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About Time – the best clock, sleep, and timer apps

Think you’re not beholden to clocks? Sure. Chances are you spend your life doing tasks at specific times – and your iPhone is in part to blame, given that it has the Clock app baked in.

But Apple’s app is far from the only option to help you keep good time, set alarms and trigger timers. This round-up looks at what Clock has to offer, and what’s available on the App Store to take things further.

Clock (free)

More world clock than desktop clock, Apple’s app lets you track the time in multiple locations. On iPhone, clocks are presented as a list; on iPad, you get a world map, with a visual day/night cycle. Sadly, there’s no full-screen clock for a docked device.

Elsewhere, you get an alarm system, which integrates with Apple’s Bedtime feature, to help you build a routine. The stopwatch is solid, but the timer is a joke, bafflingly being limited to just the one. Presumably, no-one at Apple HQ has ever cooked a complex meal.

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The Clocks (free)

Blissfully free from ads and junk – unlike most third-party iPhone clocks – The Clocks kicks off with you swiping between analog, flip clock and 1980s-style LED faces. In the settings, you can turn off any of these, and opt for 12- or 24-hour modes.

Double-tap the top half of the screen and you’ll discover the world clock, with six user-definable time zones. Tap the bottom of the screen to access alarms. Those are a weak spot – stick with Apple’s. Otherwise, The Clocks is a superb full-screen display clock, generously given away for free.

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Time Zone Pro ($3.99/£3.49)

The two previous apps display the time in various locations. Time Zone Pro is more concerned with who lives in those places, having you associate a name with each clock. These can be assigned to custom groups and have avatars too.

If you’ve friends and colleagues around the globe, you’ll see the benefit. You can also drag a bar to simultaneously change the time of every clock. This makes it a cinch to figure out optimal moments where you’ll all be awake for video chats.

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Living Earth ($4.99/£4.49)

If visual clout is your thing, Living Earth combines a world clock with a virtual planet you spin beneath a finger. Where night’s fallen, those parts of the globe are shrouded in darkness – all faint continent outlines and amber lights. Elsewhere, you see cloud cover.

You can further explore weather conditions or replace the clouds with wind and temperature. In all, the result feels more desk toy than traditional clock – which makes Living Earth a good bet if your iPhone spends its day propped up in a stand.

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McClockface ($5.99/£4.99)

In its app incarnation, McClockface is a smart-looking flip clock with a simple calendar – adding a year progress indicator on iPad. But when you add its widgets to your Home Screen, the app drops any pretense at minimalism, becoming a design playground.

Styles include memes, old-school Mac windows, blueprints and a panel that appears to have escaped from the time machine in Back to the Future. Recommended if you want something beyond a visually basic clock.

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MultiTimer (free or $8/£8)

The polar opposite to Apple’s single timer, MultiTimer is all about deep customization. You can add all kinds of timers to the board – countdown; interval; Pomodoro – and give each its own color, label and icon. Multiple timers can run simultaneously.

Despite its wealth of options, the app is clean and efficient. It’s also generous – the free incarnation merely limiting you to a single board. On iPhone, this comfortably holds six timers. If you want more – or fancy iCloud sync and data export – the one-off IAP represents good value.

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Countdowns (free + IAP)

Dropping events into your calendar is great, and it’s possible to manually add alerts. But for really important stuff, an ongoing reminder is a better way to get your mind in gear – hence, Countdowns.

This app lets you add highly customizable timers that countdown to key events (or up from those you want to remember), which can be placed on your Home Screen or Apple Watch. Premium nets heavy users iCloud sync, lists, custom notification sounds and directional indicators.

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BFT ($1.99/£1.79)

Productivity sometimes isn’t so much about a looming deadline as ensuring you’re in the moment, focusing on the right things. BFT (Bear Focus Timer) helps get you in the zone by way of work/break sprint timers.

By default, focus sessions last 25 minutes; breaks last for five. While you work, your phone needs to be face down or the timer won’t run. This is an effective means of eradicating procrastination – not least because if you try to cheat, you get scowled at and shamed by an angry-looking bear.


Agadmator Chess Clock (free)

We’re into specialist territory here – although not quite to the degree the app’s name might suggest. Because although this is a chess timer, it’s effective for any two-player game where you want to limit the length of each player’s turn.

Preset timers are built in, but you can create your own, defining time, increment and delay settings. During play, your iPhone sits face up, the display very clearly stating whose turn it is – and how much time they have left.

Get Agadmator Chess Clock

Alarmy (free + IAP)

Hilariously and inaccurately subtitled ‘joyful alarm clock’ on the App Store, Alarmy is in reality your morning nemesis. It combats oversleeping by blaring alarms until you perform a task, like a math test – or shaking your phone until it shuts up.

The most devious is ‘picture dismiss,’ which has you register a location match to stop the alarm – your bathroom sink, say. It’s annoying – but also annoyingly effective. For free, you get most of the features. A subscription opens up more options.

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Sleep Cycle (free + IAP)

Alarms that shock you awake can leave you groggy. Sleep Cycle instead aims to gently rouse you during an opportune moment of light sleep. When awake, you can peer at wiggly lines denoting how well you slept.

All this is done via audio or accelerometer input, which might sound ambitious – and it doesn’t always work. But if you’re game, basic tracking and analysis is free. Go pro and you can dig into trends, jot down notes, and even track snoring. Zzzzz!

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