Illustration of HomeKit's Adaptive Lighting feature.
Apple

Adaptive Lighting can automatically adjust the color temperature of your smart lights throughout the day to better match your circadian rhythm and the light outside. Here’s how to set it up with an iPhone or iPad and some HomeKit-enabled lights.

What Is Adaptive Lighting?

The Adaptive Lighting feature was first introduced alongside the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 software updates in September of 2020. With this feature, Apple’s HomeKit smart home software can automatically adjust the color temperature of supported smart home lights throughout the day. You can get warm yellow tones in the morning as the sun rises, cool white lighting at mid-day, and softer yellow hues at night as the sun sets—all automatically.

The Hardware You’ll Need

Adaptive Lighting only works with smart lights that support it. As of February 2021, Philips Hue bulbs support it, as does the Eve Light Strip. Other lights will hopefully add support for it in the future.

You will also need to set up your lights to work with Apple HomeKit if you haven’t already done so. For Hue lights, for example, you can open the Hue app on your iPhone or iPad and select Settings > HomeKit & Siri to set this up. (If you’ve previously set this up and you can currently control your lights with Siri and the Home app, you’ve already set this up.)

Also, you need a device set up to function as a “home hub.” You can set up an Apple TV, HomePod, HomePod mini, or even an iPad as a home hub. The automation actually runs on this device—it constantly communicates with your lights and changes their color temperatures. Here’s how to set up a home hub, courtesy of Apple.

RELATED: 16 Apple HomePod Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

How to Set up Adaptive Lighting

If you have the required hardware and you’ve set up a home hub, this option should be easy to find. Just launch the “Home” app on your iPhone or iPad.

You may see a banner saying “Adaptive Lighting Now Available.” If so, tap it to set up your lights.

The Adaptive Lightning Now Available banner in the Home app.

You can also select a specific light and manually enable Adaptive Brightness. Locate your light in the Home app and long-press it to bring up its controls.

Long-press a light tile in the Home app.

When a light supports Adaptive Lighting, you will see a special “Adaptive Lighting” control in the first place in the color presets. Unlike the other color controls, it has a logo of a sun on it.

To turn on Adaptive Lighting for a light, just tap that Adaptive Lighting icon.

Tap the "Adaptive Brightness" circle at the top-left corner of the color grid.

That’s it—the light is now in Adaptive Lighting mode. You can change it to another color whenever you want, but it’ll stay in that color until you put it back in Adaptive Lighting mode by tapping the Adaptive Lighting circle.

How Adaptive Lighting Works With Brightness Controls

Adaptive Lighting will not automatically adjust the brightness of your light—just its color temperature. In fact, when you manually adjust the brightness of your light, Adaptive Brightness will automatically change its color temperature. It’s cooler at higher brightness and warmer at lower brightness.

For example, the coolest temperature will be at 100% brightness at mid-day. If you decrease the brightness, the color temperature will get warmer—even if it’s the middle of the day. If it’s night time and your lights are already a warm hue, dimming them will result in them becoming an even warmer color.

Give it a try and see how it works.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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