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Google's and Lenovo’s Smart Clock makes your morning alarm less awful

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Google (GOOGGOOGL) came into CES 2019 with one goal in mind: make its Assistant every bit the household name Amazon’s Alexa is. And to do that, Google is bringing Assistant to a slew of new products — the most promising and useful of which is the Lenovo Smart Clock.

The Smart Clock is, as its name implies, a clock with Google Assistant built in. It’s a sleek little device that looks like it would fit in easily on your nightstand, but it’s got some serious competition in, you guessed it, Amazon’s (AMZN) own smart clock, the Echo Spot. And at $79, the Smart Clock significantly undercuts Amazon’s Echo Spot, which costs $129.

At that price, the Smart Clock is shaping up to be exactly the kind of smart device that you’d want next to your bed thanks to its voice controls and the way it slowly raises the volume of your alarm each morning.

Keeping it simple

The Smart Clock isn’t supposed to be as complex as Lenovo’s Smart Display with Google Assistant. You won’t be able to stream video to it, and you won’t be able to video chat with it since there’s no camera. Lenovo and Google, however, say there are reasons for that. Chiefly, that you probably don’t want to watch video on a 4-inch display and, because chances are you don’t want a camera pointed at you while you’re sleeping every night.

When building out the Smart Clock, Lenovo and Google said they took into account the fact that people generally don’t like being woken up by the incredibly annoying and jarring sound of their alarm clocks. To help improve this experience, the companies have set the Smart Clock to slowly begin increasing its screen’s brightness 30 minutes before your alarm sounds.

And when that dreadful noise finally begins, it won’t hit at peak volume all at once, but instead will slowly increase in volume. The idea is to make waking up a little less awful each morning. And, of course, you can set multiple alarms each morning 1-minute apart like I do, so you can constantly snooze one after the other until you’re late for work.

The Lenovo Smart Clock is meant to provide you with the right amount of information for your nightstand. So don't expect to watch movies from this little device. Image Source: Lenovo

Unlike Amazon’s Echo Spot, which has a circular design reminiscent of a classic alarm clock, the Smart Clock features a rectangular display up front, with a body that slowly tapers off toward its rear. Lenovo covered the Smart Clock with a cloth shell that’s thematically similar to the cloth base found on Google’s own Google Home smart speaker.

Up top there are two physical volume buttons, as well as a touch-sensitive area that you can tap, or more realistically smash, to silence your alarm. Around back, there’s a power adapter; physical mute button if you don’t want Assistant listening to you at night, and USB port.

That USB port is a smart addition to the clock. It’s meant for you to be able to charge your smartphone while the Clock is plugged in, since that will presumably take up one of the power outlets next to your bed. And since Google and Lenovo know you’ll still need to charge your handset, they added the USB port to compensate for losing a wall outlet.

Using a Smart Clock

The Smart Clock’s interface is a low-key affair. There’s the digital clock face, a weather tab, a tab for checking your commute and schedule and one for setting an alarm. You can use the touchscreen or your voice to call up any of the screens, and set alarms.

Since the Smart Clock uses Google Assistant, you’ll be able to control all of your Assistant-compatible smart home devices, so you can do things like check in on your connected cameras and lock your doors at night.

With Google Assistant routines, you can also set up several smart home tasks to respond to key phrases like “Okay, Google, goodnight,” or “Okay, Google, good morning.” During my demonstrations, representatives from Google and Lenovo showed how you can set a routine to turn off your lights, lock your smart locks, and begin playing preset music.

Lenovo doesn’t have a firm release date for the Smart Clock outside of saying it will hit the market this spring. We’ll see how it stacks up when I get my hands on the Smart Clock later this year.

More from Dan:

Google Assistant is getting new features to take on Amazon’s Alexa

The one bright spot in Apple’s dramatic letter to investors

Apple’s Chinese competitors figured out how to make Apple products better than Apple

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley. Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.finance.yahoo.com/