If you own a smartphone, it's easy to gaze at an old-fashioned, single-purpose alarm clocks and conclude it doesn't do nearly enough. But rely on that phone as your alarm clock, and you're at the mercy of drained batteries, software crashes, and daylight savings time. So what other options exist for a forward-thinking, sleep-loving day worker?
Plenty, it turns out. Specialty alarm apps, social services, and devices that go far beyond the gimmickry of the standard Brookstone selection are waiting for you to give them a try some dreary morning. Here's a few picks from the wide world of waking life:
WakeMate: You'll need to be good about charging your iPhone with this Bluetooth-based accessory, but the WakeMate provides data and encouragement enough to keep your cord handy. You sleep with a terrycloth band around your wrist, and your movements are tracked and synced to your iPhone. After a few nights of study, WakeMate knows when you're in your lightest period of sleep, and wakes you up with an alarm you cannot snooze--because, after all, this is the best time to get up. You can feed WakeMate more information about your stress, caffeine, and alcohol levels and tabulate a sleeping score you can also see online, so you can fairly judge whether a presentation is literally sleep-inducing. WakeMate had quite a few growing pains, but seems to have come into its own as a hipper form of sleep diary. ($60)
talkO'clock: You're probably pretty comfortable with how your spouse, relatives, and friends perceive your morning habits. But what if you had to put on your best "I'm actually awake" voice for a stranger calling you in the morning? That's the motivation behind talkO'clock, where you sign up to call a stranger and tell them "Good morning" at their prescribed time, or set up your own unknown caller alarm. It seems like a slim chance that, as the site suggests, you might talk further after that non-pleasantry, and, yes, there's definitely a window for potential creeps. But it could make for a handy backup to your gadget alarms on important mornings, or a social motivator to put the early-riser shame to somebody else. (Free, requires beta invite via Facebook)
Web-based audio alarms: If you're one of those types who reaches right for their smartphone when they wake up to get up, or lets the radio news roll on for a bit, you can cut out the middleman if you have a computer near your bed. Set up your system to power on at a certain time (here's a handy primer on setting that up), and have a web-based alarm clock loaded up on your browser. You can start your morning with any podcast feed, headlines from the BBC, or any YouTube clip, MP3, or Last.fm radio station.
C/Dock: Okay, technically, this nifty, warm, stylish alarm clock requires your iPhone or iPod touch. And, technically, it's not quite available for purchase, though it was so appealing that it met its Kickstarter group funding goal. But the C/Dock creates a nice cradle for your Apple device to sit in, an assurance that it will charge during the night, and a stand for lazy Netflix/Hulu/YouTube watching on weekend mornings or late nights. And you'll hopefully appreciate the aesthetic enough not to want to harm it when it's wake-up time.