AlarmTunes in Review – Kicking the Robot


If there’s anything worth getting dressed for in the morning, it is a new way to wake up. Chances are that you have wedged yourself into a rut, listening to the same alarm every morning and vowing that someday, you will toss it out the window. Well, AlarmTunes is a new app that will wake you up from the dreary night with the pizzaz that radiates from your own music. I’ll say it here, for 99 cents, it makes the drudgery of stuffing yourself into pants worthwhile.

Apple’s built-in alarm is not glamourous, but has some great features like daily and weekly repeat settings along with labels – allowing users to quickly reference why the hell they have to get up on that particular morning. But you are stuck with the PC speaker (if you have a gen 1 iPod touch) or a somewhat annoying and comedic list of wake up sounds if you have any other iDevice. My wife and I have decided that ‘Robot’ is the only way to wake up if we are to stick with Apple’s alarm app.

The new way to get up
AlarmTunes in so many ways, is better. For the zombies, there is the default alarm that “beep beep beeps” you awake, but for the living, breathing App Store customer, there is your iTunes library – that is, if your busty innards still remember that iPod and iPhone also do music. What better way to wake up than by the cooing of Madeleine Peyroux’s voice or John Denver fine yodels? More often than not though, I choose Armin Van Buuren or even the Streets’ joke lyrics to help coax me out of the cocoon.

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You can choose from album, artist, playlist – basically any iPod/Music setting in your library is at your disposal including the Genius playlist. Your alarm can even shuffle and endlessly repeat, but if you need to repeat even one of X-Japan‘s Art of Life in order to wake up, you are already fired. Snooze and alarm off buttons are conveniently located far enough apart that clumsy morning fingers won’t mistake one for the other and there are some great other options. One is preview (the play button). Your music (or the terrible beep beep beep default alarm) is played for 30 minutes before powering down for the night, or simply for sampling your wake-up call.

Setting alarm times is simple: click the clock icon and scroll the dials to find the dreaded hour of your departure from dreamland to the desert of the real. Then click add. Unfortunately, the nearest alarm time is not displayed on the main page, rather you have to navigate to the list of alarms that are not labelled and suss out from there which will ring. Up to 10 alarms can be stored and moved up and down in the list, but not easily. Moving the alarm buttons is like finger-walking on top of packing tape: things stick.

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McLean Mobile have made using AlarmTunes with a dock very simple. Audio will go through the dock output to your amp or dock speakers at line out levels, meaning that you had better carefully set external volume settings or risk a 6 AM lynching. What makes it even better for pairing with a dock is the wonderful digital display. 16:53 looks great, displayed in large, legible digits even from across the room in both day and night. What’s better? Switch the ‘light’ off and even 6:00 AM looks good, though it’s an evil hour.

The volume icon sets the output volume (assuming you are not plugged into a dock) for the alarm. When the alarm sounds, it will radiate at the lowest volume until it reaches the setting level after 30 seconds. Of course, if you have it set at the lowest, it will stay at that volume.

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Hey wha?
This brings me to the real ?’s about this app. Firstly, there is supposed to be an option for 24/12 hour display time. It does not properly work. If your iDevice is set to 12 hours, tapping the display will add or subtract the AM/PM sign, but not change to 24 hour display. If, however, your device is set to 24 hours, repeated tapping of the screen may change the display to 12 hours.

Bugs aside, the biggest miss is AlarmTunes’ lack of labels. You cannot set alarms for specific days or for the weekend as you can with Apple’s annoyingly simple app. Forget to turn off one of the alarms from your work week and your Saturday will be as bad as your Friday was. The same goes for Sunday and Monday. Without a schedule, there is little to set this app above the clunky clock beside your bed other than AlarmTunes’ great iTunes integration.

So, with all the strange bugs and oversights in AlarmTunes, is it worthwhile? Yeah. For 99 cents, you get a much less annoying morning, though you may have a hard time hearing the music. McLean Mobile did very well integrating OS 3.0 features like access to your iPod’s library as it is in iTunes – that is simply stunning. With a clean display, good dock integration and the great price, this is a good app, but its puzzling omissions and bugs (?) leave me scratching my head. For the time being, AlarmTunes is a Tap from TouchMyApps.


App Summary
Title: AlarmTunes (V1.1) Developer: McLean Mobile
Price: $0.99 App Size: 1.5 MB
  • Great, readable graphics
  • Excellent iTunes integration
  • Preview tool is good
  • Where is the scheduling?
  • Certain features don’t fully work, e.g. 12/24 hour time and volume settings


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