Lark Up! – Day 1

What Is It?

Lark is a sleep monitor / alarm clock device hardware device and iPhone app combination. The hardware is a small bluetooth pod that you wear on a wristband while you sleep and a combination phone dock / Lark pod charging station. They also include a dock which holds your iPhone and has charging ports for both the the Lark and a USB port.  While there is only an iPhone app at the moment, the USB port could be used to charge any smart phone.

Lark’s pitch is that in addition to monitoring your sleep with accelerometers, the Lark wristband vibrates so that your sleep partner is not woken by your alarm. Additionally, the pattern of the vibrations is scientifically determined to gently, but insistently wake you up.

The Lark app keeps track of your sleep history, alarm settings, and provides sleep coaching. It costs $129. Sleep coaching is an additional $60 for a 7-day session.

The Lark is similar to the Zeo in a lot of respects, however, the Zeo is a large base unit / clock which costs$159 (originally, it was $300!). It uses a headband and claims to monitor your brain to detect how well you sleep. The base records it’s data on a SD card which you plug it into your computer in order to get your sleep analysis results. The base also has a display that shows you some sleep data as well. Zeo offers sleep coaching which was an additional cost when it first came out. However, my guess is that people were not buying the Zeo in sufficient quantities and they decided to throw in the coaching for free to increase the device’s value. Additionally, the Zeo relies on sensors in the headband which degrade over time. New ones are $11 each and should last only 90 days (3 months). That means that using the Zeo would cost you $44 / year.  The Zeo unit costs $159.

The Lark is also similar to the WakeMate, which is also a wristband and smartphone based system and costs $59. Unlike the Lark, WakeMate uses a traditional audio alarm on your phone to wake you and does not come with a dock. Unlike the Lark, both the Zeo and the WakeMate try to predict when you are sleeping the lightest in a window around when you set your alarm. They figure that you will wake easiest when you are sleeping lightly. WakeMate also includes coaching for free. WakeMate has a basic analysis of their product and it’s competitors here. Some of the information, like the price on the Zeo, is out-dated, but it’s a good overview. Lark is so new that they haven’t added it yet. However, given the criteria WakeMate has listed, it compares favorably, except on price.

My guess is that Lark will end up including the sleep coaching for the base price like their competitors do.

Mine arrived and I tried it out last night. Here are some thoughts.

General Impressions

  • The wristband, pod, dock, and app all have really nice design touches.
  • The app is very easy to use. The clock display is fairly dim and fades to black within a few minutes. Simply touching the screen reactivates the clock.
  • The wristband is very comfortable.
  • The dock looks good and is nicely weighted. The phone slot is nicely rubberized and holds the phone securely and at a good angle.

Areas for improvement

  • Unlike the snore monitor apps that I’ve used, the Lark app turns the screen black, but never turns the screen’s backlight off. So, the phone continues to glow for the whole night. I only found this slightly distracting.
  • The Lark pod was really tough to get into the wristband. It’s an extremely tight pressure fitting. I wonder if velcro, like the kind used to hold electronic toll passes would work well.
  • The Lark pod has an LED on it which tells you its charging and pairing status. This LED is super bright and before the Lark pod goes to sleep, which takes a few minutes after you’re in bed, the green flashing could be used as a flashlight. It’s way too bright and was distracting me. I put a piece of duct tape over the over the LED which dimmed it enough to still be able to see the status, yet not keep my attention.
  • To remove the wristband in the morning, you have to open the velcro fastener, which makes a fair amount of noise when opened. This means that if your partner is sleeping, you have to go into another room to take the wristband off because the velcro is so loud.
  • Lark recommends that the Lark pod be charged every day. The charging port on the dock is mini-USB, which is a bit fiddly to hook the pod onto quietly, especially first thing in the morning when you just woke up and you’re trying to keep from waking your partner. An induction charging system would be a lot better.
  • The dock’s phone slot slot only fits naked phones. If you usually keep your phone in a case, you’ll have to take it out of the case to stand it in the dock.
  • It’d be nice if Lark had a super short phone charging cable available to buy along with the Lark. All of the cables I have are 3 or more feet long and it’d be nice to keep the clutter on my bedside table down.
  • One thing I like about the iPhone clock app is that you can set recurring alarms and have them happen on different days of the week. For example, I have an alarm set for 7:30am on weekdays and on 8:30am on weekends. Right now, an alarm can be either on or off. The Lark pod must be connected to the phone via bluetooth in order to turn on an alarm.

I tried the lark last night and I’m not sure I agree with it’s assessment of my sleep. I went to bed around 11pm and woke up at 7:46am.. However, the Lark reports that I went to bed at 7:17pm. This is probably because I was playing around with the device and setting it up.  And, unfortunately, I had set the alarm for 8:30am, so I woke up quite a bit earlier and did not get to experience the buzzing.

I think the Lark has a lot of promise and I think that none of these are deal-breakers and could be improved relatively easily. I’m going to continue using the Lark and will report back on my thoughts next weekend.


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