Senic Friends of Hue Outdoor Smart Switch Review: A Troubleshooter

Cupertino, January 30, 2021

Installing any type of light switch in which there are no cables already is difficult to do on your own and expensive if you pay an electrician to do the job. If you want to control the Philips Hue smart lighting, you might find the Senic's Friends of Hue smart outdoor switch for $ 79, but you can install it yourself in less time than it takes to get a screwdriver.

The secret behind easy installation is that Friends of Hue Outdoor does not connect to your home's electrical wiring - it doesn't even rely on batteries. Instead, the switch harvests the kinetic energy generated by pressing one of the four buttons on the switch (one at the top and one at the bottom of each blade). This generates enough power to send a radio signal to a second-generation Philips Hue Bridge, using Bridge's Zigbee network. If you don't already have a Bridge or if you have a first-generation model, you'll need to buy one (they cost about $ 55 on Amazon). The bridge itself requires AC power and must be connected to the router.

Michael Brown / IDG

The Friends of Hue outdoor switch looks like a conventional two-button toggle switch, but is slightly smaller than conventional US switches

If you’re in the Apple HomeKit ecosystem, it will also control any HomeKit-compatible smart home device: smart speakers, thermostats, garage door controllers, motorized window shades, and more. You will still need the Hue Bridge to enter the HomeKit, even if you do not use other Philips Hue lighting products. You'll also need an iPhone or iPad and a HomeKit hub (an Apple HomePod smart speaker, a third-generation or later Apple TV, or an iPad that won't leave your home. You can learn more about HomeKit in this story).

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart switches and drives, where you’ll find reviews of competing offers, plus a buyer’s guide with features you should consider when shopping for this type of switch. product.

Friends of Hue Outdoor Smart Switch is very similar to the previous Senic product, Nuimo Click that we analyzed in 2019 and works on the same energy harvesting technology Senic licenses from EnOcean. The big difference is that this new product does not require Nuimo Hub to connect to your network, but is based on Hue Bridge.

Easy installation

The outdoor smart switch can be mounted on a wall with screws or double-sided adhesive pads provided. When mounted, it takes up less space than two conventional toggle switches in a two-way electrical box. Alternatively, you can carry it with you and use it as a remote control. It is covered with a rubberized sleeve and is weather resistant to a degree of IP44, which means that it is not particularly resistant to dust - it is protected against objects larger than 1 mm (0.04 inch) - but it is strong enough to the water so that it can be sprayed with a garden hose.

senic spray switch tested Senic

Senic rates its Friends of Hue outdoor switch as IP44, which means it can withstand water spray in any direction.

Once installed and configured as an accessory in the Philips Hue application, you can assign an action to each of the four buttons on the switch. If you use the button to control Philips Hue lights or luminaires, these actions can be applied to individual Hue devices, all Hue devices in a particular room (you are limited to selecting three rooms), or each Hue device in your home. Your action options are to switch the lights to their last state, turn them off, or choose one of the Philips Hue light scenes or recipes. You can also define what happens when you hold down the button, but your choices are more limited here. You can increase the brightness, reduce the brightness, turn off the lights or ask the action to do nothing.

The Senic switch would be most useful in areas where you want to remotely control smart lights without having to install new cables. You can install one on the porch to turn on your porch light, landscape lighting and lights inside the house.

That being said, an alternative that would serve the same purpose would be to install a motion detector connected to these lights. However, something like the Philips Hue outdoor motion sensor would be less environmentally conscious because it depends on the battery power. A third alternative would be to drag the phone app and use the Philips Hue app, but the first two solutions are much more convenient and you won't always have your phone in your pocket.

senic cu sonos Senic

The Friends of Hue outdoor switch can also be operated as a remote control, in the hand or on the table.

Using Philips Hue Vs. HomeKit

programming the senic button Michael Brown / IDG

Each of the Senic buttons can be programmed to trigger a single Philips Hue light or a group of them. You can choose a certain color or a Hue lighting scene.

To test the switch, we first set it up to control five Hue bulbs installed in a device that hangs above the pool table. I created a room called the "Pool Table" in the Hue app and assigned all five light bulbs to that "room" (even if it's actually a piece of furniture), so I could control them all at once. I programmed the top button to turn on those five light bulbs on the Concentrate stage (a very cool white) and to light the bulbs when I hold down the button.

Note that you cannot hold down a button and increase its brightness from the off state - you must press the button to turn on the lights and then hold down another button that you have programmed to dim. You canhowever, program a button to turn on the lights in an already dimmed state, and then illuminate them by holding down the button. We programmed the bottom button to turn off all five bulbs when pressed and to reduce their brightness when the button is held down.

Interestingly, the Senic switch is less sophisticated when it comes to Philips Hue light control if you set it up via the Apple Home app. You can turn on the bulbs for defined scenes and values ​​and turn them off with a second button, but you cannot program the switch to dim or turn on the lights when you hold down the buttons.

On the other hand, using the Home app allows you to control any HomeKit compatible smart device beyond Philips Hue products. You can also shoot scenes that you create in the Apple Home app. Scenes can use various HomeKit compatible smart home devices, so you can create a mood with lighting, music, windows, ceiling fans and anything else you can imagine. I created a scene called "Let's Rock" that started a Sonos playlist in two rooms, dimmed the lights to an ice blue, closed the motorized shadows of the window, and triggered the fan to cool the room. All this happened at the touch of a button.

senic volume adjustment Michael Brown / IDG

The switch can also control HomeKit compatible smart speakers, but the volume adjustments are limited to fixed levels.

While you can program the buttons to perform a number of other actions, you will quickly run out of buttons because you will want to reverse each action. I created a second scene called "It was fun" that interrupted the music, turned the lights to a warm white, turned on the shadows and turned off the fan and assigned it to a second button. HomeKit would also allow me to tell Siri on an iPhone, iPad, or HomePod speaker to launch those scenes with a voice command: “Hey, Siri. Let's rock ”and“ Hey, Siri. It was fun".

But if you just want to listen to music, you will need one third button to turn it on and a fourth button to turn it off. And, although you can program a button to change the volume, it only sets the volume to a fixed level. As with the lights in the HomeKit environment, you cannot hold down one of the switch buttons to reduce the volume and raise the volume.

I suspect this is a limitation with HomeKit, as the Philips Hue application recognizes when you hold down the buttons and you can perform gradual actions, such as dimming or brightening.

Bottom line

This is an extremely smart smart home gadget for anyone who has smart Philips Hue lighting at home. Being in the Apple HomeKit ecosystem opens up a number of other use cases, but strangely it takes away the ability of the switch to dim and illuminate the Philips Hue lights. It is also unfortunate that the switch cannot adjust the volume of a smart speaker it controls, the buttons can only be programmed to trigger the set levels.

That being said, you get a strong degree of smart home control for $ 79 and I suspect that anyone who buys one will look to purchase more of them soon.

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