WakeMate Review

It’s about time for my WakeMate review. Though I was initially pleased with the device, its usefulness was soon lost in a sea of hardware failure and absent customer service, so this review is really more about my experience with the device and less about the device itself.

Once I received my WakeMate back in February, I was a bit shocked by how flimsy the overall device was. Despite the hard plastic casing depicted in the prototype image, this was nothing more than a small chipset and battery wrapped in some sort of thin rubber (see below). The average human head weighs about eight pounds, and I’m a side-sleeper, which means that I sleep with a hand under my head most of the time. Would you seriously be willing to set an eight pound weight on this soft-shelled chipset?

As can be expected, the device eventually failed. Its Bluetooth ceased to function one morning, rendering the device useless, as it is merely a sensor and all operations are controlled by the mobile phone app. So, here’s where things get interesting.

On June 13, I contacted WakeMate support to report the defective device. I had to delay the report due to travel, but since a one year warranty is provided, I figured that there would be no harm in waiting. I was contacted almost a month later and asked to ship the defective device back at my cost. I shipped it on July 26, and it arrived (and was signed for) three days later. What followed was incredibly long silence for what should have been a simple return and replacement.

I’m a patient guy, so I waited almost two months later before asking, “When will you be sending my replacement?” on September 19. What I received was a one-liner that just shocked me, “Please send me your address and phone type and I’ll send you a unit.” Really? So, not only am I left to assume that my return went into a black hole (because there was no acknowledgement, that was literally it), but it sure sounds like anyone could claim a lost return and receive a free WakeMate.

Well, after another long delay, I received my replacement WakeMate on October 11. Yes, it took almost four months (June 13 to October 11) to receive a replacement WakeMate. Imagine my frustration when it exhibited the same lack of Bluetooth connectivity out of the box. Note that I have several iOS-equipped devices here and tested with all before coming to this conclusion.

As can be expected, I immediately sent an email requesting a working replacement (before I ship this back at my cost) or a straight refund, and re-sent the same request again on October 27. I still have not heard back, and I doubt I ever will. Their live help is always “away” despite listed hours of “9am-7pm (PST) M-F,” their blog has been offline for three weeks, and their Twitter feed has been dormant for over a month.

Would I recommend WakeMate? Absolutely not. In concept, the device is great, but poor durability and absent custom service is not something that I expect from a $60 purchase. If you really want to track your sleep, I recommend a Fitbit, though it doesn’t have any functionality to wake you at the optimal moment. The Zeo Mobile also looks interesting (and offers the same optimal wake feature), but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

Update: It’s November 26th and the WakeMate blog is still offline, but this appeared on their Twitter feed four days ago:

I have sent yet another email as directed and it sounds like I may be getting another replacement. I’ll update this if and when it arrives.

Update 2: It’s December 23rd, the WakeMate blog is still offline, and there has been no activity on their Twitter feed since the date of the Tweet above, November 22nd to be exact. I contacted Arun, as directed in the Tweet, on November 23rd and was asked to submit my address for a replacement. I did as instructed, and have not received my replacement WakeMate, nor have I received a reply since.

Update 3: It’s January 26th, I have received my replacement WakeMate, and it is functioning properly. The WakeMate blog is back online, but there are no new posts. Their Twitter feed is sort of active again too, though there have been no new tweets since December.

Update 4: (You might as well skip over this and read Update 5 below.) It’s June 27, and I have just received a typo-filled Newsletter from WakeMate advertising a new product, the MiLifePlus. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. The WakeMate site and app have now been shutdown, effectively bricking all WakeMates, presumably in favor of this new device which isn’t even in production yet. Even better, this Greg person, who used WakeMate’s mailing list to send the MiLifePlus and is currently using the @wakemate Twitter account, claims to no longer work for WakeMate and that the MiLifePlus is under an entirely separate company. If so, why does he have access to the mailing list and Twitter account, and why did the WakeMate shutdown coincide with the MiLifePlus announcement?

https://twitter.com/wakemate/status/218007015379845120

I may write a full post on my thoughts later, but for now, my interpretation of current events is, “If you bought a WakeMate from us, screw you, it’s broken. Invest in our new product.” As you can imagine, they won’t be getting anything from me.

Update 5: It’s still June 27, but this whole mess has been fascinating to watch. It’s all detailed in this blog post from Arun Gupta. Basically, Greg Nemeth left WakeMate, took the mailing list with him, then (illegally?) used that and the Twitter account he hijacked from WakeMate to promote his new product. It is true that the WakeMate is discontinued and that Greg Nemeth no longer works for WakeMate, but the MiLifePlus is not the official successor to the WakeMate, the WakeMate website is back online (the domain had expired, oops), and the app is working again (as is my WakeMate).

In short, don’t trust MiLifePlus or Greg Nemeth’s shady (illegal?) business practices. As for the future of WakeMate, their plan is to keep the service running while they open source the technology.

10 thoughts on “WakeMate Review

  1. I’ve also been quite disappointed with my WakeMate experience. I originally preordered on Dec 3, 2009 and due to their many many delays the device didn’t ship until April 29, 2011. Upon receipt I used it on a nightly basis and didn’t have any problems, however I started to doubt the effectiveness of the device since I noticed that all it really seemed to do was wake you up as soon as you moved your arm. I didn’t get the impression it was doing much more than waiting for you to move, regardless of whether you were already awake or not, and then the alarm would trigger if it was within the 20 min window.

    I was very disappointed in the build quality of the device, considering what was originally shown on their website vs what was actually delivered. It’s basically a mediocre quality soft cloth wristband with a pocket to hold the electronics module. Nothing about it screams quality, it looks more like what you’d expect from a cheap knock off store in your local Asian mall.

    As of today, just over 6 months since I received the device it stopped working. It won’t charge when plugged in so the battery is dead and I now get to deal with their (laughable) customer service to see if I can get a replacement.

    I also asked them months ago about how one would obtain a replacement electronics module once the battery died (it’s hard wired to the module so once it dies you’re basically screwed unless you buy another one). I never got any response, of course.

    I wouldn’t recommend the Wakemate to anyone. It’s a crappy deal for $60 and if you’re interested in this sort of thing you should probably check out the recently released Jawbone Up (http://jawbone.com/up) that provides the same sort of function as the Wakemate along with several other features for a $99 price that isn’t a huge amount more than what Wakemate is charging.

    These guys had a good idea in the beginning but I think the reality of building and shipping a hardware device didn’t line up with the vision they had and as a result they are now suffering from customer service issues, dead blogs, and a Twitter stream that is basically nothing but a continuous apology to customers for not responding in a timely manner.

    I’d be surprised if these guys are even in business 12 months from now.

    Avoid like the plague.

  2. I just left this as my Amazon review and am ‘sharing’ it around the web elsewhere as a warning to others as well:

    I bought the Wakemate in July. I was disappointed to find that after almost 2 months it still wasn’t going off to wake me up. It would record data, but not actually go off at during the wake up window.

    I contacted customer service TWO months ago regarding it. At first, they were going to replace the device. After I shipped them the device, I waited a month before sending them another email. That email was replied to saying that they ‘hadn’t received my device’. After I sent them a message with the tracking information, I stopped getting replies.

    Worst case, this company is just a scam. You can’t find a number that will ring to a real person and they don’t reply to email or Twitter, which is bad when you have a device that has such a spotty record (take a look at some of the other reviews about this thing). Best case, they are just a small company that isn’t ready for prime time. Either way, I would steer clear of them and save your $60.

    You take your chances, and I would say that if you buy this device, you are not buying it with any warranty and don’t expect any support. I have no tolerance for companies that don’t stand behind their product, and while the information about my sleep patterns was interesting, the support failure makes this an automatic failure.

  3. Randy Hansen says:

    I have used wakemate for the past one year without any of the problem mentioned above until today, which prompted me to find out what is wrong with wakemate, and then I see this review on wakemate. What happened is I am now unable to upload my sleep data as of this writing (Dec 28, 2011)! And what is more surprising is that:
    1. I am no longer able to enter wakemate’s website at wakemate.com
    2. wakemate is no longer for sale at amazon where I bought my wakemate.
    I hope their website will be back so that I can continue to use wakemate which has been working for me perfectly.

  4. Randy Hansen says:

    Folks,
    Wakemate.com website is now back on, approx 36 hours after I wrote the above posting. And my wakemate is now running perfectly and reliably. Love this thing.

  5. Jason Diehl says:

    I bought my WakeMate back in July of ’11 and since then I have not had a problem. Like others that have listed comments, I thought the the battery was defective after about a month and a half of nightly use, but after further experimenting I noticed something that I hope others will take note of that have also experienced a problem with the battery. If you leave the Wakemate plugged in for over an hour something seems to happen (overcharge?, it gets hot?) but it seems to lose the charge. However if you charge for only 20 minutes I get a good charge that lasts at least 2 nights. Sometimes when the app says I do not have enough charge for a full night I charge for only a couple minutes and it gets enough to last the whole night.

    Where I do agree with most of the posts here is the customer service from the site. The online help is never there and when I sent an email asking for a replacement when I thought the battery went bad I never heard back from them. I was happy that I figured out the problem myself and did not have to deal with them. The other thing is that their inventory has apparently never restocked. I have a friend who has signed up to be notified when they receive new product in and he has waited over 3 months so far.

    I believe in this product and feel it does exactly what is advertised. I learned so much about my sleep patterns which has helped me understand how I sleep. I am only now trying to improve it and slowly my score has been going up (from the 30s to the 50s). I used to wake up groggy and wanting to climb right back into bed. Now I am actually excited to get up and check out my score each morning to the point that just the excitement is enough to get me out of bed and start my day. For $60 I feel it is money well spent. And the further analysis they provide on their site is pretty in-depth. The other product mentioned in the review, the Zeo Mobile, you wear on your head. This would never work for me as I toss and turn all night. That thing is gonna slide right off.

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