In my day it was all about distressed-look furniture and recycled storage space, but for the modern, tech-savvy Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen wannabe, interior design is all about connected lighting. Philips Hue is the most recognisable established name in the space, but Osram Lightify, from Osram (a German company with 100 years of lighting product experience under its belt) is well worth a look too, especially if you're working to a tighter budget.
I've been living with an Osram Lightify set up in a few rooms of my house for a few weeks now, and it has impressed. Offering both tunable white and coloured bulbs with a 16 million shade colour range, Osram has a suite of bulbs that include everything from screw-ins to spot lights. Connecting to your home network using a Wi-Fi gateway (an early advantage over Philips Hue's bridge, which requires an Ethernet connection), you're able to control up to 50 bulbs in your house from anywhere you can use the Lightify iOS/Android app.
The app itself is as fully-featured as Philips' own first-party offering, and I'd argue easier to use too. Predefined scenes include "relax", "active" and "plant mode" (perfect for anyone running a questionable indoor garden centre), but you can very simply define your own lighting colours – adding timers, room-grouped bulbs and adjusting brightness – with a few clicks of the app. A photo can be used as a colour reference, or you can manually tune the bulb to any of those millions of colours you require. I'd argue that the bulb-grouping option (the most fiddly part of the Philips Hue set-up) is far more intuitively managed by the Osram app.
The Lightify white bulb will set you back £29.99, while the coloured bulb will cost £39.99, which is £10 cheaper than the Philips Hue alternative. All in, you'd be able to make a fair saving when kitting out your house with the Osram gear as opposed to the Philips sets. However, in terms of developer support, Philips Hue is currently vastly in the lead, with dozens of apps available across Android and iOS to do everything from syncing your lights to the beat of music to even adding ambient effects to Xbox games.
Support for Osram is growing all the time, and Osram is already looking into introducing "party mode" features of its own into its app. But it's worth taking into account the immediate flexibility of Hue if you're on the fence as to which connected lighting set-up to jump in with. You should start seeing Osram bulbs on Tesco shelves by the end of the summer, with strip lighting and garden-friendly options ready by the end of the year. [Osram]