Rating: ★★★½☆

I have a very old first generation iHome by my bedside – it’s not pretty, and it doesn’t charge my iPhone, but it hasn’t failed me as a bedside radio. I knew though that the time would come that it would finally quit, and I would need to get something newer, something better; enter Stem’s TimeCommand.

I was instantly intrigued by the TimeCommand; not only was it an iPhone/iPad/iPod dock (which means I’d finally have another way to charge my iPhone), but through an app you could download for free, it could “talk” to your iPhone or iPad (or iPod; let’s just use the term iDevice to mean all three from here on out, ok?).  Set an alarm on one, and it would also set the other.  If you don’t feel like messing around with setting the time, no worries – just plug in your iDevice and it automatically sets it off of that.

The app turns the screen of your iDevice into a giant clock (well, giant if it’s an iPad – not quite so giant for an iPhone) that looks nice – albeit mildly useless considering that you also have a clock a few inches lower on the face of the TimeCommand as well.  Unfortunately, that seems to be the theme of the TimeCommand; nifty features, that end up being useless bullet points on the back of the box.

One such is the claim that with the TimeCommand you can listen to “internet radio”.  Now, this claim is true because the TimeCommand does have the option to connect to “basic” internet radio streams (nothing like Pandora), however (and here’s the kicker) you can’t fall asleep or wake to them. Yes, this is a clock radio that features a “sleep timer” feature, but you can’t listen to music to fall asleep to.  Oh it has a good number of white noise sounds that will play, and you can use them on the sleep times (things like rainfall and the like), but I want to fall asleep to music.  “Well,” you might say, “you can play music that’s on your iDevice and fall asleep to that.” – and you’d be right.  the problem with that is that I only keep podcasts on my iPhone because when I want to listen to music on it, I use internet radio – like Pandora.

Maybe I’m making way too much out of a little thing – a mountain out of a mole hill if you will, but it’s irritating as hell.  Using the TimeCommand means that I have to also leave my iHome plugged in to use as a standard radio with a sleep function, which is just ridiculously redundant.  I’m just not sure why when you have a feature included, that you wouldn’t do what you could to make that feature work in every situation that it could.

One of the features that the TimeCommand has that does work really nicely, is the bedside lamp dimmer.  When you plug your bedside lamp into it, you can control the brightness from either the app, or the clock itself.  I’m a person that like to read a few chapters before settling in, and it’s nice to be able to keep my lamp dim so my girlfriend can sleep and I can still read.  The TimeCommand also features a mini weather report; while it’s not as in depth as running WeatherBug or the like, it’s nice to be able to wake up and look at the screen to see what the day’s weather will being.

One thing that worked for my girlfriend (but not for me) was the TimeCommand’s docking mechanism.  I say it didn’t work for me, because it’s mounted on a swivel, and designed so that you don’t have to remove your iDevice’s case to plug it in.  My case is unnaturally bulky at the bottom though, so I still had to remove it.  Bear in mind that’s not the fault of the TimeCommand – but rather my fault for having outdated hardware.  My girlfriend never had to remove the case from her iPhone 4 to make it work.

Another really nice thing about the TimeCommand (and this is what makes me really irritated at the aforementioned internet radio issues) is the sound that comes from it.  The app gives you access to a very nice graphic equalizer, but in order to have superb sound you really don’t even need to mess with it much (unless you’re a big time audiophile).  The speakers deliver a better experience than I’ve found with clock radios before, so it would have been really nice if the music features would have worked a bit better.

I have to give the TimeCommand from Stem a rating of three and a half stars out of five.  I would think the main issue I had could be fixed through a software update on the app (rather than a whole hardware revision) – and if it happens I’ll be sure to revisit this review and update it accordingly, however for now the good parts about it are being overshadowed by the negatives.  Since stem is headed by the former CEO of XtremeMac though, I expect good things from them, and that this may just be a bump in the road.

Pros:

  • The speakers produce amazing sound
  • Bedside lamp dimmer is very useful (at least to me)
  • Having your iDevice and the TimCommand synch up is effortless

Cons:

  • Can’t fall asleep to the internet radio streams it plays
  • Can’t wake up to the internet radio streams it plays
  • Why change your iDevice screen into a clock when there’s a clock below??

You can grab the Stem TimeCommand from an Apple retail store (and only from Apple retail stores) for $99.95



Staff