iHome iA5 review: bedside iPhone social networking alarm clock

iHome iA5

Walking through our local London Drugs, a western Canada retail phenomenon of a drugstore that is also a leader in photography, audio-visual and computer sales, i saw an unusual iPhone dock and could not resist slipping my iPhone into it to check out its sound. To my surprise, the iPhone responded by a notification popping up to inform me that the iPhone requires an app from the App Store and asking if I would like to download it. This is not your father’s clock radio; in fact, it isn’t a radio at all. Welcome to a hint of what the future has to offer in this social networking iphone alarm dock.

iHome iA5 iHome + Sleep settings

iHome iA5 iHome + Sleep main display

The iA5 by iHome Audio is simple in its design looking like a stylized black box with an industrial grating front like an Apple Keynote slide theme. When you dock your iPhone for the first time and enter the settings screen on the iHome + Sleep app, one option is to have the iA5 set to the time on your iPhone; well, that’s easy. Other options include allowing it to find your location (or manually setting one) for the weather information that it keeps up to date. You also enter your Facebook and Twitter usernames and passwords for the social side of this device. Socialized sleeping?

iHome iA5 sleep card

The app allows you to create a stack of different sleep and wake up cards for different days of the week. On each card, you can choose what music or podcast from your iPhone you would like to listen to and for how long when falling asleep. You also choose whether to wake up to a music or podcast selection or to an alarm sound of your choice. Slide the desired card into the slot like inserting a punch card and your alarm is set. One small caveat, if you program one of these cards for MTWTF for your usual weekday wake-up, then it won’t work for Monday unless you also set that card to be for Sunday as well since that is the day you will be falling asleep. (I haven’t missed an alarm since figuring that one out!)

Another option that you can program is whether you want to post a tweet on Twitter or a Facebook status update upon awakening or sleeping. You can create a bunch of different tweets and updates and will be prompted when setting the app at bedtime and when you wake up in the morning, to choose which one to send. 

You can also set reminder notes before you go to bed; jotting them down so when you wake up you can review them. I haven’t explored that feature yet because I tend to use OmniFocus to jot down and reorganize my ToDos so they are synced to all my computers and iPhone via MobileMe. (That can be a whole other blog article for the future.)

iHome + Sleep Overnight News (Twitter & Facebook)

The other social aspect of this device/app is that your twitter and facebook news feeds get cached from the time you set the alarm at bedtime until you wake up in the morning. When you slide the awake slider in the morning, your personalized news feed is ready for you and you can see all or filter to see just Twitter or just Facebook. Another warning here…as soon as you close the app, your news feed is gone. (Perhaps with the 4.0 iPhone OS this may remain cached as long as the app remains active in the background.)

iHome iA5 sleep habits

In addition to keeping track of the local weather, your overnight Twitter and Facebook news, and allowing you to sleep and awake to your choice of the iPhone’s iPod selections, the iHome + Sleep app also tracks your sleeping pattern in terms of how many times you hit the Snooze bar, hours of sleep, Bedtime, Wakeup time, favourite album to fall to sleep to and wakeup to. The sleep information details most recent, average this week, average this month and average this year.

Overall I’ve been very happy with the iA5 and would recommend it if you are looking for a bedside dock for your iPhone or iPod touch. It is great how it doesn’t take up much space and the sound is quite good. The fact that it is monophonic is not an issue since you are lying in bed with only one side of you facing the speaker. Without an iPhone or iPod touch the device is fairly limited. There are some manual controls so you can adjust the time and built-in alarm but this device is really meant to be controlled by the iHome + Sleep app.