Nicolas Even

The 7€ Alarm Clock

For too long, I used my Android smartphone as an alarm clock. The more I used it, the more the small problems it had got on my nerves.

Changing the alarm time took far too long (I have to wake up at different times with no fixed schedule). Having to look at the screen and find the button to switch off the alarm when it blasted got old very quickly. I had to remember not to keep the earbuds plugged in. And if I happened to forget to charge the phone or put it near my bed, I was screwed.

All of these problems have more or less effective fixes, but I had enough of it and decided it was time to buy a real alarm clock.

The search for the ideal alarm clock

Surprisingly, it wasn't easy. What hit me first was the immense number of products, of every brand and in every price range, none of them devoid of tiny flaws or annoying glitches.

The off button could be hard to reach. The "dual alarm" feature could be tedious to set, or you couldn't only activate one alarm, or pressing the wrong button while waking up could disable both alarms. The radio could be crap. The display could be too bright.

Still, two Sony models, one modern and one retro, seemed quite nice :

The Sony ICF-C318 and ICF-C717PJ Alarm Clocks
The Sony ICF-C318 and ICF-C717PJ Alarm Clocks

Still, I wasn't entirely convinced and set aside the search.

A few weeks later, to get free shipping on an order and without thinking too much of it, I added an inexpensive alarm clock to my cart.

The 7€ Alarm Clock

The Sony ICF-C318 and ICF-C717PJ Alarm Clocks
The 7€ Alarm Clock: The Casio TQ-140

Here it is. I'm still using it and I'm not planning to change that anytime soon.

First of all, it couldn't be more straightforward to use: turn the rear dial to set the alarm time. Lift the top button to turn the alarm on. Push it back down to turn the alarm back off. That's it. No fiddling with menus and options, no remembering which button combination to use. It's like driving stick with a little experience: you just do it, without any conscious thought process. You just use it without thinking or worrying about it.

Speaking about worrying, you don't worry whether you'll be woken up : the top button is up, the alarm hand is at the right time and it didn't act like it was dis­charged the previous morning : you'll be awake by the time you choose. No battery problems, no daylight savings time bug, no earbuds to remove, it will just work.

Still, it has a few problems : it's hard to see in the dark, it goes tick-tock, the alarm is too loud. And obviously it has no radio or any bells & whistles. But these are ridiculously small problems with the main feature working so well.

It's really great and nice to use, and I doubt any of the more feature-rich models would have performed better.

The Bigger Picture

So, taking a step back, the 7€ alarm clock is great because its main feature works great. It wakes you up, every time, with absolutely no hassle. Sure, it has no secondary features and a few shortcomings, but in the end, in the overall experience, it doesn't really matter.

What makes it great is not only the alarm clock's main feature but how it's implemented. The controls are extremely simple and intuitive, without compro­mising flexibility, and you can see every setting and feature at once, at a glance.

As a consequence, it doesn't feel like a complicated piece of technology, it's pleasant to use and can be trusted. The 7€ alarm clock does something useful. It does it well, and in the simplest and most obvious way possible. That's why it is a great product.

Of course, that doesn't only apply to alarm clocks.