Stem’s TimeCommand might just be the ultimate techy addition to your nightstand. It’s not your standard speaker alarm clock, it integrates with your iPhone, iPod, or iPad to enable a lot of functionality. You can even have it wake you up by turning your lamp on and playing your favorite music.
-TimeCommand Audio Alarm Clock
-AC Power Supply
-Product Safety and Warranty Pamphlet
The TimeCommand is a saucer shaped speaker with the width of an upright iPad and the height of a coffee mug. It’s black on black with an curved orange LED display. There are just 7 simple buttons on the TimeCommand, and they’re laid out in a nice triangle. The large button on the bottom is the Nap/Snooze/Sleep/Play/Pause button, above that is volume up, lamp on/off, and volume down, above that is alarm 1 and alarm 2, and lastly on top is the time set button (but you probably won’t need this as the time automatically syncs to your iOS device). Almost every one of the button functions can be controlled with the iOS device while it’s docked.
There’s a dock connector on the top of the TimeCommand that mounts your iOS device. The connector pivots to accommodate protective cases. On the underside of the device there’s a door to access the backup battery compartment, which takes 2 AA batteries. On the back of the device is the connector for the removable AC Adapter. On the power supply is an input to plug in any power plug, ideally a lamp.
For a clock with just a few buttons, it sure has a lot of features. The Stem:Connect app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch adds a slew of capabilities to the TimeCommand clock. The first time you plug in your iOS device there’s a prompt to download the app. Without the app, TimeCommand will still charge, play music through the speakers, and sync the clock to the iOS clock. The Stem:Connect app uses your current location to display weather for that day and the rest of the week. When an alarm is set inside of the app, it will also save in the TimeCommand in case the app closes or the iOS device is removed. Alarm settings include, tone/music choice, the option for the lamp turn on, and the option to repeat on a schedule. The ramp up time can be adjusted so your alarm fades in and wakes you up without scaring the bajesus out of you. The brightness of the bedside lamp (with an incandescent bulb) and the clock LED brightness can be adjusted from within the app. There is no built in radio tuner in the clock, but a neat feature included is free internet radio. The sleep to audio feature will set a sleep timer that shuts off your lamp and the music, whether it’s internet radio or a playlist of the music on your iOS device. The Stem:Connect app even allows you to fine tune your music with the 10-band equalizer and bass enhancer. The app also features a large digital clock by default and can be changed to an analog clock. The background of the app can also be changed.
The app sure does a lot, but the UI is not intuitive, even for us techie folks. It’s not clear what is a control and what is not. Once you figure that out, the app generally works pretty well. The iPad version of Stem:Connect is almost identical to the iPhone/iPod touch app, it’s just scaled up. iOS 4.1 and later supports multitasking so it can run in the background. You can create a playlist of your iPod music inside Stem:Connect and it will play in the background, even if it’s been tweaked by the equalizer. Interestingly, the Internet Radio will not play in the background. When the app is launched, any music that was playing will stop, even if the music originally started playing from Stem:Connect. The 10-band equalizer works, but it is unlabeled and does not list the frequencies of each slider. It also lacks presets and a reset button. The bass enhancer worked about the same as Apple’s built-in Bass Booster EQ setting. The TimeCommand Speakers are nice for what it is, but it’s certainly no replacement for a nice set of speakers. It gets loud enough that you can provide ample tunes for a medium sized party.
If the screen is off or the app is not popped open, the special alarms (music, special chimes, and/or light) will not work, but the clock’s built in beep alarm still works. For this reason, the app is meant to be an ‘always on’. At night, when you hit the app’s ‘sleep’ button, the screen will dim to an almost off brightness. I enjoyed waking up to all of the different alarms. I was unable to get my music working with the alarm from my iPhone 4 running iOS version 4.2 on my iPhone 4, the app would crash every time I tried to save an alarm with my music. This was the only way the app ever crashed, and it wasn’t a problem using my iPad 2 version 4.3. It’s worth noting Stem:Connect (version 1.31) has 2.5/5 stars on the app store. Never-the-less, the software is always upgradeable and if I had to rate it myself I would rate it 3.5/5– the capabilities are there, but the user experience is a little ways off. The clock itself is a nice looking addition to my night stand. I love that it fits my iPhone with it’s bulky Speck case, I don’t love that I can’t just slide iPhone in. Even though the connector pivots, it springs back to the default (caseless) position. This means I have to pull the connector out with one hand and mount my iPhone with the other hand. This is also a problem for iPad 2, it requires two hands. On the bright side, it does accommodate (and charge) all iOS devices without having to pop in a different adapter.
TimeCommand is a very nice complement to any nightstand. It conveniently allows you to mount and charge any iOS device and play your music, or internet radio, through some pretty loud, albeit so-so quality, speakers. The killer feature is that it integrates your lamp into the mix, allowing you to turn your lamp on and off, by button or alarm, and also allowing you to dim the (incandescent bulb) to any brightness. The TimeCommand clock itself is well built and an all-around pretty awesome device. The Stem:Connect app still needs some work, but it’s been getting better since it’s release (based on reviews). The TimeCommand can be purchased from steminnovation.com for $99.95. The app is a free download from Apple’s app store. Even though the app isn’t perfect, it’s a good deal considering all the features. It doesn’t take long to get your money’s worth out of this product.
The Good: Battery Backup, Transfers Alarms between iPhone and Clock, Controls Lighting, Speaker, Internet Radio, iPhone app expands on features, Mounts and charges all iOS device, Dock Connector Pivots
The Bad: Stem:Connect app needs some work. It’s unintuitive, crashes, and not all features work in background. Can’t sync iOS device while connected, Dock Connector Springs back to default position–requires two hands to dock iPad 2 or iPod/iPhone with case.