Defomicron

Software, Hardware, Silverware


The Apple Alarm Clock

In June, I speculated on the future of Apple TV, and that was fun. I thought to myself gee, this speculating thing is fun, I should do it again sometime. So let’s talk about clocks.

More specifically, the bedside clocks meant for rousing non-morning people in the morning. The most disruptive thing that’s happened to the alarm clock industry was probably the smartphone. I and (I presume) many others have switched full-time to using our smartphones as our only alarms. It’s terribly convenient to open the Clock app on my iPhone to quickly toggle an alarm on or off or readjust the going off of one.

(The best part is the ability to adjust my alarms when I’m out and about. There’s a German word for the anxiety felt when One’s out of the house and unforeseen events force the adjustment of the time One must wake the next morning, and One must force Oneself to remember to adjust One’s alarm accordingly when One gets home, because One remembers the last time this happened, when One forgot to adjust One’s alarm, and One remembers the hatred One felt toward Oneself that following morning when One woke up two hours too late.

I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it exists. One, you poor bastard.)

Thing is though, a smartphone is a terrible alarm clock. Smartphones are designed to be carried with you wherever you go, to sit in your pocket until called upon. They’re meant to be held, so they are thin and light. They’re meant to do everything, so they have minimal physical buttons.

They’re not meant to sit on your nightstand for all the hours of their existence, dutifully displaying the time, all the while bottling up their desire for attention, only to let loose in the one daily moment they’re called upon. They’re not meant to be chucked across the room in anger at the realization that One stayed up way too late last night. They’re not meant to have the snooze button punched as One decides to risk it and doze for another 10-er.

Such is the purpose of the alarm clock.

The Dream Machine Next to a Dream Machine
The nightstand is no place for a smartphone.

With that in mind, I made the decision to switch back to using a dedicated alarm clock and — to my chagrin — I discovered that alarm clocks haven’t progressed at all past iPhone docks. The best you can do (and what I’ve settled on) is a $15 Sony Dream Machine1. It’s pathetic, really.

What if Apple isn’t going to disrupt the watch industry after all? What if, instead, they’re going to change the way the entire world wakes up in the morning? (OK, they’re not, but keep reading.)

If we could combine the benefits of the the smartphone alarm and the dedicated alarm clock, well wouldn’t that be dandy. We could. Next year, what if iOS’s Clock app has an API that broadcasts its alarm settings over WiFi. Alongside this new API, Apple releases a well-designed alarm clock accessory, the “iWake”. iWake plugs into a wall outlet and connects to your home WiFi network through AirPort Utility on your Mac or iPhone. Jony Ive heads its design, and we get a revival of the classic Dieter Rams/Dietrich Lubs DN 40. iWake has a single button on top (and it is one seriously great feeling button); press it once for snooze or long press it to silence the alarm for good. iWake is made of polycarbonate, and comes in a multitude of bright spring colors.

With the Clock app on your phone (or iPad, or the dashboard widget on your Mac, which now sync via iCloud), you can adjust your alarms and tell your iWake which ones to go off for. If you’re out and about and you find out you’ll need to wake up early tomorrow, open the Clock app on your phone, set the alarm and that information is automatically pushed to iCloud and then to iWake. Tomorrow morning, your alarm goes off without you giving it a second thought. Goodbye, mystery German word.

I want iWake three years ago. The technology is there but no one is doing it. While I’d love for it to come out of Apple, I realize they probably have bigger things going on. So why not someone else? This shouldn’t be too hard to do and do right. You don’t even need that Clock API I talked about to make it work, just write your own app.

Well, what are you waiting for? I have somewhere to be tomorrow, get to it!


  1. Which has actually been discontinued, but you can still pick them up at Walgreen’s, so there you go. ↩︎