iPod alarms and clocks

Last night I set the alarm on my iPod (2nd generation nano) and settled my brain for a long autumn’s nap. This morning the iPod went off an hour before it was supposed to. Let me tell you why.

According to the User’s Manual (p. 37), the nano has a “date and time,” which can be set by you, but is usually updated by your computer when you connect the iPod to sync. I had synced my nano after the switch from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time, and I knew that it was set to the right time because I have it show the time in the title bar.

It turns out, though, that this “date and time” setting doesn’t allow you to set alarms. The alarm feature is a subset of the “clocks” feature. On p. 38 of the User’s Manual, Apple says that to set an alarm you must “choose the clock you want to set an alarm for.” Choose a clock? Yes, the iPod allows you to set up several “clocks.” Back on p. 37, the manual tells you how to “add clocks for other time zones.” Of course, I’m not interested in a clock for another time zone; I’m home and want to set my alarm for my regular time zone—the one reflected in my “date and time” setting. But I learned months ago that there is no default clock; if you want to use the alarm (or sleep timer) feature, you have to set up a “clock” for your regular time zone. I did that and set it to Chicago time. It’s worked fine for months.

But when the time changed Sunday morning, the “clock” that controls the alarm didn’t fall back an hour. Unlike the “date and time” setting, it stayed on DST and woke me up an hour early this morning. I’ve since changed it by flipping its DST setting to Off, but I’m annoyed that I had to.

After thinking about this for a while, I think I understand why the iPod “clocks” work the way they do: because they let you set up a clock for anywhere in the world, and because Apple can’t control how various parts of the world regulate their clocks for standard and summer times, the “clocks” can’t update when the time switches. The “date and time” can update when the time switches because it is controlled by your computer, which knows your local situation. But I’m still pissed that I lost an hour of sleep this morning.

Why doesn’t the iPod use the “date and time” setting as a default “clock” and let me use that “clock”—which would know how to update—for the alarm and sleep timer features? Why force me to set up this (almost) redundant clock to access those features, then give me the sense that it was handling the time change when it updated the “date and time”? Automatically adjusting one without the other seems like a betrayal.

I know this is a small thing, but it’s the small things that Apple usually gets right. My now-retired iPod mini had only one clock, but it worked the way it should. This is the way other companies usually work—adding features that make the product less usable.