There are so many choices out there when it comes to alarm clocks. The choice you make will depend largely on your personality and sleep habits. Types of alarm clocks range from the old hammer and bell (pictured) to an ipod dock, even devices that you have to chase around the room to them turn off. It has become the trend nowadays to use a more portable option; something we always have with us at all times - our trusted mobile phone!
Your Mobile Alarm
For those who use their mobile phone as an alarm clock, most are satisfied with the stock built-in function. However, for us smartphone owners, why settle for stock when we have a world of free and low-cost applications at our fingertips?
I recently wrote a review of the Android app Sleep As Android, a sleep monitor and alarm clock that utilises the accelerometer to determine the best time to wake the user up. Although very effective for a single person, the app is fairly useless for those who share a bed. Whilst browsing the Android marketplace for an alternative I came across Gentle Alarm.
Gentle Alarm features
Unlike 'Sleep As Android' Gentle Alarm does not monitor sleep movement, so will be more suited to those who cohabit or object to keeping a phone on their bed through the night. Something they do share is the ability to wake the user during the lighter cycle of sleep. As Gentle Alarm cannot detect sleep cycles, its uses a more hit-and-miss approach.
When setting up the time to be awoken, there is an option to set a pre-alarm that will sound at a pre-determined time before the main alarm. The pre-alarm volume will be quite low and will not sound for very long. If the user is in a light sleep the light alarm will gently rouse them, otherwise the user will sleep right though it. If the user sleeps through the pre-alarm they are more likely to be in a lighter stage of sleep when the main alarm sounds. Gentle Alarm opts for logic over sensors, and does a good job of it too.
The app gives the user a choice to select an mp3 track as an alarm tone, this is standard on alarm apps nowadays, but nevertheless a great feature (I use a calming track from a relaxation CD as my main alarm and a dripping water sound effect as the pre-alarm). As the name of the app denotes, Gentle Alarm delivers a soothing gradual increase in volume which can be customised in many ways. The min and max volume can be altered, as well as the duration between them. This app also features as 'quick alarm' that can be set independently of the fixed daily alarms - perfect for those who like to take power naps.
Some like it loud, and visible
Some people swear by having the loudest, most irritating noise possible to jolt them out of bed in the morning. For those people there is a great little feature that will not disappoint. The developers have added a 'safe alarm' feature which can act as a safety net should the main alarm prove a little too gentle. When enabled, this will sound a third alarm (the more irritating, the better) that will always use your phones loudest possible volume setting.
Lastly, Gentle Alarm has a useful night clock mode that turns your smartphone into a fully fledged bedside display. As with 'Sleep As Android' there are the options to switch to flight mode and silent mode automatically when the night clock is activated. The night clock displays (in a calming purple hue) the date, time and alarm time, in a range of fonts and brightness levels. This Android app is one of the most customizable I have seen, and the developers are quick to react to user comments an suggestions.
This Android app is fast becoming one of my favourites. The user interface is intuitive and extremely easy to navigate. There are customization options for every single feature, there is an advanced settings mode that gives the user even more control. There are two versions of this app on the Android marketplace - the free trial and the full paid version. The free trial has unlimited functionality, but beware, the alarm will not sound on Wednesdays. If you like this app, please support the developers and buy the full version, you will not be disappointed - it's worth every penny.