Google Pixel Intelligence

10 next-level tricks for your Pixel Clock app

Your Pixel phone's Clock app is surprisingly smart and full of thoughtful features, but some of its most exceptional elements are all too easy to overlook.

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mohamed_hassan/Google/JR Raphael

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Google's Pixel phones are practically overflowing with useful stuff. And some of the best options of all are things you've probably never even noticed.

That's true for the Pixel's core Android software as well as its Google-made apps — everything from the excellent calling-related features in the Pixel Phone app to the expanded array of advanced options in Google Assistant on Pixels.

It's even true in apps that seem so basic and utilitarian, you'd never think they had anything interesting lurking in their dusty virtual corners.

Today, it's time to explore one such app — the seemingly mundane Pixel Clock app that came preinstalled on your phone. The Clock app may appear to be a simple spot for setting a timer or alarm, but don't let yourself be fooled: Beneath its second-ticking surface, that unassuming part of your Pixel has some powerful options that'll make your life a whole lot easier.

Oh, and if you don't have a Pixel, by the way, don't worry: While the Clock app is the default time-keeping tool on Google's self-made phones, you can actually download it on any Android device and get the exact same experience even outside of the Pixel universe.

All right — ready to see all the cool stuff your phone's Clock app can do?

Pixel Clock trick No. 1: Custom recurring alarms

If you're anything like me, you probably find yourself getting up at different times for different purposes — y'know, the standard workday time, the weekend or holiday time, and maybe even the pretending-to-be-a-platypus wacky Wednesday time (or whatever it is you do to celebrate the middle of the week).

Well, stop futzing around with adjusting your alarms each time your wakey-wakey needs vary and start taking advantage of your Pixel Clock's custom recurring alarm features:

  • First and foremost, on the main Alarm tab within the Clock app, tap the circular plus button at the bottom of the screen to add extra alarms into your list.
  • Tap the "Add label" option within each card to give it a name that'll let you know what it is at a quick glance (even when your eyes are bleary and your brain is 94% offline).
  • Remember, too, that you can keep any alarms you create off and available only for manual activation when you need 'em — or you can flip the toggle within their cards into the on position and select certain days of the week to have 'em automatically activate on a regular weekly schedule.
Pixel Clock app: Alarms JR

And all of that's just the start.

Pixel Clock trick No. 2: Custom wake music

In addition to your Pixel's built-in alarm sounds, you can connect your Clock app to a handful of different music services and wake up to the likes of System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, or whatever soothing morning music you prefer.

All you've gotta do is get that connection set up once:

  • Tap the sound configuration line within any of the alarms in your Pixel Clock app's Alarm tab. It'll be directly beneath the day selector when the card is expanded, and it'll have a bell icon likely followed by the word "Default."
  • Now, here's the hidden part: After you've opened those alarm sound settings, tap the three-dot menu icon in the upper-right corner of the screen.
  • That'll reveal options to install and connect compatible sound services.
Pixel Clock app: Music services JR

Pick whatever service you prefer, and you'll then see a tab for that service within the same "Alarm sound" screen. From there, it's simply a matter of browsing through your available options within its library — or tapping the search icon in the lower-right corner of the screen to find something specific — and picking the song or playlist most likely to annoy the living daylights out of anyone else sleeping in your vicinity.

Pixel Clock app: Custom music JR

Ahh — nothing like a gentle start to the day.

Pixel Clock trick No. 3: Automated automation

An especially cool trick in Google's Pixel Clock arsenal is the app's ability to connect to Google Assistant and trigger all sorts of automated actions as part of any alarm you set.

Back in the app's Alarm tab, expand an alarm's card and look for the "Google Assistant Routine" option. Tap that son of a dingus, and you'll be taken to a screen where you can configure all sorts of extra actions to accompany your waking.

Pixel Clock app: Assistant routines JR

The options are virtually endless: Anything Assistant can do on your Pixel can be added into the mix — things like reading out info about your day, adjusting various phone settings, turning on or off any manner of connected device, and even interacting with third-party apps in all manners of interesting ways.

Hey Google: Any chance you can whip up some freshly made biscuits while you're at it?

Pixel Clock trick No. 4: Custom alarm behaviors

On a more foundational level, your friendly neighborhood Pixel Clock app can let you take total control of how your alarms act and how you interact with them.

Tap that three-dot menu icon in the upper-right corner of the Clock app's main screen and select "Settings" from the list that comes up. Then pay careful attention to a few important yet easily overlooked options:

  • Within the "Alarms" section, "Silence after" will let you customize exactly how long your alarm will harass you before giving up and shutting its virtual yap.
  • In that same area of the screen, "Snooze length" allows you to shorten or extend the number of minutes your Pixel Clock will let you rest before attempting to buzz you out of bed again.
  • And also in that section, "Volume buttons" will empower you to reprogram your Pixel's physical volume keys so that they either snooze an active alarm or stop it entirely instead of simply adjusting its volume — an excellent set of choices for anyone who finds fumbling with the screen first thing in the morning as irksome as I do.

Oh, and one more thing worth noting on this front...

Pixel Clock trick No. 5: The gentle volume phaser

Hearing any sound at full blast is an unfortunate way to welcome yourself back to the land of the living. Your Pixel phone has a more pleasant option, though — if you find it and take the time to turn it on.

In that same Clock app settings area we were just exploring, you'll see lines labeled "Gradually increase volume" under both "Alarms" and "Timers." Tap either or both of those lines, and hey — wouldya look that?

Pixel Clock app: Gradual volume JR

Play around with the options, see what works best for you, and enjoy a slightly less jarring start to your next busy work/platypus day.

Pixel Clock trick No. 6: The timer time-saver

Here's a neat one I hadn't actually noticed myself until just the other day: In your Pixel Clock's Timer tab, you can create multiple persistent timers and then keep 'em available on demand for easy ongoing use.

That way, if you have specific types of timers you use time and time again, you can pull 'em up quickly and get 'em going — without wasting any time.

Look for the circular plus icon toward the bottom of the Timer tab to get started. Once you've created a new timer and set it up the way you want, be sure to tap the word "Label" above it to give it a name for easy at-a-glance identifying.

Then, anytime you want to move between your saved timers, just swipe up or down on the Timer tab screen — like so:

Pixel Clock app: Timers JR

You've just gotta love some good old-fashioned time management.

Pixel Clock trick No. 7: Timed sleep sounds

Speaking of timers, your Pixel Clock companion has a tucked-away option that might just help you function a bit better on your busy workdays by getting a good night's sleep.

Tap the tantalizing Bedtime tab at the app's bottom edge and look for the section called "Sleep sounds."

Tap the "Choose another sound" button within that area, and you can select from a small handful of relaxing noises — waves, deep space, dial-up modem screech, and so on.

Then, when you hit the play button back on the Bedtime tab, your sound of choice will start playing — and you can tell the app exactly how long you want it to continue before shutting off and sending you away into a deep, relaxing slumber.

Pixel Clock app: Sleep sounds JR

(Just kidding about the dial-up modem screech, by the way — though if you really want to add that into the lineup, you can download it from this Wikipedia page and then use the "Add new" option within the Clock app sound selector to make it available. You're welcome — and, simultaneously, apologies.)

Pixel Clock trick No. 8: A custom bedtime schedule

Also on the subject of bedtime, be sure to browse through the "Schedule" section of the Pixel Clock app's Bedtime tab while you're there. That area will let you set a simple schedule to have your phone automatically enter Do Not Disturb mode and optionally even adjust its screen into a less distracting black-and-white grayscale setting during sleepy-time hours.

Pixel Clock app: Bedtime schedule JR

You can either create a strictly time-driven schedule or check an option to have your bedtime mode turn on only when your Pixel is actively being charged during certain hours — a nice bit of contextual intelligence to accompany those of us with irregular sleep patterns.

Pixel Clock trick No. 9: The multiple time zone tracker

I don't know about you, but I am an absolute nit when it comes to keeping track of multiple time zones. For whatever reason, at least one out of every five times, I end up mixing up the most basic time zone conversions and confusing my mushy ol' man-noggin about when, exactly, some manner of event is occurring.

Your Pixel Clock app has a helpful way to make managing multiple time zones easier: In the Clock tab, tap the circular plus icon and search for any city you think about during the day. You can add as many cities in as you want, and you'll then be able to see 'em all on the same screen — with a clear indication of the current time in each area and its exact difference from your location.

Pixel Clock app: Time zones JR

If you really want to go all out, you can also slap the Clock app's recently added world time widget onto your home screen for an even more accessible at-a-glance view of the same info. Long-press anywhere on your home screen and look for the widget-adding command to find it.

Pixel Clock trick No. 10: Clock action shortcuts

Last but not least, while we're thinking about your home screen, one final Pixel Clock possibility to ponder: You'd never know it, but hiding within the regular Clock icon in your app drawer is a series of spectacular shortcuts for performing certain actions in a single swift step.

It's part of Android's oft-forgotten App Shortcuts system, and it can save you some serious time — if you remember to use it.

Luckily, it couldn't be much easier to use: Just press and hold your finger onto the Clock app's icon for a couple of seconds. And hey, how 'bout them apples?

Pixel Clock app: Home screen shortcuts JR

There, right in front of your suspiciously steamy nostrils, are one-tap options for creating a new alarm, firing up a new timer, and starting a stopwatch — as well as launching the Clock app's time-focused screensaver, in case that urge ever strikes. Any of those commands will launch the associated action in the blink of an eye, without any spelunkin' around within the app's menus.

And here's one more bonus trick: If you find yourself using any of those options regularly, you can make it even easier to access by pressing and holding your finger onto it and then dragging it directly onto your home screen. See?

Pixel Clock app: Shortcuts JR

Now it'll be just like any other shortcut on your home screen and never more than a single tap away.

Saving time in an app that's all about seconds — it just doesn't get much better than that.

Don't let yourself miss an ounce of Pixel magic. Sign up for my free Pixel Academy e-course and discover tons of hidden features and time-saving tricks for your favorite Pixel phone.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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