we followed the same process to add our first intelligent point of sale, everything happened as if by magic - failing that.

Each part of this setup has been as quick and easy as you'd expect and we can now turn on our kitchen kettle using it. We can also turn on a desktop heater. It's just that there is only one lamp that we can not control via a Tradfri Ikea plug and absolutely no terrestrial reason why not.

Then, the point of sale is one of the few Tradfri not to have its own management device. That's good, we will never use these things after pairing devices with our app, and we would always have one of the bulb in reserve.

It worked well, it was easy to use to install the plug, except that every time we take it up, a lamp comes on.

Ikea Tradfri in use

We actually appreciated the idea that you could use the steering device as a physical switch or dimmer. It is quite excellent that you can show it to members of your household who are never going to open the Apple Home app to turn on a light.

Only when using the steering device as a dimmer is it too slow. Again, it's slow enough for you to think you did not use it, and you end up rotating the device, then the light quarries everywhere. There is definitely no fine grain control here.

These steering devices are the weak point of Ikea's HomeKit devices, but they will not go away. Not when a physical switch integrates so well into the company's approach to lighting.

Once you are on HomeKit, however, you may end up with a dump of these devices become useless. Fortunately, you will also end up with a series of Tradfri devices that work very well with the Home application.

This is especially true with Tradfri outlets, which only had HomeKit compatibility in April 2019. They are quite small, thin enough, at least compared to other smart outlets, and they are solid.

The output of Ikea is comparatively thin. Here are the UK models of the Eve Energy smart plug (left) and Ikea's (right)

The output of Ikea is comparatively thin. Here are the UK models of the Eve Energy smart plug (left) and Ikea's (right)

In operation, you can hear a click when the plug is on, but it's rather satisfying. We do not get that with rivals such as the more expensive Eve Energy and have to trust Home's app when she tells us that's the case. We had the opportunity on occasion to see a plugged heater that stayed on longer than we thought.

The bulbs are also for the most part very good. Ikea bulbs are larger than those of Phillips Hue. We found that they came out too much of a lamp and were too big for a ceiling shade.

We had hoped that Ikea 's bulbs would be brighter because that' s our main criticism with regard to Hue 's. And they are officially brighter, with a hue we tried 806 lumens and a white Ikea of ​​1,000 lumens. But in use, there was no obvious difference.

You can buy Tradfri bulbs of color, but oddly enough, they are actually much lower at 600 lumens.

The Ikea bulbs (right) are larger than those of Phillips Hue (left). Note the old bayonet cap at the bottom of the hue. Phillips sells both bayonet and screw bulbs. Ikea only makes screws, but sells adapters.

The Ikea bulbs (right) are larger than those of Phillips Hue (left). Note the old bayonet cap at the bottom of the hue. Phillips sells both bayonet and screw bulbs. Ikea only makes screws, but sells adapters.

We expected Ikea bulbs to be slower to light than Hue's, but without going out of the clock, that did not seem to be the case. They are remarkably slow and irritating when you control them with the physical driving device, but not when using the Home application.

Father's egg

Our only criticism of Ikea's Tradfri range is the difficulty with which we found it difficult to manage this installation and configuration with a seemingly useless steering device. If you meant it was our fault, go ahead, we would not disagree at all.

We really did find that the first problem was confusing and that our confusion had undoubtedly aggravated it, so that it was necessary to unnecessarily end the mismatching and reassociation.

However, every time we tried to configure an Ikea Tradfri device from the first, it went perfectly smoothly.

So, if the system is bulky compared to Phillips Hue lamps, it works fine in the end and we hope that few people will have our problems. We would always like to understand why this lonely lamp does not light up, mind.

However, with this singularity, we now have a group of Ikea smart devices which we are very happy about. This is essential because, again, it is not enough to make cheap HomeKit devices, they must be good, and they are.

Then the idea that Ikea makes all these cheaper solutions at all levels is not quite true, but it is pretty close. A single Ikea bulb costs about the same amount as $ 15, for example, a white Phillips Hue bulb only. The Phillips Bridge is, however, much more than the Ikea Bridge.

And smart points of sale are a good deal. Ten dollars (from Ikea directly, currently more than Amazon) for an outlet is incredible when the majority of rivals cost $ 40, $ 50 or more.

When outlets were so expensive, buying one was not an occasional purchase. Now, it's so cheaper than you can try it, you can get into HomeKit a lot easier.

A UK store Ikea is promoting its intelligent lighting system.

A UK store Ikea is promoting its intelligent lighting system.

And people will buy that because they'll find them. It is surprisingly difficult to search for "HomeKit" on Ikea.com. You can do it and you will get some results, but only a fraction of what is available. However, it's much easier than on Amazon, where HomeKit's search first gives you a torrent of non-HomeKit devices that, by chance, work with Amazon's competing system.

In store, the Tradfri range is abundant and perhaps the most important of all Ikea lighting. Indeed, while the range is sold in the same indistinguishable white boxes as the many other lighting options, in the store we visited, the Tradfri range has been promoted with a video touting smart devices in general.

We would like these white boxes to be clearer. For example, you can hold two boxes in the store at very different prices and guess that it is a colored light bulb instead of a white light bulb, for example.

However, what we really want is more, please. For example, we would love to see a Ikea Tradfri strip and look forward to the Tradfri blind blind that is due out later this year.

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