iHome has been the go-to alarm clock dock for Apple's products since before the first iPhone launched. The company's latest effort, the iD50, hopes to continue that tradition by offering a powerful speaker system augmented by function-specific apps. So does the $169 iD50 deserve your consideration? Read on to find out.
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Measuring 10.6 x 6.2 x 4.3 and weighing 2.9 pounds, the iD50 is somewhat bulky, but not as large or heavy as the Philips DC390 (10.4 x 9.6 x 6.3 inches, 3.1 pounds). The iD50's deck is covered in a matte black paint job that looks significantly better than the glossy coating worn by its predecessors, but still looks too plain. We prefer the aluminum cabinet on the Philips.
The unit's flexible dock connector and cradle are pushed toward the back to make room for the system's 15 backlit buttons. While we always appreciate more options, the large amount of buttons the iD50 sports makes the deck look busy.
Both sides of the iD50 are wrapped in a band of silver plastic that gives the unit some character, while the speakers jut out ever so slightly. The alarm's LCD, situated between the speakers, offers large, ghost-white numbers and letters that put less strain on your eyes in the dark than the traditional red lighting used by most clocks.
While we appreciate that the iD50 includes an AM/FM radio, the separate antennas attached to the back of the unit created a rat's nest of wires.
Setup and interface
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Setting up the iD50 was quick and painless. Attach the unit's AM antenna and frame and then connect your iPad, iPhone or iPod to the dock connector. You should receive a prompt telling you that your device doesn't have the appropriate app for the iD50. Follow the on-screen link to download the app from Apple's App Store and you should be set.
There are three apps available for the iD50: iHome Set and iHome+Sleep are both free, and iHome+Radio costs $1.99. The iHome Set app is the most basic, and lets you set your alarm clock, set sleep timers and listen to music. The iHome+Sleep app includes a Stats feature that tells you how many hours of sleep you've gotten, what your most recent wakeup time was and how many times you pressed the Snooze button. The $1.99 iHome+Radio app provides users with access to Internet radio websites, but doesn't provide you with sleep stats.
Each of the apps are fairly easy to navigate. Still, the fact that iHome requires users to download three separate apps to take full advantage of its alarm clock is annoying. Each of these apps could have easily been combined into one, such as with Stem's TimeCommand app.
Hands down, the iD50's best feature is its speakerphone. Instead of having to disconnect your iPhone from the dock whenever you get a phone call, you can just tap the iD50's answer button and start talking. You can also make calls by dialing from your iPhone's touchpad and redial the most recent number by double-tapping the green call button on the dock's deck.
The iD50's Bluetooth feature was also particularly convenient, as we were able to listen to music on the iD50 without having to connect our iPhone to the dock connector. The unit's speaker phone worked over Bluetooth, too.
The iD50 includes an easy-to-use remote capable of controlling everything from song volume to the equalizer's performance and the speakerphone function. Unfortunately, pressing some buttons required some extra effort that that made the remote flex. The remote for the Philips DC390 felt much more sturdy.
The iD50 offered crisp and distortion-free audio, providing enough bass and treble to give our test tracks an extra bit of flair. When we switched on the SRS WOW TruBass feature, the thunderous bass hits of Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" echoed through our office, lending a sense of depth to the music. We noticed a bit of distortion while playing with the treble and bass settings via the iD50's equalizer, but that was only when we switched either to the highest or lowest setting. Although good, the iD50's sound quality didn't match the Philips DC390's output, which offered deeper bass and sharper guitar riffs.
We wish there was a way to easily switch between the Bluetooth and dock connector output when your iPhone or iPad is paired with the dock via Bluetooth. Instead, you have to open your iPhone or iPad's settings and turn off its Bluetooth radio. It's also worth noting that the iD50's volume will mirror your iPhone's, so if you turn your phone halfway up, the dock's speaker will be limited to that volume.
The iHome iD50 offers a host of features and very good audio for $169, and its speakerphone feature is a plus. We also like that there's an old-school AM radio on board. Overall, though, we prefer the $199 Philips DC390, which for $30 more lets you dock your iPhone and iPad simultaneously and sports a more premium aluminum design. Still, if iHome consolidates its three apps into one, we would have no qualms putting the iD50 next to our bed.