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Best alarm clock apps: there’s more than one way to be woken up

If you have trouble waking up in the morning, install one of these iPhone alarms. (Or all of them!)

Every iPhone has the built-in Clock app, which you can use to set an alarm. In fact, if the mood strikes, you can use the Clock app to set dozens of alarms, each of which can have its own label, sound, optional snooze, and repeat settings. So whether you want to be abruptly woken at 6am every day by Rick Astley or desire being slowly roused on weekday mornings by clattering chimes, Clock has you covered.

Yet as solid as Apple’s alarm clock is, it’s a bit clunky to use, and it doesn’t do anything beyond blaring noise your way at pre-defined times. As you’ll see in this round-up, iPhone alarms can be so much more…

1. Rise Alarm Clock

Best for elegance

$1.99/£1.99 • v4.1.9 • 33.9 MB • By Kellen Styler

We’re starting off this round-up with the most elegant alarm clock around. On opening the app, setting an alarm’s simply a case of sliding your finger up or down the screen. Do so and the on-screen clock updates, background colors shifting appropriately to signify daylight at the relevant hour. Usefully, you’re also told how far into the future your alarm is.


Using the app’s settings, which are dragged up from the foot of the screen, you can choose from a diverse selection of alarm sounds. These range from the abrasive (an old-school clock; a temple chime) to the ambient (a babbling brook; chilled-out music). You can also define a sleep playlist to help you doze off, and adjust snooze duration.

Activating the alarm is simply a case of dragging horizontally across the screen, which puts Rise into night mode. The app a few seconds later shifts to a full-screen display. You can swipe horizontally to switch between three backgrounds (black, skyscape, or the view from your camera, and drag vertically to dim the screen.


During testing, we experienced the occasional interface issue – most notably the app not always being responsive in full-screen mode. Also, you need to splash out an additional $0.99/£0.79 for separate weekday/weekend alarms. But if you want something usable and simple, and with a bit more class than the built-in clock app, Rise is a good choice.

Download Rise

2. CARROT Alarm

Best for personality

$2.99/£2.99 • v2.1 • 8.2 MB • By Grailr LLC

If Rise is all about calming minimalism, CARROT Alarm is its evil nemesis. As with all of the CARROT apps, this one is hosted by a malevolent AI that’s determined to one day take over the world. In the meantime, CARROT lives inside your iPhone, delivering snark and twisted commentary in equal measure.


From the off, CARROT helpfully details that if you’re obedient, you’ll be rewarded, but sleep in and CARROT will be upset. Just to get the message home, steam bursts forth from CARROT and the screen turns red during that bit. You then set an alarm, at which point CARROT will in its mechanical voice say something like “May you dream of sugar-plum fairies”, in a manner that’s the precise opposite of soothing.

When the alarm goes off, you can snooze it, although CARROT erupts should you do so. Instead, agree to wake up and CARROT has you perform some basic tests to prove you’re conscious. (Naturally, these are labeled in a suitably bizarre manner, such as ‘flip to mix a deadly neurotoxin’.)


Continue to do as you’re told over a period of days and various prizes unlock, such as additional wake-up tunes and bedtime stories. Oddly, you’ll want to do well, in part because this is an enjoyable and off-the-wall alarm, but also because you fear CARROT might just kill you in your sleep should you disobey.

Download CARROT Alarm

3. Wake Alarm Clock

Best for alarm styles

Free + IAP • v3.3 • 76.2 MB • By Tiny Hearts Limited

Wake rivals Rise when it comes to providing an alarm with a gorgeous interface. Setting an alarm’s admittedly not quite as elegant. You drag downwards and then move your finger around the clock dial, as if rapidly rotating a minute hand – annoying if your desired time is many hours away. But dragging up the little tab from the bottom of the screen reveals some interesting options.


As ever, you get a range of alarm sounds; and unlike Rise, Wake doesn’t charge extra for allowing you to repeat an alarm on set days of the week. The more interesting bit, though, is the alarm styles section, which allows you to determine how your alarm is silenced.


If you’re feeling boring, you can go for a standard swipe. But if you leave Wake active overnight, there’s ‘slap and flip’, the former being used to snooze and the latter to silence. The final option is shake, which forces you to physically shake your phone until Wake shuts up. The app offers five shake levels, and the harder ones require some fairly serious effort on your part. On the plus side, as long as your iPhone doesn’t fly across the room while you’re shaking it when half asleep, you’ll be wide awake by the time you’re done.

Download Wake Alarm Clock

4. Wake N Shake Alarm Clock

Best for cruelty

$4.99/£4.99 • v4.56 • 28.4 MB • By Andres Canella

In a sense, Wake N Shake feels like the wicked offspring of CARROT and Wake’s shake feature. You set your alarm (either a specific time or a countdown for a quick nap), and when it goes off shake your device until Wake N Shake reverts from deafening your eardrums to blissful silence. The app’s developer notes that there’s no mercy and no escape – try to silence your device or even force-quit the app and it returns, like some kind of zombie alarm.


Adding to Wake N Shake’s sadistic streak, it works subtly differently from Wake. The latter will gradually top up the shake level as you waggle your iPhone. By contrast, Wake N Shake’s level depletes if you have the audacity to rest your aching appendage for a few moments. So a top tip: make use of the intensity setting (slide in from the right) and don’t be too embarrassed about starting off at ‘little flower’ or ‘teddy bear’, because if you dive right in with ‘bad mantis’, chances are you’re going to expire before the app’s alarm does.


Beyond its mercilessness, Wake N Shake isn’t perhaps as refined as the competition. The interface is a bit muddled, and the night mode display is pretty but lacks a dimmer. Still, if you need an app that will very much rouse you from slumber and not give you the excuse to drift off again, this is the one to buy.

Download Wake N Shake Alarm Clock

5. Alarmy

Best to get you out of bed

$1.99/£1.99 • v3.05 • 83.0 MB • By Delight Room Co., Ltd.

Although having you shake your device like a deranged maracas player is one way of waking you up, the best way to stop snoozing is obvious: get out of bed. And Alarmy has a very cunning way of making you move. Set an alarm, and one of the options for disabling it is ‘Photo’. This means that you must match a photograph you’ve already taken, in order for Alarmy to shut up. Make the picture something like your bathroom sink, and that should get you moving in the morning.


Alarmy has more conventional options for turning off an alarm, too, such as shaking (a set number of times, which is rather less brutal than the two previous apps in this list), basic maths problems, and just swiping the screen. So if you’re quite happy not stumbling about trying to take a photo of your fridge at the weekend, you can quickly swipe the alarm away and continue snoozing.


Elsewhere, Alarmy is nicely designed. Setting an alarm is simple, and the main screen that tracks those you’ve created clearly differentiates between times, alarm types and repeat frequencies. Neatly, the app also keeps a history, so you can track previous alarms you’ve set. If we’re being picky, Alarmy’s main alarm screen could be better. You can set a wallpaper, but the weather widget doesn’t always work, and there’s no dimmer. But the photo alarm bit is a slice of genius, making this a great app to buy if every other alarm fails to get you out of bed.

Download Alarmy

6. Sleep Cycle

Best for sleep analysis

Free + optional IAP • v5.2.1 • 53.1 MB • By Northcube AB

Our final choice claims to be an intelligent alarm clock. It works by registering sound or movement (by way of your iPhone’s microphone or accelerometer), and aims to rouse you during the lightest phase of your sleep. This in theory results in you feeling less groggy than when an alarm starts blaring when you’re in the deepest of slumbers.


Actually, it works in reality, too. We’ve happily tested Sleep Cycle across a number of nights, and found the app frequently results in better waking, if occasionally a little less sleep, since it works by setting your alarm off during a wake-up ‘window’. This by default is the period 30 minutes before your defined alarm time, although you can adjust this from zero to 90 minutes.


Beyond the alarms, Sleep Cycle also works as an analytics engine for sleep. On waking up, you can peruse all manner of wiggly lines on graphs that detail how well you slept during the night. Splash out for a subscription ($1.99/£1.49 monthly) and you gain access to online data back-up, long-term trends, custom sleep notes, and weather tracking. But even in its free incarnation, Sleep Cycle’s a truly smart alarm, and the best around if you want to be woken up at the most opportune moment – even if that’s not the exact time you intended.

Download Sleep Cycle