There’s nothing wrong with your smartphone’s alarms. As long as they wake you up in the morning, they’ve accomplished their primary task, and you should commend them for not forcing you to resort to more extreme measures to get out of bed.
Whether you need a little extra help beyond your smartphone’s soothing wake-up noise to wake up for work, or you just want a little more fun in your morning than your regular ol’ brzzz-brzzz-brzzz, you have plenty of alarm apps to pick from on Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. Too many, in fact. To keep you from wasting away your precious breakfast time testing out new alarm apps, here are a few of our favorites to get you started:
I frequently see people recommending Sleep Cycle (iOS/Android) as an awesome alarm clock app for everyday use. And then there’s The Guardian’s 2012 review:
It’s an alarm clock, without the alarming part. Using the accelerometer in your iPhone, the app monitors your movement and determines which phase of sleep you’re in. It then wakes you when you’re in light sleep, so you wake feeling well-rested and relaxed. The result is so gentle and lovely it feels like being woken up by a mermaid stoking your hair or a unicorn nuzzling your toes.
High praise, for sure. Sleep Cycle works in one of two ways. You either point the microphone at you while you sleep, or you place the phone near you on your bed so its built-in accelerometer can analyze your tossing and turning. With luck, the app can figure out your sleeping pattern and gently wake you up when you’re in a light sleep cycle, not deep sleep or REM sleep. This should make you less groggy and/or grumpy for your day.
If you disagree with Sleep Cycle’s assessment, you simply have to pick up your phone to activate one of two different snooze modes. Though Sleep Cycle’s basic features are free, you can activate other features (like snore detection) by coughing up for a $30/year subscription.
Android users can also try the much-loved Sleep as Android app, which offers similar functionality for a lower price—a one-time cost of $5.50.
I’ve covered this one before, but it’s worth pulling out of the archives because of how effective it can be at getting you out of bed. Alarmy (iOS/Android) has a simple premise: You can’t trust yourself to actually get out of bed when your alarm goes off, so instead of allowing you to tap a button, snooze, and go back to bed, this app forces you to do something else to mute the annoyance.
If you want “easy mode,” you can sit in bed and have the app force you to complete a math problem before it silences itself. For more of a challenge, you can do something like take a picture of some faraway location in your house (like your kitchen) or a QR code you’ve placed somewhere (that isn’t your bed). Then, the alarm will keep blaring until you get up and retake that picture or scan that QR code. The free version of the app is ad-supported, but you can ditch that for a mere $1.
I Can’t Wake Up is another Lifehacker favorite for Android and iOS. I’d also like to throw Shake-it Alarm (Android) into the mix as well, because nothing is more soothing than screaming at your alarm to make it go away. (Apologies in advance to your roommates, pets, and loved ones.)
And here you thought the HAL 9000 was annoying. If you haven’t heard of the Carrot alarm clock app (iOS), you’re in for a treat. It costs $3, but it’s worth every penny, because the app is very, very good about annoying you out of bed. All you have to do is set an alarm. Carrot takes care of the rest, including bugging you with one of 30 different songs—ranging from cute to irritating—coupled with a random task you’ll have to complete in order to turn said alarm off. And, yes, you’ll unlock even more content the more you successfully wake up. Fun!
It would be wrong to assume that you’re always catching up on sleep in your bed. If you have a long commute, if you hate road trips, or if you’re sleeping on something that’s moving and you want to make sure you wake up before you reach your destination, the iOS app WakeMeHere can help.
The app’s premise is simple. You pick a location. Your alarm will go off once your device recognizes you’ve entered that area. Easy as that.
When you set your wake-up location, you can even decide how big of a radius you want your wake-up “bubble” to be, in case you prefer precision or want to ensure you definitely wake up when you’re entering a larger area.
This Android alarm app hasn’t been updated since March of last year, which makes me worry the developer might have abandoned it. As long as it still works, Nebula Alarm Clock is a fun alarm clock app with a more pleasant interpretation of the “complete a challenge” wake-up style.
If you’re not a fan of crazy mental stimulation in the morning—or punishments—Nebula’s premise is much gentler. Load up the app before you go to bed, and a little star will grow while you sleep. When you wake up, you have to collect the star to add it to your night sky (via some little action, like shaking your phone). The more stars you collect, the more constellations you make, and your little digital sky gets prettier and prettier. It’s much more soothing to deal with than an angry alarm clock app, that’s for sure.