Gadling gear review: Stem Innovation Time Command Mini clock

I’ve always enjoyed having a collection of my music with me when I travel. It helps me to relax on a long flight, keeps me entertained while on the go, and is much appreciated when I’m passing the time in a hotel room. Thanks to MP3 players and smartphones, it is now easier than ever to carry our entire library of music with us wherever we go, and enjoying that music is made even easier with a compact alarm clock/speaker system such as the Time Command Mini from Stem Innovation.

Designed specifically for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), the Time Command Mini is a very small and lightweight clock that has the potential to be a favorite amongst travelers. The device weighs just 9 ounces and measures less than five inches in diameter, which makes it easy to pack and take along with you when you hit the road. Better yet, it offers surprisingly great sound out of such a small package, filling a room with your favorite music with ease.

On it’s own, the Time Command Mini is a very basic alarm clock with limited functionality. As you would expect, it tells time and can wake you as needed, but other than that, it doesn’t do much else. It doesn’t even include a built in radio, which is a standard feature on the vast majority of alarm clocks these days. But when you plug an iOS device into the dock, located on top of the Mini, it can easily play music, podcasts, or streaming Internet audio, quickly making up for these shortcomings.Stem calls the Mini an “app enhanced” device, and that is a very accurate description. Installing the free Stem:Connect app, which can be downloaded directly from Apple’s App Store, unlocks the true potential of this clock, giving you control over a variety of settings, including display brightness, snooze interval, alarm volume, and so on. The app can also tell you at a glance what current weather conditions are and whether or not you have any alarms set. You can even select from a variety of alarm tones or choose to wake up to music from your personal collection.

But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. The Stem:Connect app also includes a variety of pre-set Internet radio stations to listen to, as well as a “sleep to audio” mode which gradually lowers the volume of your music over a pre-set time, while you drift off into blissful slumber. There are even a number of included natural relaxation sounds, such as ocean waves or summer rainstorms to help you rest easier.

Stem included a number of other nice features in the design of the Time Command Mini as well. For example, docking your iOS device automatically sets the time on the clock, making it a snap to adjust while traveling or for changes in Daylight Savings Time. As you would expect, the built in dock charges your phone or iPod as well, and has been designed to accommodate devices in a protective case too. This is especially handy for iPhone users who don’t want to remove their case just so they can charge their device.

While I appreciate what the Mini brings to the table, and think that it makes a great alarm clock for iPhone owners, especially with the app installed, it does have one large caveat for travelers to keep in mind. For me, a true travel alarm clock needs to have the option to run off batteries for those times when you are staying away from a power outlet. That isn’t an option with the Mini, for obvious reasons. A clock like this one, working in conjunction with an iPhone or iPod, would eat batteries very quickly, making it less than ideal for travel use. If you’re not the kind of traveler who strays very far from power outlets, than this won’t be an issue for you, but I thought it was worth mentioning none the less.

When paired with an iOS device running the Stem:Connect app, the Time Command Mini is a great little alarm clock that is both versatile and fun to use. The clock provides excellent sound and great options for listening to music or streaming audio, both at home or while traveling. The size is perfect for a nightstand or your suitcase, making this a great option for use just about anywhere. With an MSRP of $79.95, it is also surprisingly affordable when compared to other clocks that include an iPhone/iPod dock.