Honestly, there are already about 20 different threads discussing this topic, so I would just join in one of the existing active discussions.
Smart bulbs are good, smart switches are good, they have different pros and cons and many people will use some of both in their homes depending on the exact use cases.
The shortest answer to your question is that:
A) smart bulbs allow for color changes (including cool white to warm white), can be used to create lighting zones in areas which have only one switch, and don’t require any wiring.
B) Smart switches are intuitive for guests and young children, won’t come on to full power after power interruption, can be used to control anything that SmartThings controls including Mode changes and the equivalent of scene triggers, and mains powered switches will act as reliable repeaters for other devices of the same protocol. (Smart bulbs will reliably repeat for other smart bulbs, but may not be reliable Repeaters for sensors.)
As far as cost, it depends on the specific situation. If a single bulb is all you need, the bulb will probably be less expensive. If the lighting zone requires three or more bulbs, such as is typical for kitchens and basements, then a Smart switch will usually be less expensive.
Anyway, please feel free to join in any of the existing conversations, there are many of them.
As everything starts having local intelligence I see the wall switches going away in favor of remote device control. Cutting power to an intelligent device defeats half of its benefit as it is useless until you power it back up. Just think of the TV… once upon a time you have to go push the big power button on your TV to physically turn it on/off (cutting power to it)… now you can still do that but it is actually NOT turning it off… The TV is technically always ON and the remote enables the screen, receiver, etc when turning it “on”. Same goes with our HUE/LIFX bulbs… when OFF they are technically ON but just not emitting light.
Houses currently have hardwired switches and most of us in the USA at least (in Italy our houses are built with a switch for the main light at each entry/exit point of that room) likely have cases in our homes where we would like to have an extra switch to control a light without needing to walk across the room to the only switch for that light. Adopting remote control, over hard wired switches, makes it super easy to eliminate these annoyances and reconfigure our homes as needed.
Touch screens, or wall mounted remotes for all controllable devices would be a great solution however at this point in time there is no overarching standard so each room/house might end up with a horrible mixture of remotes to the point that one would have to learn how to turn on the #$%! light each time you enter a new room/house.
The ideal solution would be for standard switches, dimmers, color control paddles, etc to be designed to talk to a hub and then programmatically tell the hub what each control device needs to do in the house. In other words there is no wire connection between the controlling device and the device itself. Both the controlling device and the device will just need power and a hub will connect the dots between the two. This is what happens in cars too… once upon a time your door switch to roll your window up and donw actually powered the motor that moved the window. Now the switch talks to the ECU (central processing unit) via a bus such as CAN / ODBII and the ECU then controls the motor by telling it what to do via the same bus.
In other words… no new ideas… we just need the industry to implement the same concepts into our homes.
This is a bit like asking why you’d buy a luxury sedan vs a compact economy car. Both are motor vehicles intended to get you from point A to point B, but there are uses for which the latter is better suited than is the former, and vice-versa…so the question is meaningless unless you’re addressing someone’s individual wants and/or needs.
For multi-bulb fixtures controlled by wall switches with suitable wiring available a smart switch is generally going to be a better solution for most (but not all) people. They’re also a good solution for many/most single-bulb switch-controlled applications, though the cost difference becomes a more important factor that gives bulbs some extra points in the assessment.
For things like single-bulb table/floor lamps that aren’t controlled by wall switches I think smart bulbs are usually clear winners. But if you have a lamp that takes multiple bulbs then a smart plug might make a lot more sense.
But if you want colored lights then switches aren’t going to do anything for you, and you need smart bulbs.
In short, “bulbs vs switches” is meaningful only in the context of specific applications, not a general “which is better” question.
I also have a combination of both smart switches and smart bulbs. You can find use on both. Smart Bulbs are not available in all base/bulb sizes yet, so some light fixtures may need still require switches. There is preference of brand with outdoor/indoor compatibility. Think about this, if you have a chandelier with 10 candelabra bulbs, would you go smart bulbs or switches? Probably switches, so there are uses for both. I think it’s a personal choice to find a balance of both
Smart bulbs with some kind of battery operated switch is much easier to market to the general consumer, when you start talking about wiring and using a screw driver some people probably quit reading/researching.
I personally think if it has a switch replace it with a smart switch if you have other scenarios then look at other options.
I have 3 table lamps that use smart bulbs, but I also opted for the Sengled with the push button on the bulb, I also have a floor lamp with 3 bulbs that I use a plug-in module that can be turned on with scenes or a dedicated button from a ZWN-SC7 controller.
The one scenario I can possibly see for installing the cheaper smart bulbs is with one or 2 people in a home and using voice control for lights all the time, in my case of 4 people living in a house we rarely used the alexa to do this, it becomes annoying if others are talking and you have to interrupt to turn off/on a light or people talking to alexa while your watching TV. (It now is in the bedroom to mainly listen to music)
So switches have a greater benefit in terms of reliability and control, but the can cost more and take a greater time to install. So I agree with @DParker the question is really “what do I want to do in this specific case”
Thanks for the replies, it looks like there is space for both solutions in the same installation if the application demands it. Of particular interest is how the system integrates within a multi-user environment.
I use a mixture of both. Depending on if I wanted/needed manual control. For example. Kitchen has 3 fixtures on 3 switches(Main, Sink, Island) I used one smart switch(main light with 3 bulbs) and 2 smart bulbs. The bulbs use an app to follow the switch. And all use a motion so we rarely use the switch unless the net/ST goes down.
The whole RGB lights always seemed gimmicky to me. I guess for a different ambiance it would make sense. Now color temperature changing light bulbs would make a lot more sense. but these are far and few between. Also if its like a lamp, then yeah the light bulb would make more sense. But I have rooms with 6-8 recessed lights, it would be cost prohibitive to replace them all with bulbs instead of a switch. Most of my house has recessed lights actually. I like that with a switch anyone can use it, no HA experience needed. On the other hand I was thinking about some of those lightify color temperature changing ones for my table lamps.
Ambiance is pretty much their intended purpose. So saying that they’re “gimmicky” except for the purpose that they were designed - and are primarily used - for strikes me as a bit like saying that ST is gimmicky…unless you want to automate stuff in your home.
I have only bulbs installed thus far. It has worked out just fine. The colored Hue bulbs and strips of course need no switch, and elsewhere I have the Cree white bulbs that also need no switch.
Alexa has become my switch.
We have lots of people coming through our house all the time. Three housemates, plus our friends and family, plus medical aides. Alexa is our preferred control method, and everybody likes it and uses it. Hearing someone else talk to it is no different than hearing my housemate and his friend down the hall yelling at the TV as they’re gaming.
@bamarayne , for example, has about 12 kids and has Alexa devices in every room used as intercoms, music players, and home automation controllers. I doubt if the Alexas add much to the general decibel level.
So again, different things will work for different people.