Hey, C by GE, if the light bulbs are smart does that make us stupid?

GE has a line of smart home products including light bulbs. “From enjoying the perfect mood lighting with the push of a button to complete hands-free control, C by GE makes your life simpler and smarter.”

You could buy a pair of the bulbs for $24.95 and turn out the lights with Amazon Alexa — provided you also get a $50 “C-Reach” dongle thingie.

Or, you could buy a $2 light bulb and a $12 dimmer switch. And you would need to code in Python to use it.

If anything is smart, sometimes it’s going to have a problem. So you have to reset it. Luckily, GE has created this friendly and informative video on how to do that. Go ahead, watch it.

If you think that’s fun, imagine if the bulb was inaccessible in a ceiling fixture and would only turn on and off with a smart switch?

This gives new depth to the common advice “You can fix it by turning it off and turning it on again.”

This is more than a ludicrously bad interface fail. It is brand destruction. Here’s what Google shows on a search for “C by GE” right now:

The top three results are video stories making fun of the product. The third organic result is similar.

The humor here is its own reward, but I can’t resist making a few other observations:

  • If you’re making an expensive product that solves a “problem” that’s not really a problem — like turning light bulbs on and off — think twice. (For more on this, check out the Kohler flagship smart toilet.)
  • Everything with electronics in it should have a factory reset button. Really.
  • If you’ve made a stupid product, avoid stupid explanations clarifying how stupid it is.
  • If you’ve made a stupid explanation, clarifying it further with video is just asking for trouble.

People are stupid sometimes. But they’re smarter than this bulb.

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  1. I read your article for 8 seconds, then stopped for 5 seconds, then read more for 8 seconds…

  2. I have a few smart bulbs from a competitor of GE – they’re in a ceiling, exactly as you describe. Thankfully, their factory reset procedure is simple – cycle the power off and on as fast as you want 10 times. It’ll blink and reset. No fancy timing, no accidental reset from kids playing with the switch a few times. They’re handy, especially for “I’m home” routines where I might have my hands full but want the lights to come on. Past that, they’re “forgettable simple.”