Clarm for iOS: Time, Weather, Alarm & Calamity

| In-Depth Review

Clarm for iOS is a Universal app that features date, time, weather and alarms, all overlaid on drop-dead gorgeous photographic backgrounds. However, for a beautiful and simple app, it also has a few serious weaknesses.

The first thing to notice about this app is that it has the option to use gorgeous built-in photographic backgrounds from Chris Gin.. These are some of the most spectacular photos you'll see on an iOS app, and they're simply amazing on an iPad with a Retina display.

Here's an example, called "Snow." Animated flakes drift about which adds to the beauty of the photo.

'Snow" with animated flakes

You can also select from some basic digital and analog clocks, use your own photo from the camera roll, or take a new picture on the spot. There are 24 total themes built-in, and several have overlay animations such as snow, falling leaves or foreground stars. Unfortunately, if you take your own photo of say a snowy scene, the animation is autumn leaves.  There should be a user option to fit the animation to the type of scene and also change the color of the date/time/weather text to contrast against the user's photo background.

Date, Time and Weather

For most of the displays, you'll see the date, day and time plus the current temperature and weather condition. There is just one setting that shows the forecast for a few days in advance.

Only "Modern Side" shows a forecast.

In addition to the built-in photos or your own photos, there are a few handsome digital clocks and one pure analog plus some artistic designs.

There are several disgital clocks available.

Sometimes, the time is matched to a buit-in photo in some way, for example:

Time is the same perspective as the "Golden Gate" bridge.

Settings

The settings are fairly good, but have some wrinkles.

  • Select background photo
  • Display time on/off
  • 24h format on/off
  • Display Custom Text (some pages)
  • Display weather on/off
  • Weather location
  • Temperature units oF/C
  • Show welcome screen hints
  • Show weather at icon badge

The problem with display custom text is that the option doesn't appear for every photo, and it is indiscriminately applied to other photo options instead of just the one one selected at the time of the setting. An iPad is a capable computational device, so the user caption should be tied to just that photo.

Another problem is that there is only one photo, the one shown above with the sailboat, that has a four day forecast. That should be an option for any photo selected.

An alarm is set in the normal iOS way, and one can have multiple named alarms with different alerts sounds and a snooze option. There are 14 alert sounds, most of which are rather brash, as alarms sounds should be, but there were a few classy, tasteful ones: "Piano Remix" and "Electrical Sweep." Or you can select a song from your music library which seals the deal.

Alarm set is standard iOS UI.

When the alarm goes off, the alert is small and nothing spectacular, but that may be an iOS limitation.

Alarm alert is low-key, visually.

In addition to the settings, there are sharing options. One can save an image to the camera roll, email it, print it, or drop it into a message.

Good sharing options. You can email any photo.

Issues

One of the major issues for this app is the fact that if SquidMelon's server goes down, and it did on February 25, then the user cannot select a new city and no weather data is available. No much in the way of insight into the error is provided. That's a single point of failure design.

This is all you get to know.

I chatted with another iOS app developer who uses NOAA's Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) for weather, and he's coded his app so that it's not dependent in just one ADDS server, let alone his own server. SquidMelon's advice to me when their server went down was not very comforting and was one of those "the dog ate my homework" explanations. I was disappointed in the explanation and the app design, susceptible to a server calamity.

Another issue was related to the captions for two built-in galaxy photos. The Andromeda galaxy, M31, from OS X Lion is labelled "Typo," which is not especially technical. Then, the galaxy from OS X Mountain Lion is labelled simply "Galaxy" when we've all known for a long time that it is NGC 3190 in the constellation Leo. So anyone with any astronomy experience who encounters this clock will be disappointed in the developer's homework.

NGC 3190 isn't properly labelled, nor is M31 (not shown).

System Requirements

Now at version 1.1, Clarm is a Universal app, works on iPhone back to 3GS, iPod touch back to 3rd generation or any iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Available only in English.

Summary

Clarm is a mixture of great photography, good features, too many inconsistencies in Settings, and some awful design oversights, like the network failure I experienced. But then, it's only US$0.99, so one can generally enjoy its photographic virtues without a lot of pain. Still, I was disappointed because great background photos don't always make for a great app.

Product: Clarm 1.1

Company: SquidMelon

List Price: US$0.99

Pros:

Beautiful photography, good selection of Settings.

Cons:

Some inconsistencies in Settings, potential fatal network failure, inattention to astronomical nomenclature.

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