Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wake Up With Yoko Kanno

I'm not usually one to go crazy over apps on my phone, but this one is so unique, lovely and fun that I can't help but be excited. Usually apps made by clothing companies are pretty poor. They give you a mobile version of their website to buy shirts on. Whoop dee do. Uniqlo isn't your ordinary clothing store and their newest app isn't your run of the mill quick grab for publicity.

Uniqlo is a smart, quirky clothing company from Japan that is a classier, less skeezy 80's porn version of American Apparel. They make affordable, attractive basics and stylish statement pieces. They're slowly branching into America with shops in New York City and plans to expand out into California. They have a history of using the internet and technology in creative ways. They made a splash when they made special screen savors and calendars using girls dancing freestyle to fun Japanese pop music. Now they're breaking into the world of apps with a brilliant, charming little alarm clock.

Uniqlo Wake Up is a whimsical and shockingly useful app that sings at you to gently wake you up. The music changes depending on the weather. A sunny day sounds bouncy and cheerful, a rainy day sounds sombre and partly cloudy is a whole lot of fun. The music and singing doesn't sound cloying or fake and while it's a little too twee, it still comes off as lovely instead of grating. This may be because the venerable and awesome Yoko Kanno created the music for the app.

Yoko Kanno is the musical genius behind some of the absolutely best music in anime. She is responsible for the single best anime music of all time, the songs in Cowboy Bebop. From the blazingly energetic "Tank!" to the incredibly sad "Real Folk Blues" Yoko Kanno is one space cowboy who sure knows how to create some great music. Uniqlo lassoed her considerable composing talents to create their Wake Up app and her signature sound is all over it. I think her involvement singlehandly helps this app from sounding hipstery, hokey and fake.

The app itself is very simple, design-wise. It's a solid color and changes based on the time of day and the weather. Setting the alarm is easy, though it uses a twenty four hour clock. The only negative thing about it is that it won't run in the background on your phone. It may drain your battery a little if you don't plug your phone in at night. Otherwise, it's very easy to use.  

So how does it work? You tell the app where in this big old world you happen to live, tell it what time you wish to be woken by the dulcet tones of Yoko Kanno, and then you go to sleep. When your wake up time approaches, the app starts to chirp. "Good morning!" it says. "It's Seven Am on Wednesday. Today is a sunny day!" The app plays some upbeat music and, if you're me, you wake up smiling and less inclined to want to hurl your phone against the wall and turn back over. It's a delightful start to the day.

Check out Uniqlo's dedicated Wake Up website to hear the songs and watch some sleepy girls start their day in adorable ways. The app is available in both English and Mandarin. It's free for iPhones and Androids. I love it to pieces.
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  1. I think if I had that app I would throw my phone through the wall. That said, I have an equally annoying snippet of a song (Son Dambi's Queen) on my phone for the alarm that goes:

    1,2,3,4~ Do you wanna? chic-a-taa!!
    이제(now) wake up wake up wake up wake wake up
    wake up wake up wake up wake wake up
    Just wake up wake up wake up wake wake up
    모두 다 원하는대로 아틸리싸이(until you decide) chic-a-taa!!

  2. I like both Yoko Kanno and Uniqlo, so I thought I'd check this out! I actually think it's very cute! I didn't so much like the fact that you are supposed to leave it running all night tho. I don't know what sort of phone you have, but I'm running it on an iphone and leaving the app running kept my phone from going to sleep, and having the entire display lit up at night was kinda bright and distracting. It warns you not to hit the 'home' button once you've set the alarm, but I accidentally discovered the alarm will still sound even if you do. The only thing that is inconvenient then is that to turn the alarm back off, you have to unlock the phone and find the app and then hit stop. But if you don't mind the alarm sounding for a few extra moments, it's not a bad trade-off for not having your phone lit up all night... Thanks for the recommendation!