Back in late 2009, a company appeared out of nowhere around the tech blogs claiming to have a new way to get better sleep. That company was Perfect Third, makers of the WakeMate. On January 2, 2010, I decided to take the plunge and pre-ordered my WakeMate for $50. If I could have a product that would help me with my sleep, and it looked like the image below, I’ll be all over it.
The original WakeMates were supposed to ship out January 25, 2010, so I was pretty excited. Then ON the 25th of January, I received an e-mail saying they’ve run into delays and won’t be able to make the ship date of the 25th (ya think?). They then changed the ship date to Q1 of 2010. You would think a company funded by venture firm Y Combinator, which focuses on early-stage start-ups (other Y Combinator funded companies: Loopt, Justin.tv, and Reddit) could meet the order demand, hardware/software, etc.
Not a peep was heard out of Perfect Third until March 11. They stated they had “good news” and that the first run of WakeMates would be sent out in March. “Yippee!” I thought, when in fact, it was just a lie (one of many to come).
The next e-mail update was April 1 (how ironic) with a subject that read “WakeMates are shipping!” That wasn’t the only “good news” in the e-mail. It also stated:
“The next batch of units will ship no later July 30th, 2010. Based on your pre-order date (01/02/2010), you should expect your WakeMate no later than 07/30/2010, but probably significantly sooner.”
Oh goodie. So now I have to wait almost 4 months to get mine. Ok, I can do that. No big deal. However, WakeMate had created a Facebook fan page, and many people (including myself) were getting fed up with the lack of communication and the multiple delays in shipping. Did WakeMate try to respond and smooth things out with its customers? No. Instead, they deleted their page. Talk about customer service! On April 3rd, someone created a WakeMate page so other users could talk about what was going on.
The company finally started updating it’s blog. On July 20th (only 11 days before I receive my WakeMate), a blog post reads: “We may not hit the July 31st date at this point, but we’ll come close.” Somehow I wasn’t shocked at this statement. I was shocked, however, by the final design of the product.
Here’s the original concept (which oddly enough, doesn’t look like the original concept posted at the top of this post):
And here is what they posted as (and I quote) “relatively close to the original concept drawing done by the design firm months ago.”
WTF? Are you kidding me? Even a blind 2-year old could tell you those look NOTHING alike. “Fine,” I thought, “we’ll see how this thing works out. I mean, it’s only a few days until it ships, right?” If I could go back in time, I’d slap myself and tell myself to cancel my pre-order.
The WakeMate blog finally became active with updates and even photos of them going to the factory to see them being made. This raises a BIG question. So the e-mail from April 1 was a total lie? The one that said “WakeMates are shipping!” That should’ve raised a big red flag with me.
December 19, 2010: I get an e-mail that states “Your WakeMate is ready!” Wow, are you sure this time? I promptly fill out the shipping address and other info they need. I was gone during the holidays, but finally received the package on December 27, 2010 (almost a year after I put in a pre-order).
I was so excited. It’s almost like Duke Nukem Forever, or Gran Turismo 5. I was beginning to think WakeMate was just vapor-ware and I’d never see the package. I opened it up to see what was inside:
It came with the wristband (still looking like crap), the bluetooth accessory (which looks like it was assembled in someone’s garage with a lot of electrical tape), the wall adapter, a USB cable to charge it, and a small instruction sheet. I decided to turn it on to see if it worked:
Yep, it works. A nice green light to tell me it’s working, and no smoke coming from it, so it must be ok (you’ll see why this is funny in a little bit). I decided to plug it in next.
Ok, it’s red when charging. Cool.
I’m ready for my first night with the WakeMate. I put the Bluetooth device in the wristband and put it around my wrist. It was freaking tight. I pulled on it a little hoping to stretch it out, but it didn’t work to well. “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll make it through the night.” Wrong. Worst sleep ever.
When I woke up the next morning, I took off the wristband and had an imprint going all the way around my wrist. Yeah, not good. I searched around to see if other people were having the same problem, and sure enough, they were. The most common solution was to turn the device inside out. I tried that the next night, but no such luck. It still left an imprint on my wrist.
After using the WakeMate a few nights, I get another e-mail from WakeMate reading:
“Important Safety Notice
Hello WakeMate Customer,
We have just been alerted to a safety issue with our product. The black USB charger bricks that have been included with the product are defective. Do not use them.”
It went on to say how they outsourced it to China, blah blah blah, but they never said what the problem was. It was just “defective.” A short Google search turned up a Tweet that read:
“my @WakeMate just burnt into flames, nearly catching my bed on fire. Do NOT use. Video of it afterward: http://twitvid.com/UBBWC”
Another issue I had was with the battery life. The app on my iPhone said my WakeMate had a charge of 12 hours left. I woke in the morning after sleeping for only 7 hours to find my WakeMate dead. After a few more nights with the WakeMate, I couldn’t take it anymore. This product sucks, plain and simple.
My WakeMate has been sent back to Perfect Third for a refund (I still had to pay for shipping both ways, yay me!). I hope I never see another WakeMate as long as I live. Not that it was all bad. The app was pretty look at, and the analytics were good looking. That counts for something, right? Right?
I know some people may be enjoying their WakeMates, but mine was a tight little bundle of crap that left an imprint on my wrist and couldn’t make it more than one night without being charged.
This goes down in history as one of the worst product launches ever. EVER. Oh, by the way, if after reading this review, you want one (how could you not, right?), WakeMate has raised the price by $10, making it a total of $60 + shipping to get one. But beware, as of this writing, they’re backordered.
I sure hope my refund doesn’t take as long to get as the actual product did. I’ll be sticking to SleepCycle for now.
Rating: -100 out of 10.