I've used an iPhone since 2007. I should know how to use the alarm feature by now. No such luck. My spouse and I use our Bose Wave Radio as our main alarm. I use my iPhone alarm only on rare occasions when I get up earlier than she does.
When Blind and Sighted Worlds Collide
One of those rare occasions happened last week. My phone alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 6 AM. My instinct was to find the stop button on the screen and double-tap it, which was the only way I knew to turn off the alarm. I bumped one of the volume buttons by accident, and because the alarm stopped and I was only half-conscious, I assumed the alarm was off. My spouse rolled over, sound asleep. I got up and stumbled, zombie-like, to the shower, unaware that I had merely snoozed the alarm.
You can guess the consequences. A few minutes later, as I lazily emerged from dreamland in a stream of steaming hot water, my spouse entered the bathroom and asked how to turn my alarm off. I tried to describe how to find the Stop button and double-tap, but my fully sighted and half-asleep spouse was unreceptive to a lecture on VoiceOver basics. I was in the shower, and of course we all know touchscreens don't respond to wet hands.
After this collision of the blind and sighted worlds, I did a little research on the iOS alarm. If you already think you know how to use the alarm, then I hope this article doesn't put you to sleep.
So, How Do You Turn Off the Alarm?
To turn off the alarm, hit the home button---the physical button in the bottom center of the screen. (On the iPhone X, use the home gesture.) Given how simple and accessible this is, you have to wonder why Apple added the extra confusion of an onscreen control.
Using the home button has a definite advantage. It's the same whether you're a VoiceOver user or not. If you learn to use the home button to turn off the alarm, then you'll never have to explain to a sighted spouse how to find and double-tap the onscreen Stop button while you stand in the shower with soaking wet hands.
Don't Snooze Through this Section
We've now established that the home button turns off the alarm---and woke up the entire household in the process. So what do the other physical buttons do? They snooze the alarm. That's right, there are three physical buttons for snooze (two volume buttons and the top or side sleep/wake switch), and one physical button for turning off the alarm. Some people use the snooze feature and some don't. Because the snooze controls outnumber the off control three to one, I'd wager the Apple iOS team falls into the former category.
Here are some other things you should know about the snooze feature.
- The snooze time is nine minutes. There's no way to change it.
- You can disable the snooze feature. If you do this, the sleep/wake switch and volume buttons act like the home button and turn off the alarm.
- Here's how to edit the alarm and disable snooze.
- Open the Clock app and select the Alarm tab at the bottom.
- Select the Edit button in the upper left corner, then select the alarm you want to edit from the list of alarms.
- Toggle the snooze setting at the bottom of the edit screen.
- Each time you create a new alarm, the snooze feature is enabled by default. There is no global setting to turn it off by default.
Creating an Alarm
I know what you're thinking. "Geez, Paul," you're saying to yourself. "You've blogged almost 600 words so far, and you still haven't explained how to create an alarm."
There is a method in my madness. Before you create an alarm, you must understand that the iOS alarm is heavily biased towards snoozing. How you create the alarm depends on whether you want to buy into Apple's bias, or actually wake up. Like I do.
If You're a Snoozer
By far the easiest way to create an alarm is to use SIRI. "Set a 6 AM alarm." Just keep in mind this has snooze enabled by default, and editing the alarm to turn it off is a pain in the pillow.
If You're Not a Snoozer
Create an alarm using the label option, then disable snooze. You'll keep this labeled alarm around indefinitely and turn it on and off with SIRI.
To create a labeled alarm, include the name in your SIRI command. For example, to create an alarm called primary, say "Create an alarm called primary." SIRI will prompt you for a time.
After you create the alarm, take a couple minutes to edit it and disable snooze.
Use SIRI to set your alarm. You can say "Turn on my primary alarm," and "Turn off my primary alarm," If you say "Change my primary alarm," SIRI will prompt you for a new time.
These Edits Are Alarming
While editing the alarm to disable snooze, you might want to put it on a schedule. You could name an alarm weekday, for example, and edit it to activate Monday through Friday. Edit the alarm like you do to change the snooze setting, but tap the Repeat button to specify the days the alarm is active.
Bored with your current alarm ringtone? Your alarm can play wake up music instead. While you're editing the alarm, tap the Sound button, then find and select the Pick A Song button. In my experience, the more obnoxious the song, the more effective it is at getting my lazy butt out of bed. I suggest My Pal Foot Foot by The Shaggs.
Turn Down that Alarm
I keep my iPhone on my nightstand when I sleep, mere inches away from my head. At this distance, the alarm is deafeningly loud. While this volume setting most certainly ensures I rise in the morning, there have been times I wish I could lower it.
My research indicates that alarm volume is tied to ringer volume, but I've been unable to make this work. No matter how loud or quiet I set the ringer, the alarm always plays at the same volume. This is with iOS 11.3, testing on an iPhone 5s and an iPhone SE. If anyone has any tips for setting the alarm volume, please post a comment.
I understand the iPhone X lowers the alarm volume if you're looking at the phone, an aspect of the attention awareness feature. This probably makes sense. I've been known to walk in my sleep, but don't think I've ever looked at my iPhone in my sleep.
Improving the Alarm
The alarm feature has seen few enhancements since its introduction in iOS 1.0, so there's plenty of room for improvements. Here are my ideas for Apple's iOS team to consider.
- Allow defaults for new alarms to be configured in a settings screen. The Calendar app allows users to configure defaults for new events, why not the alarm feature? Configurable parameters should include whether snooze is on or off, snooze duration, and behavior for physical buttons.
- Add a SIRI interface for changing alarm parameters, not just the time. SIRI should let users change alarm labels, snooze on or off, snooze duration, and days to repeat.
- Consider removing the onscreen Snooze and Stop buttons. They aren't really necessary given that physical buttons perform the same task.
- I'm not sure why I can't adjust the alarm volume. If this is a missing feature, I'd like to see it added. If it's a bug, I'd like to see it fixed. If this is user error, I'd like a swift kick in the rear.
An Alarming Issue
This has been a fun blog about how to effectively use the iOS alarm feature. But there's a bigger issue I want to discuss.
There's a reason I didn't know the home button disables the alarm. It's because I had always used the onscreen Snooze and Stop buttons. With VoiceOver enabled, this becomes a special interface usable only by blind people. I could not tell my spouse how to disable the alarm because she doesn't know how to use VoiceOver.
Special, separate interfaces divide us from the sighted world. Onscreen alarm controls that behave differently when VoiceOver is enabled divide blind and sighted users by eliminating a common language for using the controls. This issue is especially glaring with the iOS alarm because the iPhone's physical buttons already provide an accessible interface for the snooze and stop actions. There is no need for additional onscreen controls usable only by blind users.
The problem of separate interfaces dividing us from the sighted world is an entire blog in itself. For now, please share your thoughts on this issue in the comments section.
Thanks for reading. If this blog has put you to sleep, I hope you remembered to set your alarm.
For further reading, here's a list of tips for using the alarm feature on iOS and Android. I hope you find it useful.