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Sunday, June 19, 2011

How do I set and use alarms on Android?

Android phones come with an accessible alarm clock app, which is surprisingly handy. On the road, users can have their phones wake them up in the morning. At home, they can set alarms for the start or end of their exercise routines, the time needed to boil an egg, the beginning of a favorite TV show, or the times they normally take any medication. At work, they can set alarms for specific tasks (e.g., work on X for an hour before moving on to Y for today). This post covers setting, using, and managing alarms with the stock alarms app in Android 2.2.

The process is similar in 2.1, but the app to search for is called Alarms, not clock.

Finding the Alarms

The Alarms app is part of an app called Clock. To find it, users start at their home screens, find the All Applications list, navigate to Clock, and launch the app. Once in Clock, users scroll to and press the selector on Alarms. The steps are as follows:

• From the stock home screen, scroll to and press the selector on All Applications or on Sliding drawer; then scroll to and press the selector on Clock.
• From the Eyes-Free Shell, down-stroke to Applications; type the letter C and scroll down to Clock, or use stroke dialing. Then press the enter, selector, or Search button.
• From Mobile Accessibility, swipe down to Apps, double tap, swipe to Clock, and double-tap again. The MA suite has it's own alarm clock app called Alarms.

Getting Familiar with the Clock Screen

The clock app has an interesting organization, which is easiest to conceptualize as an interrupted loop. When the app opens, focus is on the Dim button, and scrolling down once moves focus to the Alarms button. If users scroll left from Dim, focus moves to Music, Gallery, and Alarms, and from Alarms, they can scroll up once to return to Dim. If users start at Dim and scroll down once to Alarms, they can scroll right to Gallery, Music, and Launcher, and from Launcher, they can scroll up once to return to Dim.

Pressing the Menu button while on the Clock screen moves focus to Alarms, Add Alarms, and Dock Settings. The Alarms item on the Clock screen and the one accessed from the Menu button open the same screen; likewise, Add Alarms from the Clock Menu options opens the same screen as Add Alarms from the Alarms screen.

Pressing the selector on Gallery, Launcher, or Music while on the Clock screen launches the default photo, music, or home screen app.

Setting an Existing Alarm

A few alarms are preset on the phone, and each time a new one is set, it is added to the chronological list of alarms, so the quickest way for users to set an alarm is to scroll through the list of existing alarms and check one. The steps are these:

1. Launch Clock from the home screen using the steps described in an earlier section of this post.
2. Navigate to and press the selector on Alarms.
3. Scroll through the list. The first item is an Add Alarm button, and the last item is Clock Display, which returns focus to the Clock main screen. All the items in between are individual alarms, listed chronologically (e.g., 9:00 a.m. appears before 3:30 p.m.).
4. Find the desired alarm, and do one of the following:
a. Long-press (2-3 seconds) the selector, scroll to Turn Alarm On, and press the selector there.
b. Short-press the selector, scroll to and press the selector on the Turn on alarm checkbox to check it, scroll through the alarm details and edit if desired, and navigate to and press the selector on Done, or simply press Back to set the alarm and return to the previous screen.
5. Press Back several times or Home to return to the home screen.

Setting a New Alarm

The process of setting a new alarm feels long and tedious the first time or two. After that, it becomes quick and efficient.

1. Launch Clock from the home screen using the steps described in an earlier section of this post.
2. Press Menu.
3. Navigate to and press the selector on Add Alarm.
4. Fill in the alarm information. Initially, the screen appears to have only two items: a Turn On Alarm checkbox and below it a Set item. Scroll up or to the right from Set and more items appear. They form a rough grid and are as follows from left to right and top to bottom :
a. Increment Hour & Increment Minute – Briefly pressing the selector on one of these items adds one hour or one minute to the number that is already in the edit field (e.g., from 10 to 11). Pressing and holding the selector down on these controls increases the hours or minutes, depending on how long the selector is pressed: holding it down a couple of seconds increases by a small amount, and holding it down several seconds increases by a larger amount. When the selector is released, focus returns to the appropriate edit field, but the number does not refresh automatically for the screen reader, so you need to scroll up or down, then back, to hear the new number in the edit field.
b. Hours edit field, Minutes edit field, & AM/PM button – The edit fields show the current time, so if it's 11:35 AM, the Hours edit field shows 11; the Minutes edit field shows 35; and the AM/PM button is set to AM. Enter the time you want the alarm to go off by typing into the edit fields or by pressing the selector on the Increment or Decrement controls (above or below). On many phones, it may be necessary to erase the current time before entering new numbers with the keyboard. If your phone does not have a number row, it may be necessary to press the alt key twice in each edit field before typing numbers. Scroll left to and press the selector on the AM/PM button to toggle between AM and PM. If the Talkback keyboard is enabled and you have trouble scrolling out of the edit fields, try pressing alt twice, then once more, before attempting to navigate away from the edit fields again.
c. Decrement Hour & Decrement Minute – Briefly pressing the selector on one of these items subtracts one hour or one minute from the number that is already in the edit field (e.g., from 10 to 9). Pressing and holding the selector down on these controls decreases the hours or minutes, depending on how long the selector is pressed: holding it down a couple of seconds decreases by a small amount, and holding it down several seconds decreases by a larger amount. When the selector is released, focus returns to the appropriate edit field, but the number does not refresh automatically for the screen reader, so you need to scroll up or down, then back, to hear the new number in the edit field.
d. Set & Cancel – Pressing the selector on these confirms or clears the alarm time and returns focus to the previous screen.
5. Once the alarm has been set, focus moves to a screen with additional options. Scroll through them and make any changes. Options are as follows:
a. Turn Alarm On – This checkbox is already checked for you. Press the selector to uncheck it if you don't want to hear the alarm.
b. Time – This shows the time you expect the alarm to go off. Pressing the selector here moves focus to the Alarm Set screen described in Step 4.
c. Repeat – This dropdown list is set to Never by default. Pressing the selector here moves focus to a list of the days of the week. If you want the alarm to go off on Monday through Friday, but not on Saturday or Sunday, SCROLL TO AND press the selector ON Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to check those days; then scroll to and press the selector on OK.
d. Ringtone – The default alarm ringtone sounds like an old fashion alarm clock. To change it, press the selector on this item, navigate to and press the selector on the ringtone of your choice, then jump to the bottom of the ringtone list with alt+down-arrow, scrolling down one more time and pressing the selector on OK.
e. Vibrate – This checkbox is checked by default. Press the selector here to uncheck it if you do not want the phone to vibrate when the alarm goes off.
f. Label – This item allows you to name the alarm. Press the selector here, type the label name in the edit field, then scroll to and press the selector on OK. The label name is spoken when the alarm goes off. This is a handy feature as names simplify choosing an alarm and act as reminders of what the alarm is for. So if you have a favorite show, you can set an alarm for it, then find it quickly by naming the alarm after the show, and if you're busy getting dinner ready, you can have two alarms set for the same general period of time, one called Casserole for turning off the oven and another called pudding for chilling the dessert.
g. Done, Revert, Delete – These three items appear at the bottom of the list of options. Done saves the alarm information. Revert clears the alarm settings. Delete discards the alarm. Navigate to and press the selector on any of these, or press back to accept the current settings and return to the previous screen.
6. When the alarm goes off, press the hardware volume or camera button to stop or snooze the alarm.

Setting Alarm Behavior

The Clock app offers users the option to determine alarm behavior through the Settings item on the alarm screen. The choices made in this Settings screen affect all alarms and remain in place until they are changed to something else.

To set alarm behavior, do the following:

1. Launch Clock from the home screen using the steps described in an earlier section of this post.
2. Navigate to and press the selector on Alarms.
3. Press the Menu button.
4. Navigate to and press the selector on Settings; then scroll through the following items, making changes as desired.
a. Alarm in silent mode – Checking this item allows the alarm to ring even when the phone is set to vibrate or silent mode. This item is checked by default as many users silence their phones at night.
b. Alarm volume – Pressing the selector here pulls up a screen with a seek control and OK and Cancel buttons. Arrowing right on the seek control increases the volume of the alarm while arrowing left decreases it. Pressing the selector on OK sets the volume level and moves focus to the previous screen.
c. Snooze duration – Pressing the selector here opens a list for setting the interval between snoozes. Options are 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 minutes. Navigate to and press the selector on the desired item. Then press Back to return to the previous screen.
d. Volume and camera button – Pressing the selector here pulls up options that determine what effect the volume and camera buttons have on the alarms. Options are None, Snooze, Dismiss, and Cancel. Choosing None means that pushing the volume or camera button does nothing while the alarm is ringing. Snooze means that pressing the volume or camera button stops the alarm temporarily, and Dismiss means that pressing Volume or Camera stops the alarm once and for all. Press Back to return to the previous screen.
5. Press Back several times or Home once to return to the home screen.

Stopping and Snoozing Alarms


When an alarm rings, users can stop it temporarily (snooze) or completely (dismiss), depending on their setting in the Volume and Camera option described in the previous section of this post.

What to do when the alarm rings:

• If the option is set to Dismiss, press the physical volume or camera button to stop the alarm permanently.
• If the option is set to Snooze, Press the physical volume or camera button to stop the alarm temporarily. When the alarm rings again, press the camera or volume button again. To stop the alarm permanently, pull down the status bar (by touching the top of the screen and sliding your finger down until you hear, "Status bar" or "Notifications"), scroll through the items, pressing the selector on the alarm label (e.g., Casserole), and press the selector to dismiss the alarm.
• If the option is set to None, press the physical navigational controller or open the keyboard to wake up the phone, then down-arrow once to the Snooze item, and press the selector. To stop the alarm permanently, left-arrow from Snooze to Dismiss, and press The selector. This method of snoozing or dismissing alarms requires practice, unless screen reader volume is set to maximum, because the ringing alarm drowns out speech.

Deleting and Editing Alarms

When a new alarm is set, it is added to the chronological list of existing alarms so users can quickly access and reuse it at any time.

To quickly turn on an existing alarm – While on the list of alarms, scroll to the desired alarm, long-press the selector, then scroll to and press the selector on Turn on Alarm.

To delete an alarm you no longer need – While on the list of alarms, scroll to the desired alarm, long-press the selector, then scroll to and press the selector on Delete Alarm. A confirmation screen appears asking if you're sure you want to delete the alarm. Press the selector on OK.

To edit an alarm (e.g., to pick the children up from school early) – While on the list of alarms, scroll to the desired alarm, long-press the selector, then scroll to and press the selector on Edit Alarm. Focus moves to the screen for setting a new alarm, described earlier in this post.

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