I admit that I don't get enough sleep. Whether it's because I'm working late, watching DVDs of "The Wire," or getting lost in the black abyss known as 4chan, I usually get about four hours of sleep on a good night.
That's why I was excited to try out Gear4's Renew SleepClock. In addition to being an audio speaker and alarm clock, it also monitors your nightly movements and breathing patterns while you sleep through a radio frequency emitter.
By keeping track of how well you sleep and presenting it in a clear-cut free app, Gear4 hopes that users will become more aware of their sleeping habits, work to improve them, and eventually get a better night's sleep.
Currently, the device is going for $199 at Apple stores, which is expensive for an alarm clock. It works for iPhones 3GS and up, the third and fourth generations of iPod Touch, and the iPad and iPad 2.
The Renew SleepClock looks like a misshapen bowling ball with a quarter of it cut out. It's all black and weighs 1.86 pounds. It's 5.5 inches tall, 7.25 inches wide, and 5.75 inches deep. Although it sits sturdily on a nightstand, it isn't exactly compact. The unit took up a significant amount of space on my own nightstand, so be sure you set aside some nightstand real estate.
At the top there's a pin connector to plug in your iPhone, iPod, or iPad. Once placed, your device can lean on the solid dome of plastic that resides behind the dock.
In front of that are two sets of buttons. The first strip of keys include volume up/down, the scan button to browse through radio stations, the power button, and a mode button that lets you pick music either from an auxiliary source like an iPhone, or the radio. The second set is just one large button for snooze and activating sleep mode.
At the front is the clock's interface, which tells you the time and day of the week. The speaker occupies the bottom half of the device and is covered by speaker cloth, which wraps all the way around. On the back there is a DC port for power, an auxiliary port, and the FM radio antenna.
The majority of the Renew SleepClock's features lie in its free app, Renew, which you can download at the iTunes store. Though you can set the clock and alarm, listen to the radio, and increase the volume without a docked Apple device like an iPhone, there's nothing much else you can do without the app.
With it, however, you can do all the previously mentioned actions and more. If you want to be awakened slowly, for example, you can set a time window for your alarm instead of an exact time. These window frames range from an hour to 20 minutes, so instead of waking up to a blaring sound at precisely 8 a.m., SleepClock can steadily increase the volume of the radio starting at 7:40.
You can also choose what you want to wake up to: songs from your own music catalog, the radio, or seven preloaded sounds like "Birdsong Early Morning," "Waves," and "Garden." Users can have up to two alarms, and customize the days of the week that they go off.
Other sideline features include a music tab that lets you play music from your device, as well as change the radio station. In addition, there's a meter to adjust the clock's brightness, and a journal module where you can write down notes from your day or just choose from a list of keywords that describe what your day included, like "coffee," "illness," or "stress."