Gentle Alarm

Gentle Alarm

Sep 22, 2010

Gentle Alarm, the top rated paid alarm app in the Android Market, boasts a ton of features and snazzy graphics. It also claims to be able to wake you during light sleep, which lends to its “gentle” moniker. Obviously, I can’t verify this claim in my review—a peer review study would be more suitable for that. I can say, however, that it’s a fabulous alarm app. And while it is indeed “gentle,” its touted special features don’t really live up to the hype.

Since Gentle Alarm has so many features, I’ll give a rundown (pun intended) of what it has to offer.

Main Screen
When you open up Gentle Alarm, you may mistake it for your home screen (I’ve accidently swiped at it); your wallpaper is prominently displayed with the current time and date and the next active alarm. You can tap the next alarm for a context menu that gives you many related options. Up top is a bar with a power button that turns on and off all the alarms, along with four big menu buttons: “Quick Alarm,” “Alarms,” “Profiles,” and “Night Display.”

Setting Alarms
The bulk of the settings in each alarm resides in the Profile section. In this way, you can keep different settings together for different scenarios. I’ve got a profile of alarms that wake me up and alarms for just alerts. For each profile, you have a range of options for sounds, including ringtones, any music file, auto-playlists by genre or artist, M3u playlists, or just vibrate. You can also set the snooze time, fade in, and duration of alarms. The duration is how long the alarm will play before it snoozes automatically–great for lazy folks like me. You can also set the display brightness and even have a “rising sun” effect that fades the screen in with the alarm. If you’re worried about sleeping through, you can set a “safe alarm” that rings (incredibly loud) after your first alarm if you don’t hit snooze. For a feature lover like me, this plethora is great. But it can be overwhelming—and the relentless tip screens that pop up everywhere don’t help. If you get annoyed with those, just make sure you hit “don’t show again” and they’ll go away.

Even with the aforementioned slew of features, I still haven’t touched on the flagship “gentleness” that the app purports. I’m talking about the “pre-alarm.” This is basically just a very low volume alarm that plays 30 mins before your main alarm is set. The idea is that since your sleep cycles alternate from deep to light every thirty minutes, the alarm makes sure the main alarm will ring during a light sleep cylce. If you are deeply sleeping at the point the pre-alarm rings it won’t wake you up, but if you aren’t deeply sleeping you’ll wake up during a light cycle. The makers of Gentle Alarm claim that waking up 30 minutes early during a light cycle is better than waking up at your normal time if you are in deep sleep. I’ll report on my experience with the pre-alarm in a little bit.

Alarms and Night Mode
When an alarm goes off you have a large snooze button at the bottom and a small red colored “off!” button at the top. In the settings, you have the option for the two buttons to take over the whole screen. Another safety feature that can be enabled in settings is a visual captcha that makes you tap a pattern of dots to dismiss the alarm. There are other options like turning the phone over to snooze and snooze limits. Even the night mode, which is just be a simple desk clock, has a slew of options. You can have the numbers shift slowly around your screen to eliminate screen burn, turn on flight mode so no one calls you at night, and adjust the brightness.

This app has so many features it can be dizzying. But how does it work in my real, sleep deprived life? Well, it is gentle, but not because of the “pre-alarm” setting. I did try it three times. Twice, it woke me up, and I really didn’t think to myself, “hey, it’s great that i’m up a half hour early, I feel refreshed.” All I wanted to do was turn the pre-alarm off and sleep for another 30 minutes. However, instead of just dismissing the pre-alarm, I dismissed the alarm all together. Oops. Luckily, it wasn’t mission-critical to wake up early on that day. What I did find really useful was the fade-in and auto-snooze feature. I set the fade-in to 10 seconds and the length of the alarm to 20 seconds. This way, the alarm rings with the nice “windchimer” ringtone from HTC, and I lay there knowing the alarm will shut it self off. Then, I doze back off knowing it will ring again at my preset snooze time of six minutes. For people who easily sleep through alarms, this probably won’t work, but you can set Gentle Alarm to be as strict as you need.

It’s clear why Gentle Alarm is the top alarm app in the market, even though its special “pre-alarm” didn’t work for me. I’d love to hear if people do find this feature really helpful or even life-altering. It’s ok though, I’m satisfied with a really solid, beautifully designed alarm app. And at around $2.50 (depending on the exchange rate), it’s a worthy addition to any app drawer.

Gentle Alarm Rundown

Presentation - Tons of well organized features, that are only slightly overwhelming.
Graphics - Smooth, elegant, and integrated with your home wallpaper.
User Interface - Once you get your mind around the profiles and the features it's really easy to set multiple alarms.
Lasting Appeal - So far superior to the stock alarm app I can't imagine ever going back.
Overall - Awesome alarm app that satisfies almost any possible taste and sleep habit. Don't sleep on this app!

App available on the Google Play Store »

Ben Freed
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