Apple is almost certainly already hard at work on the next big version of iOS, and we’ve already seen reports that it will include a new Dark Mode and Home Screen, along with new concept videos offering both educated and creative guesses as to what it may look like and what features it may include.
While major iOS updates always attract a lot of ideas about what Apple is going to do with major new features and UI changes, a recent post on Reddit is looking at one of the more pedestrian apps: the oft-neglected Clock.
Of course, there’s no shortage of options for third-party clock and alarm apps that can be found on the App Store. However, like many of Apple’s first-party apps, Clock gets a special place on the iPhone (and iPad) that makes it a better option. For example, there’s much tighter Siri integration for doing things like setting alarms and timers, and you can be guaranteed that you’ll never miss an alarm, as the alerts from Clock get the unique privilege of overriding all silence and Do Not Disturb options.
That said, while Apple has occasionally added interesting new features to Clock, such as the rudimentary bedtime reminder and sleep tracking features in iOS 10, there’s still a lot more that Apple could do to increase the usefulness of the built-in app — both on the iPhone and iPad as well as on the Apple Watch.
Shuffle a Playlist at Alarm Time
This is perhaps the most perplexing omission in the modern iOS Clock app — a feature that was long a staple of Apple’s classic iPods has never quite made it to the company’s considerably more sophisticated iPhone.
Although Apple added the ability to play a specific song for an alarm in iOS 6, there’s still no way to start a playlist.
I’m not particularly interested in waking up to the same song each day — if I’m going to do that, I might as well stick to the built-in alarm sounds — but being able to put together a wake-up playlist seems like something that should have been included a long time ago. With Apple’s increasing emphasis on its Apple Music service, it also seems like “Songs to Wake Up to” would make for a great new category of curated playlists.
Multiple Bedtime Schedules
Possibly the biggest enhancement Apple ever added to the Clock app was the Bedtime feature, which debuted in 2016 as part of iOS 10. A new section in the Clock app allows you to specify what time you normally go to bed, and what time you want to wake up, which is then used for a bedtime reminder and a morning alarm, the latter of which offers a unique set of sounds more appropriate for your morning rise. Once the feature is enabled, your hours of sleep are also automatically logged into Apple’s Health app, based not only on the items you set, but also on when you actually put your iPhone down for the night and pick it up in the morning.
As useful as the Bedtime feature is, however, it’s half-baked and could stand for a few improvements. Not the least of these would be the ability to set different schedules for different days. Right now you can choose which days of the week you want the feature to operate on, but this doesn’t allow for difference schedules. For example, since I like to sleep in a bit on Saturday mornings, I’m forced to leave the bedtime setting off entirely for Fridays, which means I lose the sleep tracking features as well.
Of course, many sleep researchers make the point that you should wake up at the same time each day for optimal health, so some argue that Apple may be trying to promote this, but if that’s the case, why allow it to be only applied on certain days? Surely a slightly different schedule on a specific day is preferable to having no schedule at all.
Apple’s HomePod speaker actually gained support for multiple timers with last fall’s release of iOS 12, but this is a feature that has yet to appear on the iPhone or even the Apple Watch.
While this could get a bit complicated on the Apple Watch, particularly where Complications are involved, it certainly seems like something that Apple could easily figure out — and the addition of it is arguably long overdue.
Apple Watch Sync
For all intents and purposes, watchOS has its own independent Clock app. Alarms from the iPhone Clock will appear on the Apple Watch so that they can be easily dismissed, but that’s about the only way the two apps talk to each other. In fact, the Apple Watch breaks the functionality of the iPhone Clock app into four separate apps: Alarms, Timers, Stopwatch, World Clock, along with the watch face itself.
The clock apps are left out of the powerful continuity features that are otherwise available in iOS and watchOS, providing no way for a timer or alarm set on one device to be available on the other, or for an in-progress stopwatch timing to be viewed on the other paired device.
iOS 13 (and watchOS 6) could update the collection of clock-related apps so that they share a common list of timers and alarms that are kept in sync between the two, either directly or via iCloud, as well as continuity between the iOS Clock and watchOS Stopwatch apps. The Bedtime feature should also be extended to the Apple Watch so that it can be used for sleep tracking (something Apple is already working on) as well as showing and sounding the Bedtime wakeup alarm.
HomePod Alarms and Timers
Some have even suggested that Clock sync could be extended to Apple’s HomePod, via iCloud. While HomePod alarms can currently be managed via the iOS Home app, it would definitely be a lot more logical for these to at least appear in the Clock app.
Of course, since the HomePod might be used by more than one family member, it seems less practical for alarms to actually sync from the iPhone, but it would be nice for Apple to provide a sync option. Even if this isn’t the case, however, the Clock app still seems like the more natural place for HomePod alarms to be managed.
Further, while HomePod now supports multiple timers, these can only be managed by Siri voice commands. The ability to set and check these from the iPhone Clock would also be very useful.
Anybody who has ever woken up a few minutes before their iPhone or Apple Watch alarm goes off can relate to this one. Personally, I often lay in bed waiting for my alarm goes off just so that it won’t end up waking up everybody else in the house when it later goes off while I’m in the shower.
When Apple redesigned the Clock app in iOS 10, it added a way to dismiss the snooze timer, which was a great start. Apple should take the next step by providing an easy way to turn off an upcoming alarm in a similar manner. Right now, the only way to do this is to dig into the Clock app and shut it off manually, which requires that you then remember to turn it back on again later.
A silent pre-alarm notification could appear a few minutes before an alarm is scheduled to go off, providing the user with the ability to cancel the upcoming alarm for that day only. In fact, the Apple Watch already wakes up a few minutes before the scheduled alarm time when in Nightstand mode, so it doesn’t seem like it would take much more to provide a “Cancel” button about 5-15 minutes before an alarm is scheduled to go off.
Time Zone Notifications
Thanks to cellular connectivity and GPS features, the iPhone should already know when you travel into a different time zone, and while it seems to work well when getting off a plane — likely as a result of syncing back up to the network when disabling Airplane Mode — it’s often slower to update this information live when travelling into a different time zone by land.
Not only does Apple need to address this long-standing issue, but it would also be helpful to offer a proactive notification letting users know when they’ve crossed into a new time zone, since this isn’t always obvious on a long cross-country drive.