iPhone App Review: First Light

iPhone App Review: First Light

September 15th, 2011 by

Alarm clock apps are probably a dime a dozen, so if you bring something to the App Store with alarm clock features it’s important to offer something unique. First Light from developer Jumbuck Entertainment aims to be more than an alarm clock, presenting you with the weather, your daily schedule, and your choice of music from a custom playlist.

How It Works

First Light has a main screen that resembles a computer desktop more than your typical iPhone screen. It has a pretty background picture that changes periodically, a weather icon reflecting the current weather, and an analog clock. Also on the main screen is an event calendar showing the current day’s events. Tapping the weather icon brings up a 5-day forecast, and tapping the clock icon shows you the list of alarms in the app.

Tapping the settings icon brings you the screen where you can do just about everything else. It’s a tabbed interface where you can create alarms, change weather settings, social networking options, background pictures, calendar options, and create music playlists. You can set radio-style music “presets”, associating different playlists to different buttons or even setting a radio station to a preset and waking up to that. Alarms can be configured to only work on specific days of the week, letting you totally customize your waking experience down to a fine level of detail.

Pros And Cons

First Light is a great idea for an app, giving you tons of options for creating alarms for different days of the week and different music playlists or stations. The overall graphical look and feel of the app is attractive and solid, resembling a Windows 7-style sidebar with its calendar, analog clock, and weather information. Waking up to First Light is a pleasure, since it can also give you your Twitter and Facebook feeds which, in combination with the weather forecast and your day’s appointments, prepares you for the day right out of the gate.

Where First Light falters is in its overall user interface. The developers have done some things right: tapping the weather icon gives you the forecast and tapping the clock gives you a list of alarms. The weakness of the app is in how every other configuration option is buried under the settings icon. It would be nice and intuitive to be able to set alarms from the upcoming alarms list that comes up after tapping on the clock. The event listing on the main screen also seems like it’s just begging to be tapped, an implied promise of more information right at your fingertips, but touching it does nothing.

It’s also an odd choice to have music playlist creation be available under a music button on the home screen, but creating alarms and putting those playlists to use happens under the settings tab. If you try to save an alarm that uses a playlist but haven’t yet created any playlists, a dialog box pops up telling you to go make a playlist. How about instead of doing that, just take me to a playlist creation screen so I can make one on-the-fly, then save the alarm with that playlist info? It’s a similar story with the radio stations: you have to assign a station to a preset in order to wake up to that station, but why can’t I just select a radio station while making the alarm itself?


First Light is a great alarm clock app with some fantastic ideas. Other than a couple user interface quirks that force you to navigate a few more menus than should necessary to get an alarm created, it’s worth a look if you’re in the market for something other than Apple’s bare-bones Clock app.

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