General Electric, a company that knows a thing or two about light bulbs, has now officially joined Philips, LG, Belkin, and a bevy of crowdfunded startups on the smart LED playing field with the release of a connected bulb that emphasizes affordability over flashy bells and whistles.

Dubbed by GE as the “first commercially viable connected bulb,” the Link LED is actually three separate bulbs: a 60-watt replacement bulb (2700K) for table and floor lamps that boasts a sub-$15 price point and standard A19 shape; a 65-watt equivalent indoor floodlight that also has a soft white color temperature of 2700K but sells for a few bucks more; and an indoor/outdoor PAR38 spotlight (3000K) with a price tag of $25. By comparison, a single 60-watt equivalent bulb from the Philips Hue line of smart LEDs will currently set consumers back $60.

And given that every connected light bulb needs a platform in which to actually connect with, the Link LED communicates with the Wink mobile app, a smart home platform for Android and iOS that’s also compatible with a growing family of GE-branded smart appliances including the Aros Smart Air Conditioner. To be clear, the Link LED bulb, unlike the Aros, was not launched as part of GE’s partnership with the great community-based invention website Quirky although, as mentioned, they're both Wink-enabled.

Using Quirky's Wink app, users can harness their smartphones or tablets to remotely control the WiFi-connected Link LED from wherever they may be, be it lounging in the living room, commuting home from work on the train, or vacationing on some far-flung beach resort in the West Indies. Basics features include the ability to turn the bulbs on and off while away, adjust the bulbs’ brightness levels, and set up reoccurring lighting schedules. Differing from other smart LED offerings including the Philips Hue and LIFX, the Link is a practical, basic, single-color affair. And while extremely useful, the app doesn't flaunt features that haven't been seen before. These factors help to explain the refreshingly low(er) price tag.

But on that note, you're not just investing in a single light bulb. A compulsory, ZigBee-compatible Link Hub that connects the bulbs with the Internet is sold separately for $30. Additionally, a Wink Hub that enables users to network not just Link LED bulbs but all Wink-compatible products (60 in total, including smart home offerings from brands outside of GE and Quirky like Honeywell and, yes, Philips) will be released in July through retail partner Home Depot with a $79 price tag. A starter pack that includes the Link Gateway Hub along with two Link A19 bulbs will also available for $50 — this strikes me as a pretty good deal.

Says John Strainic, GE's General Manager of North America Consumer Lighting, in a press statement: “Our very own Thomas Edison built the first commercially viable bulb, and today we’re proud to announce the first commercially viable connected bulb designed for Wink users. We know the quality of light consumers love and want in their homes, and we’re a brand they trust.”

In terms of performance and energy savings, the Link LED is competitive with other consumer LED bulbs, smart or not. The bulbs consume 80 percent less power than traditional incandescent bulbs and boast a healthy lifespan of 22.8 years. At 800 lumens (a decent but not game-changing 67 lumens per watt), the A19 bulb, sure to be the most popular of the bunch, has an estimated yearly operating cost of $1.45

The bulbs, expected to be released early this fall, are available for pre-order now at The Home Depot.

Any thoughts? Would you be more likely to try out a smartphone-controlled light bulb if it cost less than $20? Does the fact that the bulbs are from GE, a company co-founded by Thomas Edison in 1892, up the appeal?

Via [GE Reports]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

GE joins smart LED race with 'commercially viable' Link bulb
Although not the flashiest thing on the block, GE unveils a WiFi-connected LED bulb with a more agreeable price point than its peers.