We all use some kind of alarm clock to keep our lives on track and our sleepy selves out of bed in the mornings. Some of us use an app on our phones, some a fitness watch, and some use old fashioned clocks. The selection is enormous. There is something to suit every need.
In this article, we will take a look at the two main types of alarm clock that you can choose between. In the end, it all boils down to analog or digital. Application versus mechanical. The points we will examine are sound and noise level, tech level of the user, design, and functionality. But first, let’s take a minute to understand the core difference between analog and digital tech.
Analog vs Digital - The Basics
Anything that takes and sends information (the time, for example) on a continuous spectrum is normally called analog. These take the actual values of things, like the voltage, physical position, wavelength, etc. and use that as their data. The signal can be of any value. An infinite spectrum.
Often, when we talk about tech, analog is the older stuff. These are things like record players for example. Although they may run on electricity, the mechanism by which they interpret data is mechanical.
In the case of alarm clocks, analog means a mechanical clock with gears inside and a bell for waking you up. It could also have a speaker instead of a bell, and that would count as a mix between analog and digital.
Digital technology transmits and receives information as a series of discrete values. These can be either 0 or 1. The data cannot be anything else except a value in binary. This makes the spectrum finite and limited. In general, newer tech increasingly relies on this.
Most of the tech we use in everyday life is digital. From your laptop to your phone, it’s all running on 0s and 1s. Digital alarm clocks tend to be apps on your phone or laptop, but they can also be in the form of digital radio or another device. So nowadays, most alarm clocks (both adults & those alarms designed for kids do tend to be digital.
Sound & Noise Levels
By virtue of being mechanical, sometimes analog alarm clocks can create a harsh, loud noise that scares you out of your sleep. This can cause morning dread, and for the person you share a bedroom with to get agitated with you unless you get up at the same time in the mornings. It is likely that you can’t turn down the volume on these, or change the melody of the bell that it uses.
Setting ringtones and adjusting the volume is just the tip of the iceberg with digital alarms. You can find a melody to meet any requirements. The ability to set the alarm to start quietly, gradually building up the volume will preserve your well-rested peace in the mornings. You can even purchase silent alarms that rely on vibrating.
These clocks are classic and super easy to operate. You just set the dial at the back for a certain time, and, provided you have not run the battery dry, it will ring at that time. There are generally not many options with these at all, so it is hard to go wrong, even for those who are less adept with technology.
If options and possibilities are more your thing, and you don’t mind getting stuck in with some new tech, then maybe digital is better. You can download a whole host of different alarm clock apps from the app store. They cater for every need.
From those that do not let you turn off the alarm until you finish a puzzle, to those that require you to move to a certain spot for the alarm to turn off (like the kitchen, beside the coffee machine), there is one for everyone. The downside is that these may be a little more difficult to control if you are not a proficient mobile phone user.
These come in all shapes and sizes, but the classic alarm clock (with a bell on either side at the top) is one of the most popular designs to date. They also come in more modern varieties, but most designs are in line with the standard 80s and 90s clocks.
Digital alarm clocks are by and large in the form of applications for mobile phones. That said, the user interface can vary dramatically between different apps, with the highest rated ones generally being the user-friendliest. Most will allow the user to set color themes as well, so you can use the theme you like the best.
Another digital option is a digital radio, which looks just like a radio, but with digital signal processing. These may look like one of those clocks with the 8-bit digital display from when you were a kid.
Analog alarm clocks do two things: tell the time on the front display and allow you to set alarms. They are not packed full of functions and so are pretty easy to navigate.
Alarm clocks of the digital variety, however, don’t skimp on functionality. There are options for interface, widgets, setting hundreds of alarms at once, and adding snooze. You can implement a lock on your phone that won’t allow you to turn off the alarm and crawl back into bed. There are even those that track your sleep and wake you at the optimal time in your sleep.
Now that we have looked at the different types of alarm, we can figure out which is the best for our own individual needs. Digital alarms are good for those who want to minimalize clutter on their bedside tables or want tons of options and functions.
Classic, analog clocks are sometimes quite showy and can add a touch of the past to a bedroom. They are a lot noisier with a lot fewer options but can be good for those who just want a clock to wake them with no extras.