Friday, February 16, 2018

Multiple iOS Timers

Dr. Drang:

But you do have Reminders. They have names and can be set to alarm not only at an absolute time, but also at a relative time:

“Hey Siri, remind me to check the casserole in 20 minutes.”

This works on my iPhone, iPad, and Watch, and I assume—based on this article—that it would work on my HomePod if I had one. This is clearly Apple’s preferred solution to setting multiple timers, each with a distinct name.

Holger Eilhard:

The problem I see aside from the ones already mentioned from others: the HomePod doesn’t actively tell you a reminder is due, unless there’s some configuration option that I haven’t seen. Sure, the iPhone does but that might be in another room not in the kitchen.

John Gruber:

There’s no more reason for the Clock app to support only one timer than there is for it to support only one alarm.

Dr. Drang:

It’s been this way for years, and there’s always been a need for multiple timers. Right or wrong, Apple thinks you should use Reminders for that function. Maybe the HomePod complaints will change its mind, but I doubt it.

I frequently want multiple timers, but I’m not thrilled with using reminders for this. First, it’s easy to miss reminders. They might be muffled by Do Not Disturb, and they don’t keep playing the sound until you act.

I also use Siri and Reminders to enter tasks into OmniFocus. This works better for me than using Siri with OmniFocus directly. The problem is that if I then enter a “timer” reminder, it might get moved into OmniFocus and never go off.

The obvious solution is to have a separate Reminders list for timers. Even assuming that I would remember to use this, I haven’t been able to get it to work with Siri. The syntax is apparently supposed to be:

Add “list name” reminder “new item” on “date and time”

So I tried making a list called “Timers” and said:

Add Timers reminder check oven in 30 minutes

Siri transcribed this correctly, and it set the due date to 30 seconds in the future, but it added the reminder to my default Reminders list, not to Timers. I also tried various other names for the list, such as “Alarms” and “Cooking” with the same result. Adding to “Timers” usually works fine when not specifying a time, but when I add the time it silently does the wrong thing.

Previously: OmniFocus and Siri on iOS 11.

Update (2018-02-16): Matt Deatherage reports that pausing while you speak can help improve Siri’s parsing. I found that this:

Add a reminder…in 30 seconds…to check oven…to my Timer list

works. I had better success after renaming the list from “Timers” to “Timer.” Even so, you have to be careful with how long you pause. Speak too quickly and Siri gets confused. Pause for too long and Siri stops listening. Holding the Home button can prevent that but is inconvenient. My initial accuracy was only about 25%. After some practice, I am now able to speak at a normal rate with very small pauses and entered 10 reminders correctly in a row. It remains to be seen whether this will carry over into everyday use.

Update (2018-02-19): Dr. Drang:

In the table below, I’m comparing the features of the three alert types on iOS: Timers, Alarms, and Reminders. Included in the comparison is how certain features work (or don’t work) on the iPhone, iPad, Watch, Mac, and HomePod.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

This syntax works: "Add a reminder to check the oven in 30 minutes to my timers list”

@Adrian When I do that it makes a “Check the oven in 30 minutes” reminder with no due date.

I’m amazed that nobody seems to be talking about how you can set multiple named alarms, which I presume would work on the HomePod. I don’t use Reminders, but “Set an alarm called ‘check the oven’ for 30 minutes” works just fine on my iPhone (and it snoozes, which timers don’t!)

@Eric Good tip. That seems to work (at least with my iPhone), although (a) alarms are only accurate to the minute and may not go off at all if you pick a sub-minute interval that doesn’t cross the next minute boundary, and (b) you have to clean them up in the Clock app afterwards.

Maynard Handley

Dr Drang omits that there is at least one MORE option — items added to Calendar!

It truly is ridiculous. And the bug report I submitted about this years ago has, like most bug reports, fallen on deaf ears.

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