Four gadgets to kick-start your day
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
On recent mornings, instead of being jolted into consciousness by my militant iPhone buzzer, I’ve been roused, ever so gently, by a little box of calm called Loftie. Dreamed up by a New York startup, this smart alarm clock has a simple raison d’être: it aims to banish your phone from the bedroom while you sleep. That means more time away from emails, social media and the smartphone’s harsh blue light, which is widely known to suppress the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin. And while we’ve heard this sentiment uttered before from brands and wellness gurus hoping to appeal to bleary-eyed digital addicts desperate for zzzs, the Loftie is particularly compelling.
Everything about the Bluetooth-enabled device – which plugs into the wall and is operated via an app or, more sensibly, by pressing its physical buttons – contributes to a soothing ambience. A shapely object whose looks earned it a spot in the MoMA Design Store, it has a night-light that glows warmly from beneath its black polycarbonate shell (it’s perhaps a little too soft: I wish it was brighter so that it could be used as a reading light). Yet its forte is sound. It boasts a multitude of aural functions including a white-noise machine, meditation and breathing exercises, gong-infused sound baths, and other background comforts including chirruping cicadas and, my favourite, a crackling campfire that’s sure to get eyelids drooping. It can also play music and podcasts from your phone (should you have snuck it in under the radar) – its speakers are perfectly fine for the task.
The main event is a two-stage alarm: the first is gentle; the second, which rings nine minutes later, is louder and jauntier. Waking to a “Jungle” birdsong, followed by a xylophone-accented march (there are 10 choices for each alarm), was certainly a preferable way to start the day. It delayed me scrolling Instagram and checking heart rate-raising emails by at least 15 minutes. There are plenty of connected alarms nowadays – you can find clocks with wake‑up lights, Alexa functions and built‑in projectors – but when the Loftie coos, “There will be no stress in the bedroom,” it has me convinced. Loftie alarm clock, $149
Not just a pretty face
Smartwatches are many things, but sexy is generally not one of them. They can look samey and, well, nerdy. But if anyone’s going to upend that perception it’s Louis Vuitton. For the past few years the luxury house has been making inroads into this market – and its third model, the Tambour Horizon Light Up, is its glitziest yet.
The Tambour delivers much of what you’d expect – displaying messages; controlling music; providing alarms – but its USP is a MyDay programme that collates data on heart rate and steps, daily schedule, weather and, intriguingly, air pollution. It enables you to add a second time zone to its clock, comes with a suite of city guides, and is waterproof. It’s easy and intuitive to use – operated via finger-swipe, button-push or app – and is compatible with iPhones, Android and HarmonyOS smartphones. With a twist of the crown, the watch face can be changed to backgrounds including a cartoon ox (and a further menagerie of animated animals) holding a handbag; the brand’s flower-faced mascot Vivienne; and designs featuring wearers’ initials. The colour combos are endless. Louis Vuitton claims it is the most customisable smartwatch in the world. Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon Light Up, £2,320
Set the agenda
The morning commuter looking to get their head straight will open their Nova Air with a feeling of smugness. The newest release from Chinese brand Onyx Boox is a two-in-one e-reader and digital note-taker that enables you to toggle between work and play with the scrawl of a stylus. (Think of it as a Kindle with a productivity function.) Lightweight and small enough to hold in one hand, it lasts two weeks between charges and its greatest asset is its touch pen: this snaps magnetically to its side and is smooth to use, whether you’re scribbling to-do lists or annotating PDFs. The device runs on Android and, via Google Play, you can access apps including news, email, and Dropbox. It has an in-house library (which consists mostly of classics) and you can download books from other apps or transfer titles from your phone or tablet. This isn’t an iPad – browsing the internet is hardly speedy – but for reading and writing, it excels. Onyx Boox Nova Air, $349.99
A speaker that’ll blow your socks on
This speaker, shaped like a doomed 19th-century dirigible, has had me shaking my hips before breakfast. The newest iteration of British brand Bowers & Wilkins’ beloved Zeppelin design – which was last updated in 2015 – delivers wonderfully crisp audio that punches well above its (fairly) mid-market price point. The 65cm-wide wireless device comes in charcoal or dove-grey and, while it has a handful of physical buttons, it’s primarily controlled through an app or via Alexa (it can stream music from services including Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth). The app is notably unfussy yet has some nifty functions including the ability to control treble (which I ramped up for a Billie Eilish ballad) and bass (maxed out, naturally, to get Lil Nas X pulsing). Its sound is delivered through five loudspeakers positioned across its elegantly elongated body, although to the ear it registers as one block of noise rather than a split stereo system. Less about audio gymnastics than delivering reliably punchy sound. Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin speaker, £699