Review: The Withings Aura Connected Alarm Clock & Sleep Sensor
I’ve been interested in the Withings family of products since they released their smartphone-enabled original baby monitor. They had some of the first connected home devices on the market and were since acquired by tech giant Nokia in 2016. I love to see the intersection of health and consumer technology, and previously I reviewed Withings’ Activité Pop fitness tracker.
Enter the Withings Aura Sleep System. In short, Aura is a device for tracking your sleep and promoting a better night’s sleep all around. Hey, we all need better sleep, right?
Getting Started with Aura
Inside the box for Aura you’ll find:
- the main alarm clock unit
- an AC adapter with various plugs for different regions
- the sleep sensor
(Note: the system is sold in three different configurations: (1) just the alarm clock, (2) the alarm clock plus one sensor, and (3) the alarm clock plus two sensors. The one I received for review was setup #2.)
Setting up Aura is pretty straightforward, although I’d recommend doing so closer to bedtime. I got mine all ready and then had nothing to do.
I suppose I should have taken a nap. Shoot.
The clock plugs into the wall with the included adapter and from there you configure Aura using the Health Mate app from Withings.
A few notes on the setup process:
- It took a little while for the device to appear on my iPhone, and making the connection was a bit of a struggle.
- I ended up having to do a Google search for a factory reset. Turns out you have to unplug/plug in the device 5x, and after that it’ll arrive back at its factory settings.
- Once the unit was connected to our home WiFi (configured via the app), it found a software update right away and went about its business. I suspect this could have fixed any lingering connection issues, as I haven’t had any problems since.
And now, some random first impressions:
- Do not look directly at the light. It’s more than bright. Take my word for it.
- The sleep sensor emits a faint buzzing sound as it calibrates with the main unit, and that process takes about 10 minutes.
- From the pictures I would have thought the big dome on the front of the alarm clock to be some kind of convex-shaped cover, but it’s actually completely concave.
- I was quickly bummed to learn that Aura does not function as a regular Bluetooth speaker. It can stream as a connected device for Spotify Premium customers, and it can play internet radio stations, but that’s it. Kind of a bummer, if you ask me. I’d love to play my podcasts on Aura while I’m putting laundry away or making the bed.
The First Night
To use Aura you need to tell it that you’re headed to sleep – either for the night or just for a nap. You’ll designate:
- When you’d like to wake up, including a “Smart Wake-Up” buffer that’ll recognize where you are in your sleep cycle and wake you up at just the right time.
- The sounds you’d like to fall asleep to (I like the ocean waves).
- Music for when you wake up. You can choose from many, many internet radio stations (BBC3 Classical is my jam, although opera at 5 a.m. can be harrowing) or a custom playlist on Spotify Premium.
Once you do, get ready! A hearty orange glow bursts from the alarm clock, and it’s designed to stimulate the production of melatonin – a hormone that lets you body know it’s time to go to sleep. Personally, I felt a little bit like Kramer in the Kenny Rogers Roasters episode of Seinfeld:
Now to be fair, you can adjust Aura’s brightness, as well as the volume of your going-to-sleep sounds. In fact, all of that is touch-controllable, right on the outside of the main unit. And both the brightness and volume decrease automatically as you’re falling asleep.
In the morning you’ll be transported to the Avatar planet Pandora with a soft blue light designed to reverse the effects of melatonin and tell your body it’s time to wake up. I actually like the blue, but I’m not sure my wife appreciates it. It’s pretty bright, even at its dimmest.
Good job! You slept with Aura, so to speak. Now what?
If you’ve got the optional sleep sensor or one of Withings’ activity trackers, you’ll be presented with some pretty charts and numbers telling you how you slept. I’m usually clocking in somewhere around seven hours.
There’s a lot to like about the Withings Aura Sleep System. From soothing sounds at bedtime to smart alarms in the morning, I believe it does what it says it will do. It’s a shame you can’t use it as a Bluetooth speaker during the day, but it’s nice to have the option of waking up with your favorite Spotify Premium playlist in the morning.
As my wife will tell you, I have absolutely no trouble falling asleep at night, but when it comes to actually getting out of bed in the morning, well, as comedian Jim Gaffigan puts it, “why not start the day with a little procrastination?”. Yes, the snooze button is my nemesis.
Well, Aura may not keep me from hitting the snooze button, but it’s a welcome addition to my daily routine. I think I’ll go take a nap now.
My thanks to the team at Withings for providing me with an Aura Sleep System unit for review.