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Computerized Investing > January 26, 2013
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$199.99

Sunrise simulation wake-up light with gentle alarm options and iPhone/iPod control.

I am one of those fortunate individuals who doesn’t have any trouble getting up in the morning. I rarely, if ever, use the snooze button; that doesn’t mean, though, that I enjoy getting jarred from a deep sleep by the Klaxon of a typical alarm clock. If you are looking for an alternative way to start your morning, especially if you wake up before sunrise, the Philips Wake-Up Light (HF3550) with iPhone dock may be for you. Wake-up lights gently prepare your body for waking up during the final minutes of sleep. Studies have shown that people who use a wake-up light wake up more easily and have a better overall mood in the morning. For this review, I used a model given to me by the company.

Out of the Box

In the box is the Wake-Up Light with power cord as well as the docking/charging station for your iPhone or iPod. There is also a “getting started” leaflet and a user’s manual.

The Wake-up Light is circular and made out of white plastic. I was a little surprised by its size, as it measures 7.6 inches by 7.8 inches by 5.7 inches and weighs in at 2.8 pounds (including the iPhone dock/charging station). Depending on the size of your nightstand, you may have a little trouble finding space for it.

On the top of the light are six buttons. As you look at the light, the three buttons on the left operate the light, while the three on the right control the alarm/volume. Aside from using it as an alarm and morning light, you can use the Philips Wake-Up Light as a bedside lamp as well. There are 20 brightness settings to choose from, and the light quickly replaced the bedside lamp I had been using previously.

When you plug in your iPhone or iPod into the docking station, it automatically charges. You can also use the Wake-Up Light as a speaker to play music from your device.

Setup

The setup is relatively straightforward. You connect the light to its power source and plug it in and connect the docking/charging station to the light. Before you can start using the light, however, you need to install the free Philips Wake-up Light app on your iPhone. The app is available from the Apple Store. It is important to note that this light is useless if you don’t have an iPhone. There are other Philips Wake-up Lights that do not require an iPhone/smartphone. The iPhone dock uses the older 30-pin connector and according to the Philips website, is compatible with iPhone 3 and iPhone 4/4S as well as the third- and fourth-generation iPod. However, I was also able to operate the alarm using my iPhone 5 with a Lightning connector adapter, which isn’t provided with the Philips Wake-Up Light.

After setting up the light and installing the Wake-up Light app on your iPhone or iPod touch, place your device into the docking station. This should automatically open the Wake-up Light app. This is the only way to control the wake-up light feature. You can manually turn the light on and off like a typical bedside lamp too. Bear in mind that this app must remain open while docked in order for the alarm to function. Obviously, then, your iPhone or iPod must also be docked in order for the alarm to work.

You can set up multiple alarms. For example, I have one alarm for weekday mornings and then one each for Saturday and Sunday mornings. You can choose whether you want to wake up with light or just a sound effect/music. If you want to wake up to light, you can specify the sunrise duration (20 minutes to 40 minutes) and the light intensity (one to 20).You can also choose to wake up only with light and not sound. There are eight “natural” sounds, including roosters crowing, birds singing, ocean sounds and piano music. In addition, you can choose a song from your iPod library. Lastly, you can specify the snooze duration, from five to 20 minutes.

You can also adjust the brightness of the Wake-up Light’s display. A built-in sensor will automatically adjust the brightness of the display, depending on the lighting level in your bedroom.

Sunrise Simulation & Alarm

The Wake-Up Light is intended to help you wake up naturally, simulating a sunrise by using light that increases gradually. You can personalize the waking experience by choosing the duration of the “sunrise” as well as by choosing a natural sound or music from your iPhone or iPod.

When the alarm goes off, you can tap the Wake-Up Light to snooze or you can tap the snooze button on the app screen. When you snooze, the light stays on but the alarm sound or music is paused.

To stop the alarm, you press the sound on/off button on the top right of the light. You can also tap the Stop Alarm button on the app screen on your iPhone/iPod or remove the device from the docking station.

Bedtime Routine & Wake-Up Stats

Whenever you dock your iPhone or iPod and the Wake-up Light app is running, the app tracks your bedtime routine: from the time you dock your device until you undock it; light on/off; gradual light increase in the morning; or gradual light decrease in the evening.

Each morning after the alarm goes off, the Wake-up Light app asks you a series of questions to help you use your Wake-up Light better and give you an overview of your waking habits. These questions allow you to rate your quality of sleep and your ease of getting up that morning. In the app settings, you can turn the tracking function on and off.

Falling Asleep

The Wake-Up Light also allows you to have the light gradually decrease when you are getting ready to go to sleep. This simulates the sun setting and is designed to help you drift off to sleep. You can set the dimming duration you prefer, anywhere from five to 60 minutes.

Overall

Having used the Wake-Up Light HF3550 for the last couple of weeks, I found it to be an elegant way of waking up in the morning. It is very effective at waking me up (perhaps a little too effective). I have the sunrise simulation begin 20 minutes before the alarm goes off and I find that the light alone wakes me up at least 10 minutes before I am supposed to wake up. As a wake-up light, the HF3550 certainly does its job.

I was initially a bit put off by the $200 price tag (cheaper from online retailers), but you have to understand that the Wake-up Light is actually a few items rolled into one. First, it is a highly functional bedside lamp. I use it for reading before going to bed without any eye strain. It is also an “alarm,” but does its job in a less-jarring fashion.

Given its multi-functionality, unique design and documented health benefits, I feel that the Philips Wake-up Light HF3550 is definitely something to consider if you have trouble waking up in the morning or are looking for an alternative to the traditional alarm clock.

Pros:

  • Gentle way of waking up
  • Charges iPhone/iPod when docked

Cons:

  • Requires iPhone to operate (model HF3520 doesn’t require iPhone)
  • Too big for some nightstands
  • Expensive

Philips Wake-up Light Operated by iPhone App (HF3550)

$199.99 (Currently $179.99 on Amazon.com)

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


Discussion

Anush Ge from TX posted about 1 year ago:

The iphone display can be used to simulate the sunrise, and totally eliminate the expensive external plug in device.


Wayne Thorp from IL posted about 1 year ago:

Unfortunately, the light generated by the iPhone simulation is no where near as bright as this wake-up light and would only be able to wake up the most light-sensitive individuals. Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, Editor, Computerized Investing


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