Gentle Alarm – A Fantastic Way To Wake Up Gradually Every Morning [Android 1.5+]

gentle   Gentle Alarm    A Fantastic Way To Wake Up Gradually Every Morning [Android 1.5+]Gentle Alarm is everything I could wish for in an alarm clock. Its paid version (linked) costs around $3, and yet has over 50,000 downloads with a 4.5-star average out of 7,475 reviews. In fact, it is so good, we put it on our Best Android Apps page.

So what’s so great about this alarm clock? Let me explain and you might be convinced at least to try its free version.

Introducing Pre-Alarms

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Pre-alarms are an interesting concept, and they are at the core of of Gentle Alarm. As developer Mobitobi explains, sleep is a cyclic thing. When we sleep, we switch between light sleep (REM, the phase when we dream) and deep sleep throughout the night. As morning draws near, the phases become shorter, until at the last few hours of sleep, a cycle takes about an hour. So you spend about half an hour in deep sleep, and about half an hour in REM. During REM, you would find it easier to wake up. Even soft sounds will wake you up, and you will feel more refreshed and may even remember your dreams more easily. So if your alarm happens to ring during this stage, consider yourself lucky.

But what if it doesn’t? This is where pre-alarms enter the picture. A pre-alarm is a very soft alarm that rings some time (30 minutes, by default) before the regular alarm. If you’re in REM, the pre-alarm will wake you up and you will actually feel alert. If you’re in deep sleep, you will simply sleep through the pre-alarm. Probability says that by the time the “real” alarm sounds half an hour later, you will already be in REM, and thus will find it easy to wake.

It’s a win-win, really. No need to use the device accelerometer to sense your movement in the bed, or to use any other sophisticated tricks.

The Interface

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This is what the main Gentle Alarm interface looks like. You can see the current time and when the next alarm is due, and the top bar lets you easily access key parts of the app. If you press the next alarm, you get a menu that lets you quickly tweak it:

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The “quick-change” option is my favorite: It lets you shift the next alarm time by up to two hours, in 15-minute increments:

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So I can very quickly decide I want to wake up 30 minutes later tomorrow (if I have a late night, for example). With just a couple of taps, I can reschedule the alarm, and I don’t have to fiddle with tiny text boxes or complex interfaces. Nice.

Quick Alarms

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Quick alarms let you schedule a one-time alarm, either “in” a set amount of time (in an hour, etc.) or “at” a preset time of day. This works well for power naps, and also makes the app into a simple timer. I set up a “visual only” profile that sounds the softest alarm possible (5% volume, nearly inaudible), but lights up the screen when it rings. When I need a timer, I sometimes place the device where I can see it and set up a quick alarm.

Setting Up Alarms

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Of course, there’s no need to set the alarm every night manually. Most of us keep a steady routine, so it’s easy to schedule alarms for certain days of the week. The Safe Alarm is an option for users who fear they may not wake up: It’s an alarm that rings after the “regular” alarm finishes, and uses full volume of the device.

If you have a really complicated routine, you can also uncheck the Weekly Alarm and get a more granular interface for setting repetitions:

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Profiles

If alarms are the “when”, profiles are the “how”. Profiles define what happens once the scheduled time arrives. Does the phone start blaring like crazy, or does it fade in gradually? Is there a Pre-alarm?

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This is the profile overview screen, and the cryptic icons let you see what each profile does, at a glance. Look at the profile called “With pre-alarm”: The icons show how a pre-alarm rings 20 minutes before the main alarm at 5% volume and doesn’t fade in. The main-alarm allows a 7-minute snooze, goes up to 60% of device volume, and fades in during 1:30 minutes. It will keep ringing for 30 minutes if I don’t stop it manually.

You can set up many other options for every profile, but I’ll just show you a few:

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Rising Sun means the display gradually becomes brighter with time. TTS stands for text-to-speech, and can read out a message as the alarm rings. But my favorite feature is…

Challenges

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This is absolutely crazy, and is an awesome way to make sure you actually wake up. This grid of sixteen dots lights up in a random pattern, and you need to repeat it, “Simon Says” style. You can set the speed as well as the number of dots in the pattern. I have mine set to six dots and medium speed, and it’s a fantastic way to really wake up. I just can’t solve the puzzle when I’m half-asleep, and the alarm keeps ringing until I solve it.

Once that’s done, the alarm goes off, but I’m wide awake. While you’re trying to resolve the puzzle, the alarm volume decreases, to make for a less stressful experience.

If you’re mathematically inclined, you may like the other challenge type:

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This pits you against several math questions which you must solve correctly to make the alarm stop. This shows the easiest level, but it can become really tricky. I’ll stick with the patterns, thank you very much.

Night Display

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Last but not least, the Night Display can be used as a simple bedside clock. It has several modes, including a mode where the screen is black and the numbers only show up when you touch it. I would only suggest using it if your phone is charging throughout the night – it can be quite a battery drain. For me, the main reason to use Night Mode is that it can mute all notification sounds. It can also put the phone into Airplane Mode, if you prefer.

Final Thoughts

So, what do you think? Is it worth a spin? Or do you already have an alarm clock which you love? Let me know in the comments!

Image Credit: ShutterStock

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12 Comments -

0 votes

Anonymous

So whats the difference between the paid version and the free version?

0 votes

Erez Zukerman

Free doesn’t ring on Wednesdays. :)

0 votes

Chase Vandiver

I’m not going to download an alarm clock app that doesn’t ring on Wednesdays(free version)!

0 votes

Erez Zukerman

I didn’t expect you to, honestly. It’s such a good app that it’s very much worth the money.

0 votes

Wei En

Please note that REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, is actually the mode of deep sleep, not light sleep. After REM is the stage where you enter a mode of light sleep, not REM itself.

From wikipedia:
Many animals and some people tend to wake, or experience a period of
very light sleep, for a short time immediately after a bout of REM.

The app is based on that, attempting to wake up people in the period of very light sleep before they enter a deeper stage of sleep.

Other than that, this article is well written and is quite informative. I’ll try out this app and post my comments on it.

0 votes

Erez Zukerman

Thank you for the correction! I would love to hear your thoughts after trying out the app.

0 votes

Wei En

 This app works great, I recently woked up refreshed a few days ago. The other days, i was too tired to wake up during the pre-alarm so i got woke up by the normal alarm, which comes with a safe mode in case people don’t wake up in the standard alarm. I don’t have much money to spare, so I’ll stick with my alarm clock for wednesdays.

I need to try out this app more before i can give more comments.

0 votes

Gwen

I tried this app for about a week now and my problem is that I wake up with the pre-alarm every single time, but I am so tired that I just turn it off and go back to sleep, waiting for the normal alarm to wake me up again. It might just be that I am a light sleeper by nature (unless I am very very tired, at which time I will sleep through almost anything), but so far I am not seeing much benefit at this point. I also tried apps that measure movement to calculate the sleep cycles, and they are all great ideas and I wish they worked, but I haven’t seen any success yet.

0 votes

Erez Zukerman

I think the pre-alarm volume might be too high for you. Try going to Settings > Volume calibration and set the min volume level to 5% (lowest possible). 

Would love to know if that helps.

0 votes

Wei En

Reblogging this post (or more like quoting this post) in my blog. :)

0 votes

Erez Zukerman

Sure thing, just don’t forget to credit and link!

0 votes

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