At some point during the day (or even night), most of us need an alarm for one reason or another: to wake up for work, to leave for an appointment, or some other thing. Whatever the reason, the smartphone has almost completely killed the alarm clock market at this point—if you’re going to wake up by your phone, then you might as well be doing it right, right?
The Best for Most People: The Stock Alarm App
This is probably not much of a shocker, but when it comes to the best alarm clock, the one that’s already on your phone is a pretty solid option for most people. Pretty much every stock clock out there allows users to set multiple alarms, so you can have a different time every day if you’d like—or even multiple alarms per day.
Most also include stopwatches and timers, making them basically your one-stop shop for timing stuff. It’s also worth noting that if you’re tired of your stock clock but want something simple, you can also install Google’s default Clock—this is what’s included on Nexus and Pixel devices.
Sure, these stock options are missing more advanced features, but that’s precisely why we have other options on this list!
The Best for Advanced Features: Timely
If the stock clock doesn’t do it for you and leaves you wanting more from your wake up experience, there is another—arguably better—option. Enter Timely.
Timely is an incredibly attractive app that packs a unique (and noteworthy) feature: cloud sync. Basically, it connects to your Google account and syncs your alarms across all devices—you can create new alarms on any device, then enable or disable them across all of your devices. Even if you only have two Android devices—a phone and a tablet, for example—Timely is worth having around.
But its usefulness doesn’t end there. In fact, Timely has a lot going for it in way of customization—it’s all simple stuff, but definitely features that make it a powerful alarm clock. For example, you can set a “Challenge” that has to be completed before the alarm can be silenced. This can be something simple like shaking the phone, or more complex tasks like solving a math problem, swiping a specified pattern, or playing a little match game. Definitely a nice way to get your brain working so you can wake up.
You can also set up “Smart Rise,” which will wake you up using the sleep cycle theory. Basically, 30 minutes before your regular alarm goes off, a “slowly fading melody” will slowly start to wake you up. The idea here is to wake you up naturally so you don’t want to set the world on fire after being waken up abruptly.
Otherwise, you can pretty much set up Timely the way you want it. You can change the alarm fade-in length, how long the alarm will snooze (and even shorten the duration the more times you snooze it!), use the volume buttons to snooze the device, or set the Challenge to be required even to snooze the phone. That’s a good one for your chronic snoozers (like me).
If I had to pick one annoying thing about Timely, it’s that you can’t use a “random” tone from the list. Personally, I get used to the same tone every day, so eventually it doesn’t wake me up anymore. I need some flavor in my alarm tones, y’all.
It’s also worth mentioning that Google actually bought Bitspin, the developers of Timely, nearly three years ago. Most people at the time expected Timely’s feature set to show up in the stock Google Clock, but that still hasn’t happened. While Timely hasn’t seen an update in quite some time as a result of the purchase, it still works perfectly and looks great, making it one of the best alarm clocks out there. Hopefully one day Google will bake its cloud sync features into its clock.
These aren’t the only options worth checking out if you’re looking for a new alarm clock. Gentle Alarm, while hideously outdated when it comes to design, is chock-full of useful and interesting features. The Rock Clock—the official alarm of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—is hilarious (but actually unique and awesome) alarm app worth checking out.
Almost all of the apps mentioned here are free, save for Gentle Alarm (which offers a free trial). So you can really just try them all if you want. You have nothing to lose, really.