The iPhone’s stock Clock app is versatile, offering instances of a world clock, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, and a single timer. Unfortunately, each of those features is pretty basic: For example, the timer mode offers just a single timer.
I don’t know about you, but I often need more than one timer—when I’m cooking, for instance, I need to keep track of multiple dishes, each with its own schedule. Similarly, while I occasionally need a timer with an arbitrary length, more often than not I’m tracking the time of a specific task that I perform regularly: my favorite frozen food in the oven, laundry cycles, intervals at the gym. The Clock app requires me to reconfigure its single timer for each task.
If, like me, you find the Clock timer to be too limiting, you’ll want to check out App Cubby’s free Timer (App Store link). This easy-to-use app offers a slew of configurable timers (15 on an iPhone 5 or fifth-generation iPod touch, 12 on older devices) so you always have the right timer for a particular activity—steeping tea, cooking pizza, working out, you name it—at your fingertips.
For each timer, you can choose either a specific length of time or opt to be prompted for the duration on the fly—on my iPhone, I’ve got nine timers pre-configured, with the remaining six open. Tap any pre-configured timer to start it; tap any ad-hoc timer to be prompted for the time (setting the time automatically starts the timer).
Tap and hold any timer—pre-configured or open—and you can choose that timer’s alert sound; you can also choose a button color, as well as a text or graphic label. These options make it easy to quickly find the right timer—for example, my frozen pizza timer displays a slice of pizza on its button. You can also give the entire app an alternate skin if you’re not a fan of the stock look. (Though Timer is free, you can purchase, for $1 or $2, UI bundles of themes, sounds, and graphics to further customize the app and timers. If you’re crazy for these add-ons, $10 gets you everything currently available, as well as all future add-ons.)
While a timer is running, its button “glows” and you see, on the button itself, the timer counting down. You can have as many timers running concurrently as you want, making Timer perfect for cooking. When one finishes, you hear whatever alert sound you’ve configured for that timer; you also see an onscreen alert, and the timer’s button flashes until you tap the button to stop it.
In a clever “Why don’t they all do this?” touch, Timer’s timers don’t stop at zero. Rather, once a timer reaches zero, it rolls right on through and counts up, so if you missed the alert, you know exactly how long ago the timer ended. My only complaint here is that I wish Timer added a minus (-) sign when counting up to make it even clearer that what you’re seeing is “stoppage time.”
One other minor complaint is that when an alarm ends, its alert sound plays only once. Granted, the timer’s button continues to flash and, as I noted, the timer counts up, so it’s easy enough to figure out that a timer is done, but if I set my phone down on the kitchen counter and go to the next room, I occasionally miss a timer alert. I’m guessing that App Cubby chose this approach because, with the capability to have up to 15 timers, you could end up with multiple alerts playing over each other, with no way to tell which sound goes with which timer. Still, I wish the timer configuration screen included an option to repeat the alert sound until you stopped the timer.
Really, my biggest complaint—which is more compliment than criticism—is that I wish there was an iPad version of Timer so that I could use the app on even more of my devices. It’s a flexible and easy-to-use way to track your timed tasks.
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Dan is former Macworld senior editor. You can find him on the web at danfrakes.com.