Dealing With Many Clock Alarms On iPhone

28 September 2015

Daniel Jalkut:

Today I faced a long list of alarms on my iPhone, and decided that I wanted to clean them out. The typical iOS “Edit” interface puts a red “delete” button next to each item, and upon tapping it you must then confirm it by tapping the explicit word “delete” at the other end of the item. Suffice to say: for a list of any significant size, this is very tedious.

On a whim, I decided to give Siri a shot at simplifying the process. I long-pressed the home button, and uttered: “delete all my alarms.”

It works and is faster than repeatedly tapping Delete buttons on table view cells. It’s cool Siri does the job but its a bit of a hack. Most users don’t have the cognitive mental model to switch contexts from an app UI to a voice interface for the same task. This batch delete should be available in the visual app interface, probably represented by a Clear All button that only shows in Edit mode.

At a deeper level, the problem is rooted within the Clock app alarms. The app isn’t really built to support tens of alarms. And yet, the ultra-common real world use of the Clock app is to have a gazillion different alarms, most just minutes apart from each other.

There is a fear of missing an alarm — rather than use a Repeat, most people feel more comfortable in adding additional alarms as a safety blanket. The alarms have no semantic meaning in their own right, they don’t really deserve primary treatment and their own item in the list, they are just fallbacks for the first one in the chain. I think everyone knows someone who does this, or does it themselves. This is the underlying issue, how to design an Alarms app that doesn’t induce the repetitiveness. My mind ticks over on this problem every time I spot the symptoms in the wild. I haven’t figured it out and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.