Review: Stem TimeCommand Clock-Dock

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I’ve become a big fan of not having to physically dock my iPhone, iPod or iPad in order to get audio from it. That’s why I love using the Sonos system I reviewed a few weeks ago. At the same time, there is a lot to be said for a bedside dock/alarm clock. Sure, the Sonos system lets you set alarms, but it doesn’t have a clock nor does it charge your power-hungry iOS device. That needs to be covered by something else — something like a clock-dock (yeah, I wrote “clock-dock”!). The problem is, too often the available clock-dock systems don’t offer many features, but they do feature anemic sound. The Stem TimeCommand works to address both of these issues through its big bold sound and its tight integration with a custom iOS application.

I recently received a review unit. I was impressed by the physical unit, but the iOS app left much to be desired. Shortly after beginning to use it however, the iOS application received a huge update. The updated app makes the Stem TimeCommand more intriguing an option than ever. Let’s take a closer look at this 2011 alarm clock.


From Stem:

Command your sleep/wake environment with this evolutionary alarm clock music system for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Charge and play your Apple devices – even connect and control your bedside lamp. Expand your mastery of TimeCommand with the free Stem:Connect™ App from iTunes.

Simply connect your bedside lamp to TimeCommand’s unique power supply and control the lamp with the touch of a button. Download the Stem:Connect App and enable additional features such as dimming for incandescent bulbs and Wake-by-Light™, which allows TimeCommand to automatically switch the lamp off when you go to sleep or activate the lamp when an alarm sounds.

Experience precision audio with our digital signal processing technology – Sonic iQ™ – Making Sound. Smarter™. The precisely tuned acoustic system delivers superior ambient room audio. Download the Stem:Connect App and optimize your listening experience with a 5-band graphic equalizer with presets, loudness and bass enhancer, and Internet radio playback.

Sleep with confidence, knowing that TimeCommand’s SafeWake™ features ensure that you will wake on time by eliminating the causes of most alarm failures: battery-backup protects against power interruptions, alarm settings are automatically transferred from app-to-clock and clock-to-app, and time sets automatically when you dock your Apple device. With iOS 4.1 or later, the app supports multi-tasking, continuing to operate in the background and sounding alarms even when iPod, iPhone or iPad** is asleep and locked.

Control the illumination in your sleep environment with TimeCommand’s unique features: fully dimmable LED display, bedside lamp control and adjustable brightness of the app on your Apple device. Temporarily brighten the display and the app with a simple touch.

All of these innovative features are found only in the compact footprint and elegant design of TimeCommand. For full information about all of the enhanced features of the Stem:Connect App, click on the link provided above left.

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The Stem TimeCommand has a fairly big footprint and an unusual shape. Perfectly round, its speaker grill extends almost 360° around the device, breaking that only at the front where the LED screen can be found. The result is sound that doesn’t come from one or two speakers and move out in one direction, but rather sound that fills the space it is in.

At the top of the Stem TimeCommand you’ll find the iOS dock along with a select number of buttons. These control the brightness of the screen, the volume of the music, the two individual alarms, and a play/pause/neck/news/sleep bar that runs across a quarter of the top. This bar is a great design feature since it allows you to sleep or turn off the alarm without having to actually look at the clock.

The dock is a bit interesting in that it is spring-loaded. Pull it forward a bit and you can dock your device. It then pulls back a bit toward its original position. That means it can hold a number of iOS devices quite tightly and without special size adapters.

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At the back of the Stem TimeCommand you find nothing except for the power plug. Honestly, I was a bit surprised to find that there was no auxiliary-in port to allow non-iOS devices to function with the speaker. As someone who is pretty well committed to Apple’s products this doesn’t pose an issue for me, but it does mean that this clock is more “Apple-centric” than just about any accessory I’ve seen.

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If you look at the bottom of the Stem TimeCommand you find a circular disk that can be rotated and opened to reveal a spot for two AA batteries. The speaker is not intended to be run on batteries. Instead, this battery backup is so you don’t sleep through your alarm if the power goes out.

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Key to this particular device is its tight integration with the custom iOS application. The ‘Stem:Connect’ app is a free download; it is universal, which means it looks just as good on your iPad as it does on your iPhone or iPod Touch. (It can be found here.) We have seen other speakers and alarm clocks that are paired with apps, but this is one of the best we have seen.

This is what the company has to say about their app.

From Stem:

Take control of your TimeCommand™ audio alarm dock with the evolutionary Stem:Connect App, available for free download from the App Store. Customize your alarm settings, play and equalize music from your iPod, iPhone or iPad – even control your bedside lamp. Keep tabs on your local weather, relax to nature sounds or fall asleep to music, all with Stem:Connect’s customizable features.

Never miss an important alarm as SafeWake gives you backup features for peace of mind. Set alarms in the app and have them push to TimeCommand automatically the next time you dock your Apple device. Or, set an alarm on the clock and have it transfer back to the app when the device is docked. Take a nap, snooze for a few extra minutes or drift off to sleep as your music fades.

Fully control your audio experience with the Sonic iQ features. Use the 5-band graphic equalizer to customize the sound to suit your tastes. Choose from among EQ presets, adjust the highs and lows individually, and enhance bass or loudness with a simple touch.

Use the Wake-by-Light controls to have a lamp connected to TimeCommand’s power supply turn off automatically when you go to sleep. Or, have the lamp turn on automatically when an alarm sounds. Even control the brightness of a connected lamp with an incandescent bulb, dimming the lamp with a swipe of your finger.

Automatically view the current local weather and forecast details. Set calendar-based alarms, control the brightness of your clock display, customize user backgrounds with your own images – even control future Stem products – all with Stem:Connect’s innovative features.

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As noted in the introduction, the original version of the app wasn’t very impressive. The recent update, however, makes it a good clock app on its own and an even better one when it’s integrated with the Stem TimeCommand.

As you can see from the screenshot, when you launch the app you see the time, day and date as well as an indication of any alarms that are set. Along the top you have four simple icons. One allows you to select the music that will play for the alarms or the sleep mode. The second allows you to fall asleep to music and ensures that the timer will turn off the music player at the appropriate power. The third allows you to dim the screen, which is significant if you are a light sleeper or live next to someone who is and control the separate clock that can be attached to the Stem TimeCommand’s wall plug. And, finally, there is a settings button that allows you to choose a number of options. This isn’t the most fully featured alarm clock I’ve seen for iPhones and iPods, but it certainly has all the functionality that you’re going to want in a basic clock.

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When you place an iOS device that’s running the app on the dock it immediately invites you to set alarms. This is a great feature, since it means you don’t have to go through the trouble of trying to set the alarm clock using the buttons on the Stem TimeCommand. Instead, you simply set the alarm on the iPhone, iPod or iPad, and that alarm is fed to the Stem TimeCommand.

This is also a good time to highlight one of the neatest tricks this device offers. If you notice in the above shot, the time is set to 12:02. More accurately, the time hasn’t been set and it is flashing 12:02 AM in order to send the message you should set the time. In actuality this picture was taken at 8:43 AM.

I don’t know about you, but I hate having to set digital alarm clocks. You have to select the hour and then scroll through until you get the proper hour. Then you have to select the minute and scroll through until you get the proper minute. Then, if the clock supports the day and date, you have to go through the same process there as well. Not so here. Instead, you simply take an iPhone, iPod or iPad that’s running the application and place it on the dock. Within a few seconds the app sets the time on the Stem TimeCommand using the date and time on the iOS device. It is simple, quick and… done.

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In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty impressed with the Stem TimeCommand. The iOS application is decent and free. It even includes the weather which is a nice addition. The Stem TimeCommand itself would be a good digital alarm clock in its own right even if it wasn’t a clock-dock. It has two independent alarms, an easy to strike sleep button and a battery backup. Put the two together, and you have a really nice combination.

You can use the clock without an iOS device attached, and it will do pretty much everything you need. Attach an iOS device, and you get even more functionality and control — and you get to charge your device.

It’s worth mentioning that the plug on the Stem TimeCommand has an extra input into which a wall or desk light can be plugged. Once a light has been plugged in, you can use the clock or the app to control the brightness of that light. It’s not a needed integration, but it certainly is a nice add-on.

It’s also worth noting that the sound from the Stem TimeCommand is quite impressive. It gets fairly loud, and it has a good 360° surround sound effect. No, the sound produced doesn’t measure up to my latest big purchase (the Sonos audio system), but it’s not intended as a home stereo system; as a bedside alarm clock it’s going to more than satisfy.

You can learn more one on the company web site, and you can buy them exclusively from the Apple retail store.

MSRP: $99.95

What I Like: Good alarm clock on its own; two alarms; battery backup; works with iPhone, iPod and iPad; decent, loud sound; free universal app works well

What Needs Improvement: No aux-in; purely an Apple-centric device; round shape and fairly large footprint make it a “presence”


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5 replies

  1. I have had this a couple of months.  I have been woken up early on several weekends and not at all on some workdays.  I thought the concept was neat but I can’t deal with things not working correctly.
    This product might end up costing you more than just a 100 bucks.

  2. I have had this a couple of months.  I have been woken up early on several weekends and not at all on some workdays.  I thought the concept was neat but I can’t deal with things not working correctly.
    This product might end up costing you more than just a 100 bucks.

    • Oh that stinks, so sorry to hear. I haven’t run into this but I’m paranoid enough that I always set two different clocks so I might not have noticed if that one didn’t go off. Anyone else using this and run into a similar problem?

  3. I’m having a problem with this device that I have yet to find anyone else having and it’s really frustrating me that I cannot find any solution from  others that have bought this device or even from Stem Innovation. The actual problem for me is not the alarm clock itself but the Stem Connect app. The app works perfectly with my iZon monitor but every time I scroll over to “Time Command” in the Springboard, the app shuts down. I briefly see the “Stem Connect, would you like to use your current location” prompt, but it only appears for a split second before the app shuts down. Have tried re-installing the app, dosen’t help, have tried in “Add New Device” and “Timecommand Alarm Clock” and all I get a message saying “We’re happy to see that you love your Time Command so much that you want to add it twice, but once is probably enough”. So as far as the Time Command Alarm Clock is concerned, my ipod only syncs the time and of course plays my music or other radio apps through the clock speakers and that’s it. Simply cannot get the Time Command menu on the actual app it’s self to work or display. Is there anyone out there at all that has this same problem or more importantly, has a workable solution? 

  4. Technically, you don’t HAVE to leave the app running, though it is required for the iPod wake-up integration (music, lights). Without the app, it functions as a normal alarm clock. I agree though, the dock should ideally be able to “wake up” the iPod and app before waking YOU up. However, on the newest version of the app (1.13 as of this date), you can set the sleep brightness of the app all the way down to 1%. I also agree that the TimeCommand has a fair bit of functionality that isn’t readily apparent. Basic functions are quite intuitive, but to really make the device shine, you have to know all the less-obvious tricks. (Note: Again, on the new app version, there are “hints” that can be turned on or off to help guide you in using the app; there’s also a very comprehensive and easily navigable information section that really helps.)

    The device isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good. I recently got mine, and since it’s not a hot new product any longer, I got it at a great price ($17 brand new) on a liquidation site. It may not have been quite worth $100 two years ago, but for $17 today, it’s a total steal.