Super easy to use • Light gets really bright • Charges wirelessly
No Alexa or Google Assistant integration • Can’t swap out LED if it dies • App is a little slow to refresh data • Pricey
Casper’s first gadget, the Glow, is a cute portable light controlled with gestures, but it doesn’t offer enough features for the price.
The internet has a new gadget obsession, and no it’s not an iPhone for once.
Seemingly everyone is talking about Casper’s Glow lights. It’s on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter — the Glow is plastered all over cyberspace and there’s no escaping it.
But what’s the big deal? Why are people losing their minds over an $89 light from a company whose only track record is selling mattresses in a box? And can the Glow really help you sleep better?
These are all valid questions and we answers.
You control the Glow with gestures
I can see why people think the Glow is cool: The 5-inch tall by 3-inch wide lamp has a clean and minimalist design that’s very Apple and MUJI-esque. If Tim Cook asked Jony Ive to design a bedside table lamp, it would probably resemble the Glow. In the age of Instagram, the Glow is pure home #aesthetic.
Each Glow has two buttons, one on the top and one on the bottom, and comes with a wireless charging base. That’s it.
But you don’t use the buttons to turn the Glow on and off after initial setup. Instead, you flip the lamp to turn it on and then flip it again to turn it off. Once it’s turned on, the Glow automatically dims until it completely shuts off after 45 minutes.
The buttons on the Glow aren’t useless when it’s on, though. Pressing either button pauses and resumes dimming.
Manually adjusting the brightness is also done with a simple gesture: rotate it clockwise to brighten the light and counterclockwise to dim it.
And lastly, if the Glow is off, you can shake it (a light wiggle works) to set it to a very faint amber glow. This is useful if you need to go to the bathroom (or grab a snack in the kitchen…I’m not judging!) in the middle of the night and don’t want to flick on a bright flashlight or use your phone’s flash, which could make it harder to fall back asleep. Some of my friends who are parents also told me this mode would be useful for checking in on a baby at night.
But the question everyone asks is why gestures? Flipping the Glow to turn it on and off is fun at first, but not easier or quicker than pressing a button. Almost immediately after setting up two Glows (one in my bedroom and the other in my living room next to my sofa), I struggled to find the best way to flip it.
Do I grab the Glow and twist my hand upside down? Grab the glow with my hand already twisted upside down and flip it right-side up? Grab it with one hand and perform a smooth spin to rotate it and risk dropping it? (I dropped the Glow trying this one night, but it bounced right off my hardwood undamaged so it’s at least durable.) Or do I use two hands like some kinda of caveman?
With gesture controls, Casper has mastered the art of the The Gimmick.
While I found all of the other gesture controls intuitive, flipping the Glow never felt natural. Several of my colleagues shared the same feeling. Many told me they’d rather press a button or even touch the sides.
Casper could have easily went with a button, but that would have made the Glow ordinary, no different than any other lamp. With gesture controls, Casper has mastered the art of the The Gimmick. If nothing else, the gestures make for good social marketing; it clearly worked on us because we had to find out what the fuss was all about.
Didn’t help me sleep better
Casper says the Glow is designed to help you fall asleep. Besides the automatic dimming, which is supposed to help you gradually doze off, the lamp itself doesn’t emit the kind of blue light that comes from screens such as TVs, only warm sleep-friendly 2700K light temperature.
Research has shown exposure to blue light right before bedtime can cause eye strain and make it more difficult to fall asleep, leading to poorer rest and increased fatigue as a result.
But after a few days of using the Glow right before bedtime, I can’t say that it helped me sleep any better. The 45-minute dimming is neat, but I already have my Philips Hue smart lightbulbs set to automatically turn off 30 minutes after hopping in bed. They don’t dim, but it works more or less the same.
For me, the solution to sleeping better isn’t so much the state of “winding down” but resisting the urge to do things once I’m in bed. That means, no reading (maybe it tires you out, but it doesn’t for me), no using my phone and no watching YouTube videos on my iPad.
The Glow’s warm dimming light won’t stop you from reaching for your phone to scroll through Instagram. Only you can control that by taking steps like making your bedroom a phone-free room.
Of course, a few days might not be enough to form a habit. Science generally says it takes about 90 days to form a habit so it’s entirely possible I might need more time to adapt before the Glow can work its magic on me. It’s also possible the Glow might help you dear reader get better sleep.
But whereas the Glow failed to lull me to sleep every night, it did help with waking me up in the morning. I’m not a morning person and I absolutely hate getting out of bed so it was nice to slowly wake up to a brighter room over the course of 30 minutes in the AM.
Setting up the Glow to gradually brighten up is done through the Casper Glow app. The app can also be used to turn the lights on/off with a tap, adjust the dimming time (in 15-minute increments) from 45 minutes down to 15 minutes and up to 90 minutes, increase and decrease LED brightness, and display battery life and charging time.
I appreciate the app’s simplicity and how it doesn’t overload you with too many features, but it could use some more nuanced controls. For example, being able to set the dimming time in increments other than 15 minutes would be nice.
Costs too much and does too little
Casper’s Glow is a well-designed and fun product, but it doesn’t reinvent the bedside lamp. Sure, the gesture controls are new, but do we really need them? Not really.
My biggest complaint with the Glow isn’t just that it’s expensive at $89 and the flipping gesture gets tiresome fast, but that Casper’s light isn’t much of a “smart” gadget. There’s an accompanying app that works with the Glow and can be used to pair multiple Glows to be controlled together, but it’s pretty barebones and isn’t essential in order to use the light.
It’s baffling the Glow doesn’t come with any integration with voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant or Siri. I would love to be able to tell Alexa to turn the Glow on using voice controls or connect it to an automated nighttime “routine” that works with an Echo or Google Home. Instead, I have to contort my arm to turn it on and off — every single time. It’s like using an hourglass in 2019 — you’re flipping it over to set what’s essentially a lamp timer — and it feels a little backwards.
Ray, you’re missing the point of the Glow. Less is more. And I usually agree with this philosophy, but the Glow costs $89. OK, fine it’s also portable (lasts up to 7 hours on a charge) and it charges wirelessly. But are these features worth nearly $100? Maybe to some people, but to me they aren’t. With its current features, I’d pay no more than $69 for one.
You could easily buy a table lamp from Ikea on the cheap, pop in a smart lightbulb, and connect it to a smartplug for less. It also feels inevitable Amazon will rip the Glow off and combine it with an Echo Dot — “Echo Light” anyone?
Ultimately, the Glow is just a light — with an LED you can’t even swap out if it breaks.