Teardown: Bluetooth-enhanced LED bulb

Article By : Brian Dipert

See how this Bluetooth LED light bulb compares to the wireless smart LED bulbs we've already dissected.

LED light bulbs have consistently been among the most popular teardowns I’ve done to date. There was, for example, my initial dissection of a conventional A19, followed by analyses of its “smart” siblings capable of being network-connected via Zigbee and Wi-Fi. So when a great Google-plus-GE bundle deal from Walmart showed up in my email inbox, I couldn’t resist the temptation to complete the wireless smart bulb teardown triumvirate with a Bluetooth candidate.
Specifically, for $79 I got a bundle of the following:

Our home is an Amazon Echo-centric ecosystem, so the Nest Hub will likely end up showcased in a future teardown. I’ve already dissected the Home Mini, so this particular unit will probably end up in someone else’s Christmas present pile. And as for the C-Life LED bulb, it’s today’s victim. Before proceeding, however, a bit of humor (at least to me): around the time of my purchase of it, the bulb achieved no shortage of short-term media notoriety when a manufacturer support video surfaced detailing the complicated power sequence needed to reset it:

Jeepers. And with that, let’s proceed, beginning with some unpacking shots of the Home Mini-plus-bulb portion of the overall bundle with the shrinkwrap removed:
smart light starter kit

smart light starter kit package side

smart light starter kit package back

smart light starter kit hey google

smart light starter kit package bottom

Pop the box open and you’ll see the individual device packaging inside, in both cases complete with prominent “not for individual sale” markings:
smart light starter kit package

Here’s today’s patient:
GE C-life bulb package

GE C-life package sides

Pop this box open and the first thing you’ll see is a miniscule piece of paper with equally tiny instructions on the backside:
GE C-life instructions

Underneath it is the “lucky” bulb. Here are overview shots of both sides:

GE C-life bulb

GE C-life bulb base

Is it just me or is it also going to take you a while to get used to seeing MAC address markings on the sides of light bulbs?

From past experience, I suspected that heat gun application would be fruitless, so I straightaway set to work on the plastic globe with a hacksaw. Turns out, though, that after some initial sawing-induced jarring, the globe twisted right off the base:
GE C-life globe

If you’re feeling a sense of deja vu right now, it’s understandable. The top plate is eerily reminiscent of that of the earlier Wi-Fi smart bulb, complete with an antenna (see the PCB-embedded traces?) sticking out the top. Note, too, the two odd prongs sticking out, one to the left of the labeled test points (which double as the power feed from the main assembly beneath to the LEDs), the other in the upper right corner of the Bluetooth antenna (we’ll circle back to those in a bit).
GE C-life LEDs

Remove two screws and the top plate pops right off.
GE C-life bulb LEDs

No thermal paste bond to the metal sarcophagus underneath this time:

GE C-life bulb top plate

GE C-life bulb enclosure

About that sarcophagus … from past experience, I knew that the only reliable way to get inside was to find the seam:
GE C-life bulb disassembly

A flat head screwdriver-as-chisel, a Black and Decker Workbench, and a few taps from a hammer later, the deed was done (absent, I’m proud to say, any blood loss this time!):
GE C-life plate removed

No insulating black rubber surrounding the main assembly this time, interestingly:
inside GE C-life bulb

GE C-life bulb antenna PCB

The PCB slid right out, actually (note the mounting “brackets” on either side of the interior, intended to hold the PCB in place):

GE C-life bulb PCB bracket

Whereas in past LED light bulb teardowns, the connection between the PCB and the base had comprised two flimsy wires, this time the implementation consisted of a more robust male-female connector pair plus a tension-tethered side terminal:

GE C-life bulb base removed

GE C-life bulb enclosure

GE C-life bulb PCB connector

I’ll wrap up with some more main assembly closeups:

GE C-life bulb PCB components

GE C-life bulb PCB components

GE C-life bulb PCB components
GE C-life bulb PCB back

GE C-life bulb PCB

Revisiting the earlier-mentioned two “odd prongs,” note that they’re not just mechanical in nature; they’re explicitly labeled on the PCB as a third test point and a ground connection, so they serve an electrical function. And note that the “Bluetooth antenna,” as with the earlier Wi-Fi design, is a full wireless module soldered to the primary PCB. My strong suspicion is that this implementation scheme is intended to enable a base design to service both standard LED light bulb implementations and various network-connected “smart” upgrades, the latter by adding an appropriate module during manufacturing.
With that, I’ll turn the microphone over to you, dear readers, for your insights in the comments!

Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Embedded Vision Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company’s online newsletter.

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