Alarm clock radios have been around for decades, and when iPods and iPhones jumped onto the scene, we started to see a new accessory: the alarm dock. Basically, this was your standard clock radio with a trusty 30-pin Dock connector on top, and your iPhone could receive a charge while you slept and let you listen to your iTunes playlist if you didn't want to have the local FM station blasting you out of bed. iHome is now shipping the iDL45 Dual Charging Stereo FM Clock Radio with Lightning Dock and USB Charge/Play for iPad/iPhone/iPod (US$99.99), and it's perfect for your Lightning-equipped iPad, iPhone or iPod. That's a mouthful, so for the rest of this review I'll call it the iDL 45, OK?
The iDL45 is an attractive-looking clock radio, featuring white numerals and control icons on a stark black background. Atop the unit is the Lightning dock, and there's a USB port on the side for charging your other devices -- basically anything that charges via USB.
Since you can pop anything from an iPod touch to a full-sized iPad onto the Lightning connector, there's a "backrest" (for lack of a better word) to prop up the device and make sure it's not putting undue pressure onto the connector.
The digital tuning FM stereo radio gives the iDL45 6 preset stations, perfect for those times when you want to scan stations for local news in between the ads and jock talk. The iDL45 has a battery backup, so you cannot use a power outage as an excuse as to why you overslept...
Like earlier iHome products, the iDL45 is designed to work with a companion application. The free app automatically syncs the clock to your iPhone's time, so there's no need to tap buttons to set the clock and it handles daylight savings time changes with ease. That app is also used to set up the dual alarms both of which can have full week, weekday and weekend settings.
The fun part of reviewing the iDL45 was setting it up with bogus alarms for testing. Once you unpack the iDL45, place it on a nightstand, plug it in (there's a really nice long cord) and drop your iPhone onto the Lightning port, you'll be asked to install a couple of apps onto your device. One of them, Alarms, can be used to just set up alarms and give you stats on how long you're sleeping. It's ad-supported, but all of the ads seem to be iAd placeholders.
I'm not sure of why anyone would use the Alarms app when the iHome Set app is much more useful. It provides settings for things like the FM radio presets, brightness of the clock display, volume, and it lets you set the alarm times and sources as well. While I was fooling around with this app, I checked for a firmware update for the clock and was surprised to find one -- who knew that you could update your alarm clock with an iOS device?
The sound on the iDL45 was surprisingly good. I mean, I don't expect much from a plastic alarm dock, but the sound had a good, rich quality to it. The software worked like a champ and the app was extremely easy to figure out, although I suggest setting up the iDL45 well before you go to sleep in case you run into any questions.
With the iHome iDL45, the old traditional clock radio has just had another nail hammered into its coffin. Not only does the iDL45 work seamlessly with the free apps from iHome, but it has a pleasing design and good sound quality. The best thing? It works with your Lightning-equipped iPhone 5, iPad mini, 4th-generation iPad, or 5th-generation iPod touch.
- Works with free iHome apps to provide control of every function
- Clock time is auto-synced with the iPhone time
- Lightning connector support!
- Ability to charge devices that don't use Lightning connectors through a USB port
- White display is very readable, even when dimmed considerably
- Surprisingly good sound for a clock radio / dock
- Ability to upgrade the clock radio / dock firmware through the app
- Battery backup built in
- No AM stations, so you can't listen to some sports broadcasts
- Choice of apps is confusing; iHome should just point users to the iHome Set app
Who is it for?
- Perfect for the iPhone-wielding office or blue-collar worker or student who needs to awake on time. At $100, it's reasonably priced and would make a good gift.
And speaking of gifts, TUAW and iHome are giving away an iHome iDL45.
Here are the rules for the giveaway:
- Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
- To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
- The entry must be made before June 27, 2013 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
- You may enter only once.
- One winner will be selected and will receive an iHome iDL45 alarm dock valued at $99.99
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.