There are a dozen or so reasonable World Clocks for the iPad (or an iDevice), including Apple’s new one in iOS 6. But most are limited or have reported errors, and even Apple’s is sub-par in its features. The World Clock from Andrei Kolev is technically astute and world-class.
Developing a world clock is like building a scientific calculator. Just as the calculator developer has to be deep in numerical analysis and computational algorithms, the world clock developer has to understand something about technical time keeping, NTP, the nuances of time zones, UTC, and daylight saving time. All that technical expertise has to be folded into an iOS app that’s useful, beautiful, configurable and dependable.
Andrei Kolev has done that with “The World Clock” for iOS, and it is awesome. I wouldn’t even bother with the free version. Instead, just pony up three bucks, and you’ll have one of the most beautiful and useful of all the iOS apps.
The developer of a world clock should have some specific ideas about time keeping. Analog clocks can be cool, but many technical users may also want a side-by-side digital option. Not only should day and night be indicated, but also some visual method of showing that the time, especially in 12-hour mode, is the next (or previous) calendar day for that location. And countries are always tinkering with Daylight Saving Time, as I know from a decade of experience with Mabasoft’s World Clock Deluxe for OS X. So attention to detail there is crucial, and the developer shows that by displaying the DST transition dates.
In fact, with apps like this, one slip up, one missed appointment across time zones, or one clear mistake that a customer knows is special to his or her location, and the user gets really cranked up. Apps like this that have beginner mistakes tend to get deleted within seconds.
In my testing, I found that The World Clock avoids these kinds of mistakes. All in all, the conceptual design and implementatino of good criteria are excellent.
Using the App
There are so many options, that I can’t begin to show you every screen shot I took. Let’s start with analog clocks in portrait mode.
Tapping the arrows at the bottom right and left cycle through nine different clock faces, five analog and four digital. Each one is a work of art, and you have the option to include the digital time (and date) with each analog face. The world map at the top can be slid upwards, out of the way, in the style of iOS Notification center, and then the clock faces automatically increase in size to fill the screen. Here's what it looked like in landscape mode.
A nice feature is the ability to touch the world map and drag the day/night zone in order to go back or forward in time. All the clocks remain in sync, with analog hands whirling, when you do that. To reorder a clock's position, just touch and drag. It's just like rearranging app icons on the iPad's home screen.
As with any world clock, it’s easy to create a clock tied to a city, but then if you don’t like the label, you can change it to something more local. For example, you might pick Denver out of the cities list but label it with your small town that’s near by. That said, the list of U.S. cities is enormous. You’ll likely find yours by typing the first few letters at the top of the search field.
As you specify the cities, if there’s room, they light up on the world map and do a good job of staying out of each other’s way. If the cities are too close together, the added city will have its own clock, but it won’t be added to the world map to avoid crowding. Apple’s iPad clock didn’t do a very good job with this aspect.
I especially liked the ability to send an email invitation that includes a table for user selected cities and their local time for, say, a meeting. Then everyone is literally on the same page.
Pick recipient cities, drop the chart into a mailer.
Tapping the info button for a clock brings up detailed information for that location, including the next change to/from DST as well as local sunrise and sunset times. To my delight, the developer knows the difference between civil, nautical and astronomical twilight.
This app doesn’t depend on the iPad’s internal clock, even though, starting in iOS 5, Apple added an NTP daemon to poll a time standard. This app rolls its own time by polling its own NTP server, but you can enter your own if you please, for example, time.apple.com.
With the option to sync every hour if necessary, it’s unlikely your app will ever be off from UTC by more than a second, so long as it has access to the Internet.
Here's the detailed data you can see for each clock/time zone.
Settings are extensive, and they have to be. Time aficionados are usually fussy about how they like time displayed, and the developer shouldn’t try to insert hardwired taste here.
Here’s a glimpse of three of the Settings panes to give you a feel for the control you’ll have over the display.
I couldn’t think of any setting that I thought should have been included, but wasn’t.
In the app, there are extensive help pages. There are 16 chapters, and each chapter has a step-by-step explanation along with screen shots at each step. From the App store, you can go to “World Clock Support” and see a YouTube video of the operation of this app. I noted that the background music is an instrumental, the theme from the James Bond movie “Goldeneye,” oh-so appropriate.
When I see extensive documentation like this for a very technical program, I am very, very pleased. Adding Bond music in the background added a touch of class. Here's a screen shot of just one of many doc pages with clear callouts.
TWC 5.1.2 requires iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and iOS 4.0 or later. It's been localized to English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish.
We Have All The Time in the World
This app outright embarrasses other world clocks I've seen on the iPad and brings up an important point: if you want really, really good technical apps for the iPad (or iDevice), weather, time and calculator, you can spend just a few bucks and have, instead, world class apps. This is one of them.