TimeCommand iOS dock enhances your bedside experience (review)

If you want to improve your alarm clock experience and have your iOS device with you in bed all the time anyway then you may want to check out the TimeCommand audio alarm clock.

I spend a lot of time writing late at night when the family goes to bed, like I am now for this review, and thus I need an alarm clock to help get me up bright and early in the morning to get started. The folks at Max Borges Agency asked if I wanted to try out the Stem Innovation: TimeCommand audio alarm clock with my Apple iPad 2 so I agreed to take a look at it. You can check out several photos of the TimeCommand in my image gallery.


Image Gallery: Check out photos of the TimeCommand iOS doc and StemConnect software.
Image Gallery: TimeCommand retail package
Image Gallery: iPad 2 on the TimeCommand

Need for an alarm clock

My wife bought me a new alarm clock about a year ago, but it had a major flaw that has resulted in failing to wake me an a number of occasions. The snooze was motion sensitive and thus when it would go off and I rolled over to try to find the clock the motion of my hand would reset the snooze without me consciously realizing I was doing it and thus I would get into phases of one hour long snooze sessions. Thus, I needed to replace my alarm clock with something so I agreed to take a look at the TimeCommand.

I don't have an iPhone, but I will have an iPhone 4S soon, and thus I tested the TimeCommand with my iPad 2. While I love reading with the Nook or Kobo eReader Touch, these can't be read in bed with no lights so at times I read books on my iPad before going to sleep. Thus, having an alarm clock dock for the iPad next to my bed seemed like a perfect solution.

Hardware

The TimeCommand base is round with a 7.625 inch diameter and a height of 3.32 inches. It weighs 25.1 ounces, but that doesn't really matter since you don't carry the dock around with you anyway. I understand it needs to be larger than a normal iPod/iPhone dock since it has to provide support for your iPad and found the size to be just fine for my bedside table.

There are seven buttons on the top front above the red LED display that are for the clock, alarm 1, alarm 2, decrease, increase, lamp, and nap/snooze/sleep. The power cord has an extra plug in it so you can plug in your bedside lamp and have it controlled by the TimeCommand. I have a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) in my lamp and thus the cool dimmer functionality does not work for me. If you have a standard bulb, then you can use the free Stem:Connect app to swipe through various dim levels.

Behind the buttons centered on the top is the dock connector. The connector swivels a bit so you can use the dock with your iOS device in a case and it works just fine with the Griffin IntelliCase I use most of the time. I did find it to be a bit of a pain to get the iPad docked when rolled over and still lying in bed, but if you line things up properly it is not much of a problem.

Setup and usage

There is not much information in the box for the TimeCommand, but when you install the Stem:Connect app you will find there are manuals now on your iPad. You can also view the website for the TimeCommand user guide (PDF document) and I recommend you check it out since there are several functions available on the dock.

To start, you unpack the dock and then find a stable place to mount the dock. Plug in your table lamp to the power supply and then plug the power cable into the outlet. If you are going to use the TimeCommand with an iPad then you need to place the two rubber feet with adhesive material on them on the edges of the dock so that the iPad is securely mounted in the connector without causing undue stress on the connector.

You should then visit the App Store and download the free StemConnect application. The application is shown in my image gallery and includes all the settings you need to control the clock and alarms. I highly recommend you read through the StemConnect manual (PDF link) since there are many settings in the software. There are options and settings for dimming the lamp (if your bulb supports it), switching between 24 hour clock and an am/pm clock (I prefer 24 hour from my years spent on active duty), adjusting alarm volume, adjusting the snooze time, adjusting sleep brightness, and turning off app alerts so they don't bother you while sleeping. The brightness of your lamp and the brightness of the clock display face are both managed with the app.

You have the option to use a sleep mode and fall asleep to relaxation sounds or selected music stored on your iOS device. I personally LOVE the relaxation sounds and find the waves and distant thunder to be very relaxing. Other included sounds are:

  • Forest renewal
  • Mountain stream
  • Camp fire
  • Waves and distant thunder
  • Summer rain
  • Ocean waves

My wife doesn't appreciate the seagulls in the waves and some other sounds, but does enjoy some of the others. If you want to listen to songs you go through and tap on the + sign to add the songs to a dynamic playlist and then set the amount of time to hear the sounds until the sleep function ends.

You can choose an audio source for your alarm from music loaded on your iOS device or internet radio. It isn't Pandora, but a generic internet radio service and I personally prefer using my own music that I have control over. After going through all of the settings and preferences in the top bar you then visit the center of the display to setup alarms.

As you can see there is WeatherBug data shown above the large clock (not sure why we need to see a large time display here and on the front of the base) including current weather and weather for tomorrow. It is nice to see tomorrow's weather and I used that for planning what clothes to wear the next day. You can tap on the center weather icon to toggle through the forecast for the next six days too.

Tap on the bottom area below the time to setup your alarm. You choose from some set sounds or your onboard music for alarm sounds and even have the option to have the light turned on with the alarm. I tested this a few times and it definitely woke me up, but scared the heck out of and pissed off my wife so I turned that option off. You can control when the alarm repeats too; weekend, weekday, or specific days of the week. You then toggle the alarm to on and see the alarm area below the time turn green with the alarm time shown.

You will also then see the alarm 1 or 2 red LED appear on the base face. There are also indicators there for dock and app connections so you know if you have a good dock connection and if you have the application active on your iOS device. You have to have the app active for the alarms to fully function or else the standard clock alarm sound will occur. This also happens if you remove your iOS device before the alarm goes off.

Performance and pricing

There are a lot of options within the application and I found it to be the most customizable alarm clock I have ever used. I like the relaxation sounds and love the quick weather status functions right on the clock. It can be a bit tough to dock the iPad on the connector, but a little practice goes a long way to making it easier. Play with the alarm volumes and brightness settings the night before you go to bed or you may be rudely awakened when you get blasted out of the bed at oh dark thirty.

Sound is quite loud and rich out of the speakers, especially for a dock alarm clock, and I even used it to enjoy music while putting clothes away and cleaning up in the bedroom. I find it to be a lot easier to tap the lamp button on the dock to control my light than to reach up and turn the knob on the lamp too so there is that convenience factor.

You also don't have to worry about ever changing the time on your alarm clock as docking your iOS device syncs the time from the iOS device to the dock.

The TimeCommand audio alarm dock retails at Apple stores for $99.99.