Saturday, 18 February 2012

MRKAlarm wakes you up smarter

There are many good reasons to ditch your stock alarm clock and wake up with an alternative alarm clock app on your Android phone instead.

Timers4Me comes with an alarm clock (in addition to a stopwatch and countdown timer), but not a very good one. My favorite alarm clock app for now is Alarms Solo.

But that may change, because MRKAlarm looks very promising. If the app matures and the bugs get ironed out it may become the default alarm clock on my phone.

Good stuff

MRKAlarm is free, and it doesn't have any ads. It has a PayPal donation link hidden in its About screen, but that doesn't work on my phone so for now I have a good excuse for not donating until it gets fixed ;)

It has a simple user interface, lots of options, and some features that you won't find elsewhere.

You can choose between the alarm tones in SD card/media/audio/alarms folder (if you added any in there), but it won't use Androids built-in alarm sounds (not on my phone anyway). On the bright side, you can choose any mp3 as an alarm tone, and it doesn't stop there. You can select multiple songs to wake you up with a playlist.

What makes the app unique is its calendar integration. You can set an alarm for every weekday, and then open the calendar tab to auto-disable the alarm on public holidays, days marked as vacation, etc. Instead of shutting off the alarm you can also make it ring later on holidays.

When the alarm rings it wakes up your screen and pops a large snooze button and a small shut up button. A "slide to stop" option to avoid dismissing an alarm by accident would be nice to have, but it's not a dealbreaker. Of course you can set your own snooze interval in the alarm settings. The alarm doesn't need to start at full force, because you can make the volume increase gradually over a period up to a minute.

Nice touch: you can set quiet hours and choose what should happen during that time. You can either silence the app, make it shake instead or scream, or play the alarms at a lower volume. And you can tell the app to sound an alarm when your battery level drops below a critical value.

Things to fix
Update: most issues are fixed in new versions.

It takes too many taps to see which alarm tone you've set, and if you've chosen a bunch of mp3s there's no list of what you've picked. If you've set some songs and you want to change them, you have to tap the right artists and albums to sea and deactivate unwanted songs. That's a tedious job if you have a large music collection and you don't remember what songs are on your alarm list.

MRKAlarm only uses sounds from your SD card. If your SD card is disconnected because you forgot to take it out of USB mode you might miss your plane or lose your job. The app should be able to use the default sounds from your phones internal memory, or at least have a built-in backup sound to play when your SD card is unavailable.

Cosmetic issue: wednesday is abbreviated as wen, not wed, in the alarm settings. I guess that will change in the next update.

Another cosmetic issue: snooze interval input needs fixing. MRKAlarms default snooze interval is 5 minutes. If I set it at 10 minutes and then copy or edit the alarm, MRKAlarms says 5 minutes on the Alarm Detail tab even though the 10 min. checkbox is checked. I have to check another interval, and then 10 min. again to make the app get it right.

Major issue (not cosmetic, but functional): you can't set a one shot alarm. If you set the alarm for 9 am it won't ring at 9 the next morning unless the proper weekday box is checked. But if you check the box your single shot alarm will become recurring, so you have to enter the alarm settings and uncheck the day again after you wake up. MRKAlarm would be much better if it understands that an alarm time without day should sound at the earliest opportunity (usually next day, unless you set it after midnight), and not every week.

Missing: a setting to choose whether the alarms should ring in silent mode or not. If I set my phone on silent I may not want to hear my alarms, or I may not want to hear anything (especially incoming phone calls) except for my alarm. Alarms Solo lets me choose whether its alarms should override silent mode or not. MRKAlarm would be a much better app if it had a similar option.

A non-critical annoyance is that you can't set your own default alarm settings. When you create a new alarm you have to set your own snooze interval, alarm sound, etc. again. You can work around the problem by long-tapping and copying an existing alarm, because then its settings are copied over. Anyway, having your own defaults for new alarms would make things a lot easier.

Finally, MRKAlarm needs some options to set the maximum amount of snoozes and maximum alarm duration (after which it stops or auto-snoozes), or else the neighbours might smash my door if forget to take my phone with me and MRKAlarm keeps shouting with nobody home. The main screen could be polished up a bit, because not everyone likes to have a bright white clock flashing off the screen. Grey text on a grey background is not a smart move either, so a few ways to customise the looks of the app are welcome.


MRKAlarm is not ready to replace Alarms Solo on my phone yet, but it has lots of potential. With a few more options, tricks and tweaks and it could easily become the best alarm clock app on the Android Market. Take it for a test drive to see for yourself.

MRKAlarm in the Android Market
MRK Alarm on xda (forum discussion, do post your ideas)
Alarms Solo

tweet this reddit digg this StumbleUpon digg this digg this

No comments:

Post a Comment