“Hey there, I’m just calling to wake you up,” I said a little awkwardly.
“Thanks. Where are you from?” replied a female voice with a thick Irish accent.
“The UK. You’re from Ireland, right?”
“How could you tell?” she said wryly.
“The flag at the top of the screen.”
It took 9 months to be approved, but, Wakie — the ‘social alarm clock’ that lets you wake up (and be woken up by) strangers — has finally arrived on iOS. Launched originally in Russia as a website back in 2011, before being rebuilt and debuting on Windows Phone and Android earlier this year, the app is designed to replace your phone’s alarm clock with a call from a real person: Namely, another member of the Wakie community.
“Most people hate alarm clocks, billions of people feel unhappy every day with these classic ringers and ding-congers,” Wakie co-founder and CEO Hrachik Adjamian tells me. “We make people happy with the voice of friendly strangers from all over the world who try to make you smile in the morning. A lot of people who use our service say that they started to love mornings. The better you start your day the better you feel yourself for the rest of the day.”
For those who want to be woken up — dubbed ‘Sleepyheads’ — Wakie works in a similar way to any other alarm clock. You simply set the time and day you want the alarm to go off. However, when it’s time to be woken up, the app anonymously connects you to a call from another user. You then get around a minute to talk and be woken up. If no ‘Wakie’ is available, the app will play an automated message instead.
“A lot of people keep snoozing alarm clocks and still can’t wake up,” says Adjamian. “Our research shows that a 1 minute talk to a stranger wakes your brain up with a 99 per cent guarantee. When someone asks you questions in the morning your brain has to wake up to answer. Also you try to be kind, you try to turn on your social pattern of behaviour. After the call you can’t sleep anymore even if you had a short sleep.”
The first person I connected with through the app was an American female who, unsurprisingly but slightly disconcertingly, sounded as though she’d only just woken up. Then it dawned on me: that’s because she had, and I was the person responsible. Despite having trouble understanding her — she was half asleep after all — we persevered for the remaining 45 seconds or so until the app abruptly cut us off.
Not deterred by the awkwardness of my first attempt at being a ‘Wakie’, I rolled the dice again. This time I was connected to an American male who was chirpy to say the least. “I’m here to wake you up,” I said, a lot more confidently. “Thanks man!” he replied, as if perhaps he’d been awake for hours. Either way, I was definitely getting the hang of this.
My third call was with an Irish female who later told me she was 22 years old and had used the app on a couple of occasions, both as a ‘Wakie’ and as a ‘Sleepyhead’. This time I fessed up to being a journalist and — aware that we only had a minute — asked her what she made of the concept. She said it was fun and had already led to a number of interesting conversations and voicemail messages (more times than not, the person asleep doesn’t answer and their phone eventually goes to voicemail, something Wakie is planning to address). Given the anonymous nature of the app, I also asked her if she had ever encountered any abuse. No, she said, the Wakie community had thus far remained friendly.
After our call, ‘Natalie’ posted a message on Wakie’s in-app forum, a place where users can converse and, potentially, try to connect with the person they have just spoken to. Her message was addressed to “English journalist dude”, giving me (or any other member of the community) a chance to reply. This also hints at where the app’s future lies.
A paid-for ‘Premium’ version of Wakie is in the works that will extend the talk time for each wake up call to 5 minutes, and allow you to specify the gender of the person you are connected to and see their profile after the call, depending on their individual privacy settings.
“Also we are working on adding clever robo-calls. You will have an ability to set an alarm clock just for you: it will tell you the weather in your city, news from your industry, interesting facts and much more,” adds Adjamian. “Another thing that we’ve already tested is a Celebrity alarm clock. You can buy an alarm clock of your idol and get different pre-recorded calls from him every day. Celebrities promote their alarm clocks on their social network pages. The revenue is shared.”