Your smartphone already shows the time, of course, but upgrading to a clock app can give you more information as well as a distinctive dollop of visual style—they come in all sorts of motifs from grandfather clocks to steampunk.
For starters, the accuracy-obsessed should note that even with its ongoing cellular connection, your phone’s clock isn’t necessarily exactly spot on. For split-second timing, you’ll want an app that pings an online atomic clock. For iPhone folks, Atomic Clock (Gorgy Timing, $1.99) serves up the time with a unique analog/digital style that emulates the classic look of the synchronized Gorgy Timing clocks used in professional broadcast studios. For Android phones, Navy Clock II (free) has a more straightforward text-only display, but shows at a glance the difference between your phone clock and the atomic clock (which can be a lot).
For a step-up from the adequate but boring iPhone alarm clock, try Radio Alarm, a beautifully retro app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad ($1.99 full version, lite version free). I’m a sucker for the beautiful old-time radio styling, but this app has more than good looks. You can choose to wake up to your own music file, the sounds of nature, a traditional alarm tone or one of 45,000 radio stations from around the world.
Trouble waking up in the morning? Set the shake to wake feature and, instead of just pressing a button to stop the !@#$% alarm, you’ll have to shake it repeatedly. And if you want to fall asleep to music, you can set it to slowly decrease the volume before turning off.
Once again, Android users lose out on the Miss Photogenic competition, but Alarm Clock Plus is extraordinarily flexible and entirely free. You can set an unlimited number of alarms, using any song, playlist or ringtone, and can choose to have the volume increase slowly to wake you gently. Or, if you’re really a slugabed, set Alarm Clock Plus to make you solve a series of math problems before turning off the noise.
Finally, I fell hard for the QLOCKTWO wall clock from Biegart & Funk, which displays the time using words instead of numbers—I like a clock that tells me it’s “quarter to two” instead of 1:45. Sadly, I really can’t afford $1,100 for the wall clock. I can, however, scrape up a buck and change for the iPhone or Android app version and smile about my miles of style.