Google and Lenovo have once again teamed up to bring Google Assistant deeper into your life.
This time, it’s a $79 Smart Alarm Clock, a small Google Assistant-enabled clock with a touchscreen display optimized for bedside tables. It’s launching this spring.
Though the form factor is similar to Lenovo’s larger Smart Display, Google is billing the alarm clock as the first of a new category of devices: smart clocks. That may sound like splitting hairs — larger displays also show the time, after all — but there are some meaningful differences that make the device worth paying attention to.
The clock is small, with a 4-inch touch screen display. Behind the display is a fabric-covered 6-watt speaker, volume buttons, and a USB port to charge your phone. There’s no camera on the clock, but there is an ambient light sensor on top (more on that in a minute).
All in all, it’s a relatively simple device.The user interface is more minimalist than larger smart displays. You can’t watch YouTube or other video content, for example.
That’s by design, according to James Felkins, a Google designer who worked on the device. He says they sought to create a more “focused” experience that would minimize distractions so as not to interfere with people’s bedtime routines.
“These are all things we chose specifically, because in the evening you’re trying to decide what time should I wake up in the morning, or in the morning you’re trying to decide what should I wear or when should I leave,” Felkins said.
You can also use the clock to listen to music and podcasts or control other smart home devices. The 6-watt speaker wasn’t the best sound quality I’ve ever heard, but in my brief demo it sounded at least as good as the Google Home Mini.
The clock also syncs with your calendar to show you items from your schedule and provide alarm suggestions.
One of the Smart Clock’s more interesting features is how it uses its ambient light sensor. When you’re getting ready for bed, the display will automatically dim as the room gets darker. Although, even at its darkest, the time remains dimly illuminated so you can still check the time if you happen to wake up.
When you do get close to your alarm time, the clock’s display will gradually get brighter and change colors during a two-minute window before . your alarm. The idea, according to Google, is to help you gradually wake up with light.
It’s difficult to make out in the photo above, but the display’s light color changes from a warmer one to a brighter, purple-ish hue as it gets closer to your alarm.
Another nice touch: you can disable the alarm just by hitting the top of the clock, similar to what you’d do with a regular old analog alarm clock.
We won’t have a full review until closer to its launch, but I walked away quite impressed with the clock. In many ways, it reminds me of the Google Home Mini.
Back when I first reviewed the Google Home Mini, I wrote that it was designed to get people hooked on Google’s assistant. My first impression of Lenovo’s Smart Clock is similar: this is the gadget that’s going to get you hooked on smart displays.