Do you love your alarm clock?
March 31, 2005 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I dislike my alarm clock and I want a new one. I'm tired of sleeping too late because the power went out or I couldn't tell if the alarm was set for AM or PM. I'm tired of jumping out of my bed in the morning because the alarm decided to it's awful impression of "the ocean" instead of beep at me. But mostly, I'm tired of taking 5 minutes to set my alarm an hour earlier. Desired feature list and picky UI concerns inside.

Forgive the laundry list, but I think it'll be more clear than putting all this in paragraph form

Must Have:
* Digital
* Battery backup, or other time-saving (get it?) device
* Separate buttons for setting hours and minutes.
* Separate buttons for both increasing AND decreasing the hrs/mins.
* Clear delineation of AM/PM -- no tiny LEDs stuffed in a corner.
* No fancy sounds. Or, at least fancy sounds that are controlled by a different button/switch than the one that turns the alarm on and off. I don't want any [Off]< ->[Beep]< ->[Ocean] tri-state switches.

Should Have:
* In fact, how about no three state switches at all? On or Off, please. None of this "I have a setting in the middle that you'll never set correctly when you're tired at night" crap.
* Buttons in the front or on the top. I'd like to be able to see what's happening on the face as well as what buttons I'm pushing.
* Generally clear, simple, no-mistakes interface. Why do alarm clock designers feel the need to completely ignore how alarm clocks are used?

Would Be Nice:
* Set multiple alarm times (must have a clear interface, though. No accidentally setting alarm1 when I want alarm2)
* Progressively loudening alarm (for a gentle awakening)
* Time set automatically

Other than the above, I don't care about other features. If it does all that stuff and just happens to be a radio/tape/record/cd player/weather report/automatic car starter, fine, but I've already got other things to do that, and probably better. Just keep in mind that more features means more buttons, more buttons means less usability, and less usability means I don't want it.

I also don't care much about price so long as it doesn't anger me to use.

Has one of you seen the clock of my dreams? Or do I need to learn how to build alarm clocks myself?in paragraph form.
posted by ThePants to Technology (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been thinking about getting this clock from Sony. Seems to have most of what you're looking for. Time setting is on a rocker switch. Not sure if it differentiates between hours and minutes though. Also meets the AM/PM delineation requirement.

I don't have it so I speak as an expert. Seems like it's a good match for you.
posted by bDiddy at 10:48 AM on March 31, 2005

I share your frustrations with alarm design, but it seems like you get everything you need in a bottom of the line travel alarm, except progressive loudening and the separate buttons for increasing/decreasing the hours/minutes.

I've found in general that lowest cost=fewest features=best usability.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:01 AM on March 31, 2005

I went looking for nice alarm clocks awhile back. Instead of the $12 drug store special, a $80 thing that looks good. But not a fancy stereo / cd player / cat washer, just a clock. I couldn't find anything.
posted by Nelson at 11:19 AM on March 31, 2005

I agree with stupidsexyFlanders that you should look at some cheaper alarm clocks and see if you can find one that meets most of your requirements. I'm quite happy with mine, it is a little bit bigger than most travel alarm clocks, but runs off batteries (and I don't remember the last time I needed to change them). It has progressive loudening. It is digital with inch high numbers on it, but isn't lit at night unless you press a large bar on top (I prefer that) and then it has a blue LED light behind it. It has one button for adjusting hours, one for adjusting minutes and a dial to select what you are adjusting (time or alarm). It also has a snooze function. The buttons, dial and snooze/light bar are all on the top of the clock. It is made by Equity Time.. however the model I have isn't on their website (probably too old) and there isn't an exact equivalent.

But I think you should definitely look at the lower end of the market where you'd find something that had the most important features in your want list.
posted by AnnaRat at 11:21 AM on March 31, 2005

(held off posting this earlier, because it didn't meet some of your requirements, but since there are claims that's impossible...)

plug-in timers for mains powered devices often have very simple, direct, mechanical interfaces. i use one connected to a light as an alarm. you might try connecting one to something that makes the noise you want.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:30 AM on March 31, 2005

I got a atomic clock enabled thingy at costco for $50. It is always super accurate, since it gets it's time from a radio signal. So you never have to set the time. It runs for over a year on a pair of AA batteries. The drawback to this particular model is that the button to set your time zone is right on the face, and if you mash that one when you go to bed, you might set the whole thing off by an hour. If that button was hidden on the back, it would be perfect. The alarm is a steadily growing chirp.

This is a $20 version. I can't tell if they moved the time zone button.
posted by bendybendy at 11:30 AM on March 31, 2005

The alarm clock in my Motorola v551 cell phone meets all of your musts and shoulds, and two of your nices. Well, technically it doesn't have separate buttons for hours and minutes, but it's quite clear which you're changing (I share your irritation at the difficulty in distinguishing between the two in most alarm clocks). And I like having the alarm functionality included in something I have with me anyway.
posted by bac at 11:32 AM on March 31, 2005

Also chiming in to say my cellphone (an old Nokia 8290) does everything on your list save for multiple alarms. I do use it as an alarm and the progressive alarm is the best thing for me in the morning.
posted by Sangre Azul at 11:44 AM on March 31, 2005

I use my phone as well. When I know it's going to be a rough morning I shove it under my pillow and it vibrates my brain awake. Setting what days I want the alarm to go off is great for me. I hate a saturday morning alarm.
posted by mike_bling at 11:47 AM on March 31, 2005

Buy a used Palm V, with cradle, for about $50. Set it to stay on when in cradle. Put BigClock, or some similar alarm clock app, on there, and run it (and only it).
posted by profwhat at 12:05 PM on March 31, 2005

There was a long thread about this subject the other day on Engadget. non fugly alarm clocks It was focused mainly on aesthetics, but function gets plenty of attention as well.
posted by FearTormento at 12:15 PM on March 31, 2005

I've just started testing a SleepTracker, which is not a traditional alarm clock, but does seem to satisfy your stated needs.

Basically, it's a wristwatch that monitors your sleep patterns, and you give it a window (10-30 minutes) during which you want it to wake you up. If you hit an "almost awake" moment during the window, the alarm goes off, otherwise, it goes off at the time you set.

It's pretty easy to set. It is not cheap, but it if actually lives up to its promise, I'll consider it a bargain.

It only came yesterday, so I don't have much to report yet. This morning, I woke up about 20 minutes before the window started, but I was, in fact, very refreshed. I can't tell if this has anything to do with the device, or is just one of the effects of changing to a new alarm. It also logs your "almost awake" moments during the night, which I find to be very interesting data (I only wish there was a way to export and keep it).

If you're interested, a full review will be on my products blog in about a week.
posted by Caviar at 12:24 PM on March 31, 2005

I have no idea whether it meets all your specifications since I have not seen one in person - however it has one key feature that sells it to me. Ikea's "Slabang" Alarm Clock enables you to record your own alarm sound, such as a positive statement about how to start your day...
posted by fairmettle at 12:41 PM on March 31, 2005

Most cassette decks have a timer switch that enables you to start playback or recording when power hits the unit -- pick up one on ebay, hook it up to an outlet timer, and you can record your own wakeup tape that plays back when the timer flips the deck on.

Oh, also, you'll need an amp to hook up the cassette deck to, and speakers to hook up to the amp...

Suddenly this answer is sounding very 1975.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:59 PM on March 31, 2005

Do you have a computer nearby? Anytime you have a list of features and customizations you would like a software solution will always work better than trying to find hardware that exactly fits your needs. My computer is on the other side of the house but it connects to my stereo, there's tons of alarm software out there that can play any mp3 or sound file as the alarm... customize it to your hearts content.
posted by Cosine at 2:32 PM on March 31, 2005

I do love my alarm clock. It does not precisely meet your requirements, but I lurve that the time adjusts forwards and backwards with a KNOB. Only thing possibly better would be direct digital input of a time. The alarm status is tri-state: off, radio, buzzer and it's crystal clear which is which. Downside is the display is oddly small - I've got terrible vision without my glasses but I can still read it - but it could be easier. Sound is very big and mellow.
posted by cairnish at 4:10 PM on March 31, 2005

I have a noisy, timer-activated coffeepot that is probably the best alarm clock ever. The noise wakes me up, but it's the smell of fresh coffee that gets me out of bed.

You have to make it ready to go the night before, which is sort of an annoyance, but it's worth it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:17 PM on March 31, 2005

I love my Zen Alarm Clock. If you can get past the new-age marketing, it's great.

It's the first alarm I've ever had that doesn't startle me awake, and also the first that I can manage to set accurately with no frustration, even when I'm exhausted. The only one of your criteria that it doesn't meet is the ability to scroll the time forward and backward while setting. This doesn't bug me, because the scroll seems to have found the perfect rate--not so slow that the wait drives you insane, and not so fast that you can't react quickly enough to stop it.

The cost is definitely high--around $100--but it's the only clock I've ever had that hasn't made me violent. As a night owl with an early morning job, I've tried a lot. My favorite thing about it is that it automatically snoozes. It chimes ONCE at the time you set, then shuts the hell up for a few minutes before chiming again. It continues this cycle with shorter silences in between each chime, and doesn't get annoying for 7 or 8 minutes--enough time for me to regain conciousness.

The amount of love I have for this clock frightens me. I'll stop rambling now.
posted by Lossewen at 1:38 AM on April 1, 2005

I work shift work and, after missing a few shifts because the alarm was set to ten a.m. instead of ten p.m., I bought an atomic clock similar to the one bendybendy bought, which has all of your "must-haves" and "should haves". This model you can set to 24 hour time (it's harder to confuse 1000 and 2200 when I'm tired), and the time zone can't be reset accidentally.

You have two alarm choices: a weekday setting for Mon-Fri that doesn't go off on Sat-Sun, and a single alarm that will go off once only.
posted by v-tach at 8:03 AM on April 1, 2005

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