The iPhone app Timer from Contrast is a handy little utility that’s free on initial purchase. It lets you create several color-coded timers that can be launched, paused, and customized with a tap. It’s faster than using Apple’s Clock app and has earned a permanent home on my iPhone.
(Android users! Check out Smart Timer, which has many similar features. Same concept, different platform.)
Timer presents a 3 x 4 grid of buttons. Each represents a given duration. An active timer “lights up” as the numbers count down for easy reference. It’s clear and legible and the color coding keeps things organized. Timers with a preset duration display their value while those without show a clock icon.
I use timers a lot. Specifically, when I’m cooking, steeping tea, taking a nap, and focusing on work. Until recently, I used Apple’s Clock app for this and that app is okay but not nearly as robust as Timer.
First and foremost, Timer allows you to run several timers at once. This is a huge benefit in the kitchen. Let’s say the potatoes au gratin need 45 minutes to cook, the broccoli 10 minutes, and the turkey 3 hours. Each can have their own timer and they can all run at the same time with this app. Yes, you probably have a timer on your microwave, but it’s only helpful if you don’t need to heat something up in the microwave while the timer is running. And the one on your stove likely only allows you to time one thing at a time, making you play a guessing game with two or three other items that might be cooking. Having multiple timers all in one place is extremely convenient.
Second, to keep yourself organized, you can assign a color to each of those items and even a unique alarm. That way, you can tell what’s done just by listening. To edit a timer, tap and hold on its icon to produce the editor, where you’ll find several options:
- Preset – Assign a default duration to this timer
- Time – Duration
- Alert – Choose the alert sound
- Color – Assign a color to that timer button
It’s useful to create timers for frequently-used durations. For instance, I steep my tea for 3 minutes and take 20 minute naps. Now each is a single tap away. When a timer is complete, your alert sounds, a message appears on the screen, and the corresponding button flashes. Also, the timer continues to count, but this time, forward. That way you can see how much time has elapsed since your timer expired.
Why not use Siri?
That’s a good question. Telling Siri, “Set a timer for three minutes,” is faster than launching Timer and tapping the appropriate button (depending on how fast you speak, that is). But Timer has several advantages over Siri. First, it can run several timers simultaneously, as I mentioned. It’s also easier to view a timer’s progress with Timer. Siri will show you a timer’s progress if you ask, “Let me see my timer,” though you still have to look at the screen. It won’t read the time remaining to you. Also, Siri can’t set a timer that’s less than a minute long. “I can’t set a timer with seconds. Sorry about that.”