There's a growing trend in iPhone/iPod speaker docks. Instead of building in a bunch of features like an LCD display for the clock, and AM/FM radio, or fancy alarm systems, companies like Altec Lansing are bringing out simple speakers that leverage the iPhone or iPod Touch's impressive capabilities that include the ability to run custom-designed alarm apps.
Some recent examples of the trend include the "app-enhanced" iHome iA5 (not a bad little system) and the iLuv iMM190, which we have not yet reviewed. But Altec's Octiv Mini M102 (reviewed here) is more successful than the iHome because of its smaller, more attractive design and lower price.
Like iHome, Altec offers a free downloadable alarm-clock iOS 4 app. When you first plug in your iPhone or iPod Touch, you're prompted to install the free app, which is nice, and if you have a wireless connection, you'll be taken straight to the App Store to download it. Alas, the app won't automatically launch when you dock your device (that's an Apple issue).
iHome's app is currently more robust, feature-rich, and snazzier-looking, but Altec says it's in the process of upgrading its app, which is called Alarm Rock. Even if it isn't all that slick, you do get the ability to set alarms only on certain days, so you could, for example, have a weekend alarm and a weekday alarm (you can set the alarm to only go off on particular individual days as well).
The speaker itself is 3.8 inches high by 4 inches wide by 5.3 inches deep, though it has a unique cutaway design that gives it a more angular, modern look (it's thinner at the back of its base). Altec has also raised the speaker grille in the middle, splitting it in two and turning the square into to two triangles. Kudos to the designer for making what could have been a boxy little speaker a lot more interesting to look at.