Alarm clocks designed around the iPhone / iPod are not something new. But an alarm clock like the iHome iA5 App Enhanced Clock that can be completely controlled by an iPhone or iPod is new. You can use this device as a speaker and as an alarm clock with social networking features. Let’s take a closer look.
iHome iA5 App Enhanced Alarm Clock
The iA5 is a compact speaker (9.34″ W x 5.83″ H x 3.9″ D) with a built in universal iPod dock connector on its front panel. Below the dock are 4 buttons. There is a bedtime button and a wakeup button. When the bedtime button is pressed, it will allow you to set a sleep timer to listen to music currently playing on your iPod or iPhone before shutting off at a chosen time. Pressing the bedtime button cycles through the sleep timer settings for 90, 60, 30 and 15 minutes. The +/- buttons adjust volume levels and are used for manually setting time and alarms. The wakeup button resets alarms.
The top panel of the iA5 has two buttons. A long snooze bar (marked as ZZZ) and the iHome logo power/app button. The snooze bar works as expected, to snooze currently sounding alarms (snooze interval times can be customized from 1-29 minutes). When an alarm isn’t sounding, you can use the snooze bar to cycle through the clock display brightness levels. The power/app button is used to reset an alarm and to turn off music playback.
On the rear panel of the iA5, you will find 4 buttons, an AC adapter plug and an Aux In jack. The buttons control the speaker’s clock display, EQ setting, Clock Sync and Alarm.
There is a backup battery compartment on the bottom of the speaker. It holds a CR2032 coin cell (included), that will keep the settings in the event of a power failure. A low battery indicator will appear on the display when the battery needs to be replaced.
While it is possible to use the iA5 without an iPod or iPhone, doing so pretty much defeats the whole purpose of this device. Using the buttons on the back panel, you can manually set the clock and set an alarm. You can also plug an audio device into the Aux In jack and use the iA5 as an external speaker.
Plugging in an iPhone / iPod and pressing the clock sync button on the back panel of the speaker will sync the speaker’s clock to the time set on the iPhone / iPod.
As you can see from the image above, there is a digital clock display behind the speaker grill. This display shows the time of day as well as the alarm status (a clock icon will show when an alarm is set).
To get the full benefit of the iA5, you need to download the Free iHome+Sleep app from the iTunes App store.
When it is installed and running while the iPhone is plugged into the speaker, it can be come the clock main display as well as the main controller for the alarm clock features. As you see from the image above, the speaker’s clock display is turned off. This is the default behavior when the iHome app is running. If you want the speaker’s clock display to always be on, you can do so.
The app is pretty robust, allowing up to 18 software alarms that can wake to any song or playlist on your device, or an alarm tone. The alarms can be set for daily, weekly, or a custom selection of days.
A custom background picture can be set for the clock display and you can show the current weather at the top.
Another interesting feature allows you to link your Twitter and Facebook accounts to the iHome app so that you can let your friends know when you go to sleep and wake up each day. This borders on TMI (too much info) to me and also who the heck really cares? But hey, if you’re into letting the whole world know all your daily activities, this app can do that for you. Upon waking it will also display Twitter and Facebook happenings while you were asleep. The only trouble with these features are that they are not automatic. You have to manually tap the screen to send the notices.
Having so many features is really cool, but there is one big problem with the iA5… The iHome app has to be running on the iPhone / iPod in order for the alarms to work. Actually that’s not quite true, which is a bit confusing. One alarm can be set on the speaker using the iPhone and even if the iPhone is disconnected or the app isn’t running, that alarm will work (with a high pitched beep). But all the other alarms will not work. This is a big bummer in my book. I would think that if one alarm can be set on the speaker, then why can’t they all? But as the saying goes, it is what it is.
Ok, we’ve only been focusing on the alarm clock features of the iA5 so far, but what about the audio quality from the speakers? I’m happy to report that for a such a small unit like this one, it does a very good job. It has Reson8® speaker chamber technology which allows it to have surprisingly good bass. Listening to music through the iA5 in my basement office has been enjoyable. Of course, it isn’t going to out perform a larger set of speakers, but it is perfect for a small bedroom, dorm room or office.
The $99.99 price tag feels a bit steep to me but I think the iHome iA5 App Enhanced Alarm Clock is a cool product with a lot of potential.