Setting an alarm clock should be easy. But with the cryptic controls on most bedside time keepers, it still isn’t. You’ll be punished with another 59 clicks to get the right time if you roll past the alarm time you wanted to set, be forced to reset the time every few months to keep it accurate to within a minute, and good luck if you want to take advantage of those advanced features to make separate alarms for weekdays and the weekend.
It’s no wonder so many people just use their cell phones these days, which let you punch in the digits and set it up the way you want in a matter of seconds. Although many companies build iPhone docks with built-in alarm clocks, or make it easy to use the one on your phone, iHome’s unique new iA5 actually allows you to set the alarm on the hardware with a special app on your phone. It promises the ease of smartphone operation with the perks – like an LCD display, snooze bar and louder speakers – of a dedicated alarm clock, plus a few unique additions, like Twitter and Facebook integration.
Unlike some of the spendier iPhone alarm clocks out there, including iHome’s own iP90, the iA5 has no remote, FM radio, or dual-alarm feature (built in, at least). Of these three, we can easily live without all except the FM radio. Sure, a customized playlist of your own tunes is a nice option – but plenty of folks still prefer waking up to talk, news, or just a favorite station’s music. Considering how inexpensive an FM tuner really is, it’s hard to believe iHome saw it fit to exclude on the iA5.
Instead, what you get is more or less an LCD clock on a speaker dock, with the iHome + Sleep application providing all the brains behind the whole “alarm clock” function. While it can function as an alarm without an iPhone or iPod docked, it offers only basic functionality.
As an alarm clock destined to share a nightstand with a lamp, a glass of water and maybe a good book, the iA5 definitely sits on the larger side of what most folks would find acceptable, but the tapered design that cuts to less than an inch tall in the back helps make it less intrusive. Rather than sitting atop the device as if on a pedestal, your iPod Touch or iPhone sits on a dock connector nub on the front, leaning against the grille behind it like a backboard. This hockey-rink-shaped front grille hides an LED display to the left, and a speaker driver to the right. It may clean up the look when turned off, but the grille over the display makes it messy and hard to read when it’s on.
Controls are simple: An illuminated iHome button up top turns on the speakers, a gigantic snooze bar above it sends you back to sweet dreams, and a “wakeup” button on the front tells your phone when you’ve rolled out of bed for good. You’ll also find easily accessible volume controls and a bedtime button that works like the sleep button on a TV, telling it how many minutes of music you want before bed. Equalizer, alarm set and other buttons on the back allow you to set the iA5 without a device docked, but since you’ll need to work them blind, it’s tricky.
Like most alarm clocks, the iA5 has a generally chintzy feel about it -more toyish than like a real appliance built to last. The plastic feels cheap, the faux silver trim around the front just looks tacky, and the seam around the springy-sounding snooze button looks jagged, as if it were just broken from a mold and needs a little finish work. Perhaps most worrisome, the spring-mounted iPod perch on the front offers very little assurance it won’t just snap off and leave your device to dangle. Bottom line: You won’t be ashamed to call the iA5 yours, but we wouldn’t expect it to to survive a toss across the room after an agitated 6am rousing, either.