I recently started a feature that has become popular on my live weekly Internet radio show, The Mosen Explosion, where I review an iOS app. The reviews are live and spontaneous, which gives them a different feel from an edited podcast.
On last week’s show, I demonstrated the iOS app for some new hardware I acquired recently, the TCL Pulse. The response to the review was huge.
I was going to record a more formal review for inclusion on the Mosen Consulting site, but then I realised that those who might benefit from the TCL Pulse the most, may not be able to hear the review very well. So, I’ve put fingers to keyboard to describe this highly useful device.
TCL Pulse is a vibrating alarm clock and timer. It has no additional bells and whistles of any kind. It doesn’t even tell the time. It simply vibrates aggressively and/or plays a sound at a pre-set time, or after a specified time.
It’s a solid-feeling, plastic, palm-sized device.
The only buttons on the device are a large snooze button, and two smaller buttons, one for stopping the alarm, and the other to put the device into pairing mode, which you must hold down for five seconds.
It is programmed from an iOS app, so to use the TCL Pulse, you’ll need an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. I understand an Android app may soon be available.
It pairs with your phone via Bluetooth 4.0, and is powered by 3 AAA batteries.
TCL Pulse is manufactured by Amplifyze, which has a good reputation for producing equipment for the Deaf and hard of hearing. But they also see a mainstream market for this device, pointing out that it can be used to wake up a sleeping teenager. If you’ve ever parented teenagers, you’ll know that’s not always easy.
Setting it up
Batteries are not included with the TCL Pulse, so you’ll need to purchase the three AAA batteries and insert them. As a totally blind person, I found it easy to locate the battery compartment and to work out which way the batteries needed to be inserted.
Next, you’ll need to download the free TCL Pulse app from the App Store.
When you run the TCL Pulse app for the first time, you’ll need to pair your TCL Pulse with your iDevice. You do this from within the app, there is no need to go to the Bluetooth settings in iOS. Double-tap the “Pair new device” button in the app, hold down the pairing button on the TCL Pulse for five seconds, and if the batteries were inserted correctly, the TCL Pulse will be displayed in the list of devices. There is no PIN to enter. Each iDevice can be paired with up to five TCL Pulse units. If you have more than one, you may like to take the time to give each device a descriptive name when you first pair it.
Functions of the App
From the TCL Pulse app, you can set up to 10 daily alarms. You can give each alarm a name, and specify the time, as well as the day or days you want the alarm to sound. You can specify the volume of the alarm sound, the intensity of the vibration, and set the vibration pattern for each alarm you set. So if you wish to be woken each week-day morning at 6 AM, this is done easily with the setting of one alarm.
You can also set a timer, and control sound and vibration functions as you can when setting alarms.
So, how accessible is the TCL Pulse app to blind people who use VoiceOver, the screen reader built-in to iOS? The TCL Pulse app should be usable by even a moderately experienced iOS user. A swipe action can be used to delete alarms, and while the Settings button doesn’t have a clear text label, it is easy to work out the button’s purpose.
Most important of all, the controls to set the alarms and timer are standard picker controls. So whether you’re setting the alarm with the touch screen, a Bluetooth keyboard or a Braille display, it’s an absolutely standard, accessible screen.
My one concern relates to checking battery status. I have yet to have the unit long enough to know what happens when the battery starts to run low, but the battery icon does not appear to be accessible in the app. Hopefully, this is something that could be addressed in an update to the app.
I put the TCL Pulse in my pillow case. If you place it in your pillow case on top of your pillow, you’re likely to find it uncomfortable, so I soon realised I would have to try placing it in my pillow case under the pillow.
I was a bit sceptical about whether I would feel the vibration enough to wake me when it was placed there, but I needn’t have been concerned. At its highest vibration intensity, the TCL Pulse has at this point woken me on every occasion I’ve used it. It sure beats the ear-splitting alarm I used to use on my iPhone, and it will I’m sure be a viable option for people with profound hearing impairments or who are totally Deaf.
As someone who travels a lot, I’ve been looking for a device just like this one. It’s easily controlled from the iPhone I have with me at all times, it’s largely accessible, and I can sleep more soundly knowing that I have a device that is sure to wake me up.
Finding out whether I get an accessible warning about low batteries is my only question at this point, and I will update this review when that becomes clearer.
I would personally also have preferred a device I can charge via USB from my computer, rather than having to worry about whether I have spare batteries.
But the TCL Pulse is one of those simple devices that has made a positive difference. And at $40 from Amazon, the price is right.