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Get some shut-eye, don’t be late, and never burn dinner again with these great apps
People are often slaves to clocks. You might think or hope that isn’t the case, but chances are you spend much of your life doing tasks at specific times – and for specific periods of time.
Your iPhone, of course, has its own built-in clock – and many people now don’t bother with watches at all, reasoning their phones are enough for checking the time, setting alarms, and firing off timers.
This roundup first takes a look at Apple’s default Clock app, and then scours the App Store for apps that go further in key ways.
Free with device • By Apple
Apple’s Clock is one of the few stock apps you cannot delete. It’s also feature-rich, efficiently combining a world clock, alarm, stopwatch, and timer.
The world clock starts off with a few locations you can subsequently edit or add to. On iPhone, the result is a basic scrolling list; but on iPad, the screen is filled with a large glanceable view that outlines the progress of the day/night cycle around the globe. Unfortunately, there are no options for a single full-screen clock for a docked device.
The Alarms tab provides access to a multiple-alarm system. Each one you create can be set to repeat on specific days, and be given its own unique label and sound. If you make use of Apple’s Bedtime feature – designed to urge you to wake and go to bed on a strict routine – the morning Bedtime alarm can also be accessed here.
Elsewhere, the stopwatch echoes real-world counterparts with lapping functionality and a smart optional dial interface on iPhone. The weak link in Clock is the Timer tab, which bafflingly reasons you only need a single timer on your phone. Presumably, no-one at Apple HQ has ever had to cook a roast dinner.
Free • v3.0.6 • 12 MB • By Meanterm Inc.
There are a lot of alternate clock apps available on the App Store, if you fancy something less utilitarian – and arguably more generally useful – than Apple’s Clock. The suitably named The Clocks in late 2019 received a big compatibility update – its first for three years. We’re very happy about this, because the app is a superb alternative to Apple’s, and isn’t ruined by ads and other junk.
Fire the app up and you can swipe between an analog clock face, a flip clock, and an LED-style digital face that looks like it’s escaped from the 1980s. Fiddle around with the settings, and it’s possible to fine-tune the clocks, opting for 12- or 24-hour modes, and toggling whether seconds are displayed.
A double-tap on the top half of the screen flips The Clocks into world clock mode, displaying six user-definable time zones. Double-tapping the bottom of the display accesses the alarms system.
Frankly, you’re better off sticking with Apple’s alarms – after all, they communicate with your Apple Watch and can be adjusted with Siri. But for a display clock that’s simple to set up, which works full screen, and that won’t give your bank account a kicking, The Clocks is a must-have install.
$5/£5 • v4.09 • 178 MB • By Radiantlabs, LLC
Both of the clocks mentioned so far have world clock modes, but they’re pretty minimal in nature. Only Apple’s when on iPad provides insight into the location of your defined cities. By contrast, Living Earth adds context and visual clout with a virtual planet you can spin beneath a finger.
You can swipe between defined locations, or access them from a list that appears when you tap the clock. Any selection spins the globe accordingly. Said depiction also has the titular ‘living’ element. Those areas of the world shrouded in darkness are displayed as barely visible continent outlines crisscrossed with amber lights. For areas in daylight, you can peruse current cloud conditions.
Should you wish to delve further into weather conditions, that’s also possible. You can pull up a weekly forecast, track major storms, and replace the clouds with other weather conditions, including temperature, wind, and humidity.
The net result is something akin to a cutting-edge desk toy rather than a traditional clock. But if your iPhone spends most of its day propped up in a stand, Living Earth is a lovely app to have displayed on the screen.
Free or $8/£8 • v6.1.3 • 101.3 MB • By Sergey Astakhov
We’ve already mentioned that Apple only gives you a single timer in the Clock app. As you may have gleaned from MultiTimer’s name, this app has a very different way of thinking – and it’s all based around deep customization.
The app includes a wide range of timers: countdowns, count-ups, single-use presets, ‘Pomodoro’ work/rest sprints, clocks, and interval timers for sports. There’s even a tap-based counter for when you need to keep count of something other than time.
Each timer you add to the board can have its own unique color, label, and icon. Standard timers can be set to autorepeat; the likes of Pomodoro and interval timers can be fine-tuned to your specific needs. When you’re done, you can simultaneously kick off as many or as few timers as you need.
Despite its wealth of options, MultiTimer is devoid of cruft. This is a clean, efficient app. It’s also very generous in its free incarnation, lacking ad banners, and only really limiting you to a single board. On iPhone, this will comfortably hold six timers. (You can add more, but they then end up quite small.) But if you find yourself often using MultiTimer, grab the one-off IAP and you can organize timers across multiple boards, along with making use of iCloud sync and data export.
Alarmy Pro – Alarm Clock
$8/£8 • v5.9.9 • 229.6 MB • By Delight Room Co., Ltd.
The Clock app is fine for an alarm, if it works for you. The problem is if you tend to hit the snooze button every morning – or turn your alarms off entirely – and then end up late for everything.
With Alarmy, your chances of oversleeping are markedly reduced – although your iPhone’s chances of being hurled at the wall arguably increase. And that’s because the app’s packed full of all kinds of alarms that keep blaring until you’ve performed some kind of task.
The most devious is ‘picture dismiss’ mode. This has you register a location where the alarm will be turned off – for example, your bathroom sink – so that you’ll get out of bed. If that sounds a bit too arduous, there are alternatives, such as math and memory challenges, or the more physical option of shaking your phone until it shuts up.
Annoying? Very much so. But it’s effective stuff. And if you want to soften the blow a little, you can cheat a bit and add snoozes to your trickier alarms, peruse news headlines within Alarmy once you’re up, and when you’re in bed again play some gentle noises to help you fall asleep.
Note: a free + subscription version of Alarmy also exists if you want to check out whether it works for you.
Free + IAP • v6.4.2 • 213.5 MB • By Sleep Cycle AB
Alarms that blare and shock you awake can leave you groggy. There are various ways around this, most notably physical light-base lamps that gradually brighten your room, attempting to rouse you before your alarm goes off. Sleep Cycle works in a similar way, but attempts to tap directly into your sleep patterns, waking you at the most opportune moment.
This means Sleep Cycle doesn’t necessarily go off at the same time every day – it instead always tries to rouse you during a light stage of sleep within your user-defined window. On waking, the app then offers some wiggly lines and figures that outline how well you slept during the night.
All this is achieved by way of audio or accelerometer inputs, which might sound ambitious. Truth be told, it doesn’t always work; additionally, if you suffer from anxiety around sleep, this kind of tracker may hinder rather than help by causing further worry.
However, if you don’t have the latter concern, and are game to give Sleep Cycle a go, the basic tracking and analysis is entirely free, and the data integrates with Apple’s Health app. Go pro and you can check out long-term trends, jot down notes and moods, backup your data online, and even track your snoring. Zzzzz!