iPhone Gems: 15 Clock Applications, Reviewed

One of the great things about the iPhone and iPod touch’s large touchscreen is its ability to emulate and/or replace other like-sized gadgets. Yet despite its familiar design and solid functionality, Apple’s built-in Clock application falls short of serving as a desktop clock, wristwatch, or more sophisticated timepiece replacement, creating an opportunity for third-party developers to offer additional functionality. As a consequence, there are already nearly 50 clock applications currently available from the App Store, and it’s obvious that users are interested in them for certain purposes.

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After canvassing all of the available applications, we chose the most worthwhile 15 to review here today. They all aim for similar functionality, with a few notable exceptions, and range in price from free to $5. In addition, nearly all of them appear to rely on the device’s clock to deliver the time, making them equally accurate in that regard—with one notable exception. Additionally, they all make similar demands on the iPhone’s or iPod touch’s battery, save for those apps that keep the screen turned on with a feature called auto-lock prevention; these apps are best used while the device is connected to an external power source. Read on to get the complete picture, or skip ahead to PhotoFrame, Clock, VelaClock, and Emerald Chronometer to see our top picks.

Clocks with Photos


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PhotoFrame 1.2 from Chilli X ($1) is a combination digital photo frame and clock application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Operating in vertical orientation only, PhotoFrame lets users configure slideshows of up to 20 photos, with options to adjust the slideshow speed between 5 and 120 seconds per slide, and toggle a 24-hour mode on and off. When active, the program disables the device’s auto-sleep mode, and uses roughly the top two-thirds of the screen for displaying photos, with the time (including seconds), day of the week, and date listed in a stylish box at the bottom.

The time is displayed in a size large enough to be seen at a glance from a reasonable distance away, making PhotoFrame fine for desk or night stand use. While we think PhotoFrame should also work in landscape orientation, and the addition of an alarm would be a nice touch, it does a very good job of turning an iPhone or iPod touch into a digital photo frame and stylish clock. This app will no doubt delight users who typically leave their devices docked on their desks throughout the day. iLounge Rating: A-.


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Given its name, one might expect PhotoCLOCK 1.0.1 from BottleCube, Inc. ($1) to pay equal attention to both photos and time-telling. Unfortunately, the app actually displays photos less than 10% of the time, severely hampering one of its main features. The app displays the time in 24-hour format, inside a smallish box at the center of the screen, whether in horizontal (home button on the left only) or vertical orientation. Placed around this clock are two, three, or four photos, randomly chosen from a selection of images the user specifies in the settings menu, and placed in black frames with a layout reminiscent of the split-screen portions of the show 24.


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These photos appear only during the final five seconds of each minute, accompanied by a 24-style countdown beep. Within each frame, the photos are panned and zoomed, at times causing the images to look pixelated. PhotoCLOCK offers no auto-lock prevention, no way of muting the annoying once-a-minute countdown audio, and no way to set which pictures appear on screen—it’s completely random. Simply put, PhotoCLOCK seems only half-finished: it needs to show photos on the screen full-time, not just for five seconds every minute, and it also needs to offer users more control over clock type, audio, and perhaps even image zooming and panning. Without the adoption of at least some of these changes, it’s not worth the download. iLounge Rating: D.

Flip Clocks


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Aiming to expand on the traditional flip clock, Photo Flip Clock 1.0 from Larva Labs ($2) lets users replace traditional flip clock numbers with unlimited custom photos representing each digit. Unfortunately, the app comes preloaded only with traditional flip clock images, and does not feature a way to directly download or grab new images over the Internet, leaving the task of acquiring the photos up to the user. In addition, the app sometimes has trouble with the accelerometer, presenting the settings menu upside down, but it was inconsistent in this respect.


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Functionally, the app operates only in landscape orientation, displaying the time in a large format, with options for a 24-hour mode, preventing auto-lock, hiding the status bar, muting sounds, and displaying random digit images. In our view, Photo Flip Clock should offer an alarm mode, and its lack of pre-installed digit images is unfortunate. While it has the potential to be a worthwhile application, it will fall short of our recommendation without an easier way to acquire varied digit images, and some needed bug fixes. iLounge Rating: C+.


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iFlipClock Plus 1.0 from Exedria ($5) is another flip clock-style application, offering users a myriad of options via an analog-style control view. Buttons and knobs let the user select between 30 different skins, set the color of the hour, minute, and seconds independently, set and control dual alarms, toggle sound effects for the hour, minute, and seconds, AM/PM mode, auto-lock prevention, and dim at night features on and off, and set the dimmer level.


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Though the quality of the preloaded skins is somewhat subjective, we found some to be quite pleasing, while others distracted from the clock’s readability. The clock, which runs in landscape orientation only, is large enough to be read from a reasonable distance away, though the numbers don’t “flip” like one might expect. Although it does offer a lot of customizability and dual alarms, iFlipClock Plus is hindered by its high price. It would be easily recommendable at the $2-$3 range, but at its current price we find it worthy of only a limited recommendation. iLounge Rating: B-.

Multi-style Clocks


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Clock 3D 1.1 from Core Coders Ltd ($1) offers a novel take on the traditional digital clock by allowing users to manipulate the display in 3-D space. It lets users choose from five different display modes in six colors, with options for a 24-hour mode, seconds display, a single alarm, date display, flashing separators, and disabling sleep mode. Users can use pinch and spread two-finger gestures to zoom the clock display in and out, while using a single finger allows for 3-D control, including rotation, tilt, and perspective adjustment.


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While the size of the display is up to the user, we found all five display modes to be highly legible, and with the ability to zoom the display size to the maximum, Clock 3D is one of the best options for users wanting to read their devices from a good distance away. With the ability to adjust the clock face to the user’s preference and several display options, Clock 3D is a good option for users looking to use their devices as desk clocks—additional clock types would improve it further. iLounge Rating: B+.


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Unlike the majority of other clock applications that expand upon one general style of clock, LlamaClock 1.5 from Scott Lawrence ($1) lets users choose between ten different clock types, including digital, analog, and binary options. As one might expect, the clock options vary in readability and options, as some faces offer the option of 24-hour modes, and the digital-style faces let the user select the color; all the clocks, save for the “wide” digital clock, function in vertical orientation. An oddball solid color clock displays the time as a single, fullscreen color, with hours represented by the red intensity, the minutes by green, and the seconds by blue. In addition, the app offers a dark “i” button option—enabling you to make this element less conspicuous on screen—and sports a prevent auto-lock feature. With a reasonable amount of clock variety and solid functionality, LlamaClock is a good option for users seeking a multi-clock app; the addition of an alarm and more horizontal clocks would make it stronger. iLounge Rating: B.


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Also offering several different types of clocks in one application is Clock 2.0.1 from DAVA Consulting ($1), which offers users a choice between digital, analog, or text-based clocks, each appearing on an animated background. Tapping on the screen brings up a bar for choosing the clock color; the background animation also changes to match the clock color. On the settings screen are buttons for selecting between analog, 24-hour and 12-hour digital, or text-based clocks, one of three background animations, which can also be set to off, and disabling the device’s sleep mode.


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While the application’s clock face isn’t as big as some competitors’ clocks, we still found the time, and to a slightly lesser extent, the date, to be perfectly readable from a reasonable distance away. As one of the most visually interesting clock applications, Clock is a fine choice for those looking for a desktop clock replacement; an alarm mode, more background animation choices, and additional clock styles would be nice improvements. iLounge Rating: B+.


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CoolClock 1.5.1 from Rock Cottage Industries ($1) is another application offering multiple styles of clocks, including digital, analog, binary, and “Tokyo,” a non-traditional clock that recalls the LED designs of Japanese watch maker Tokyoflash. A menu in the Settings application lets users choose between the four styles, turn 24-hour mode on and off, select the color of the blocks and digits, and turn temporary disabling of the auto-lock feature on and off. While the digital, binary, and Tokyo-style clocks all auto-rotate to match the orientation of the device, the analog clock stays in vertical position at all times.


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All four of the clocks are large enough to be read from a good distance away, and while the digital and analog clocks aren’t flashy, they work. Overall, CoolClock does a fine job of displaying the time in several different ways, and while it doesn’t offer alarm functionality, it does what it claims to do, and offers more value than many competing options. It’s worthy of our general recommendation; more interesting graphics and an alarm function would make it even better. iLounge Rating: B.

Tube and Daylight Clocks


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Nixie Clock from Scott Lawrence ($1) attempts to emulate a Nixie Tube Clock on the iPhone or iPod touch. Operating in vertical or horizontal orientation, the app features 12- and 24-hour modes, big or small tubes (which show hour + minutes or hour + minutes + seconds, respectively), an auto-lock prevention feature, and simulated tube flicker which can be set to off, low, or high.


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In fact, it is the simulated flicker and number transitions that make Nixie Clock compelling, with the tubes set against a black background to highlight the flicker, reminding users of the imperfect beauty of its real world counterparts. The addition of an alarm feature would be a nice touch, but the Nixie Clock does a great job of emulating clocks that cost hundreds of dollars, and is worthy of our strong general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B+.


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Like Nixie Clock, Nixie Tube Clock from F Nayeri ($1) also attempts to emulate a Nixie Tube Clock, only with slightly less impressive results. Unlike its competitor’s black background, Nixie Tube Clock presents the tubes on a photo-realistic backdrop, and despite the app’s description of “realistic flickering effects,” we didn’t notice them—they’re either not there or so subtle as to go unnoticed. The app is also missing a way to add seconds display, although users can switch between 12-hour and 24-hour modes and turn on auto-lock prevention from within the Settings application. Considering both Nixie Clock and Nixie Tube Clock offer highly similar functionality at the same price, the choice between the two comes down to personal preference. We give Nixie Clock the slight edge for its more noticeable, adjustable flickering and seconds display option; however, others may find the photo-realistic background of Tube Clock to be more to their liking. iLounge Rating: B.


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Instead of telling time, Sol: Daylight Clock 1.0.1 from Alexander Valys ($1) focuses narrowly on letting the user keep track of the daylight, and what times the sun will rise and fall. Sol uses a simple interface similar to that seen in Apple’s Weather application, letting users swipe from left to right to view sunlight time information for a variety of locations. On the settings screen, users can add, remove, and reorder the locations, and choose between civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight listings. Each individual listing has a clock-like indicator of whether the sun is out or in hiding, as well as time listings for dawn, sunrise, sunset, and dusk. Somewhat disappointingly, Sol offers little extra information than what one can find in Apple’s own Clock application, which displays each location’s analog clock in either black or white to denote whether it’s currently in daylight or night. Without the addition of more information, such as moon phase and location, Sol doesn’t offer enough functionality to be worthy of its asking price, and thus falls short of our recommendation. iLounge Rating: C+.


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Like the aforementioned Sol, VelaClock 1.2 from Vela Design Group ($4) is designed to let users view whether a city is in daylight, twilight, or night. Unlike Sol, however, VelaClock lets users see all cities from a single screen, each listed with the current time in white for day or black for night. In addition, a multi-colored bar—which can be hidden, it’s on by default—provides a graphical representation of 24 hours of natural light, with a thin white bar to show when the moon will be visible. Below the list of cities, a detail area shows other information for the selected city, including the moon phase and tilt, sunrise/sunset. moonrise/moonset, the azimuth location of each, and more. Users can swipe in this area to see additional information such as the time of the next sunrise, next moonset, next full moon, and so on. The settings menu allows the user to add, remove, and reorder the cities, set to sort by time, name, or custom, and turn the daylight bar on and off. While it sports a busier interface than Sol, VelaClock offers more practical information, and does so in way that makes its data easy to access. It might not interest every user, but for anyone who needs to know exact twilight and sunrise times for activities such as boating or hunting, or those who like to follow the moon’s positions and phases, it’s a worthwhile application, and worthy of our general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B.

Chronometers and Miscellany


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As one of the more unique clock applications available for the iPhone and iPod touch, Emerald Chronometer 1.2 from Emerald Sequoia LLC ($5) presents users with a set of seven intricately detailed, multi-function virtual watches. Each watch is unique, offering a different set of features, and its own night mode and flip sides.


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While the watches offer clock features such as mechanical day/date/month/year indicators and local and UTC time, some of the watches also offer astronomy features, such as the times of sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, phases of the moon, relative positions of the sun and the moon, latitude and longitude—Chronometer is location-aware—and more. Interestingly, users can tap the crown to enter “set” mode, where they can move the watches’ hands around, and put certain watches into a reverse mode. The sheer quantity of options and information presented in Chronometer is really impressive; it’s easily recommendable to anyone interested in traditional timepieces. iLounge Rating: A-.


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UNIQLOCK for iPhone Ver1.0 from UNIQLO CO. (Free) is an iPhone and iPod touch-based version of the company’s popular interactive music, clock, and dance web site created as a novel advertisement for the clothing of Japan’s UNIQLO. The app runs in widescreen mode only, and plays catchy, seemingly time-aware music while alternating between a flashing clock screen, which runs in 24-hour mode only, and video of Japanese dancers wearing UNIQLO apparel. In addition, the color of the clock and the music changes every hour.


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Unfortunately, perhaps due to its lengthy loading time, UNIQLOCK seemed to run roughly 8-10 seconds behind other clocks we tested it against—not a deal-breaker, but worth noting, along with the fact that it is also missing an auto-lock prevention feature, and is frequently subject to low memory-related crashes. As longtime fans of the web-based version of UNIQLOCK, several iLounge editors were quite excited when we learned of the app, only to be left slightly disenchanted with its shortcomings in accuracy and interactivity, as well as its hefty size—because it stores the music and video clips rather than streaming them, it consumes over 100 MB of space. This isn’t awful, but it’s a large footprint for an app that isn’t quite as impressive as the web-based predecessor. As a free application, consider it worth the download if you’re into interpretive dance and performance art, but we feel most users looking for a desktop clock replicator would do well to explore other options. iLounge Rating: B-.


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As a novel approach to the clock application, TalkingClock from gamerpig.com ($1) eschews the desk clock metaphor for a clock which alerts the user to the passing of time with audible alerts. The app uses a bottom-tabbed interface for navigation between clock, timer, and settings views, each with a reddish wood grain background and somewhat ugly custom buttons. On the clock screen, the time is displayed in a large black box, with a button to speak the time, buttons for choosing between alerts spoken by a human female, computerized male or female, or a child’s voice, along with chime and musical alerts, and buttons for selecting how often to speak an alert. Similarly, the timer view lets users set the duration of the time, the alert type, the alert interval, and start, stop, and reset the timer. On the settings screen, users can toggle vibration and sound alerts on and off, choose ascending or descending timers, and set the volume. While it’s not exactly a desk clock replacement, TalkingClock has its own potential as a clock substitute thanks to its audible alerts. We’d like to see it gain alarm functionality and an improved interface, but considering its reasonable price, it remains generally recommendable. iLounge Rating: B.

In addition to the applications highlighted here, there are many other clock apps available, ranging in price from free to $2, that offer little more than a simple on-screen clock—such as NightTime (Free)—that may be fine if you’re looking for nothing more than that limited functionality.

Earlier iPhone Gems columns are available here.

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