Why I made Sol: Sun Clock

We’ve been working on this one for months and I’m happy to announce that Sol: Sun Clock, our lastest iPhone app, is now available in Apple’s App Store.

It lets you look at the day’s sunlight times, quickly find sunrise and sunset, solar noon, twilight, and so on — And crucially, set alarms for each of these events that change every day, and per your location on planet Earth.

This project stemmed from an idea I had when driving home from work every evening, and occasionally I would get lucky enough to see a spectacular sunset just as I crossed the bridge in front of the old Blue Plate Mayonnaise factory,  but I had to leave work at just the right time. Too often I answered a few more emails and left as it was getting dark.

(I still never got the perfect photo, but that has more to do with the foolishness of trying to take a photo and drive at the same time than my timing; one of my attempts you can see here, below.)

Blue Plate building, New Orleans

I also discovered that it was an easy bike ride to the river near our house and it was great to be up on the levee path when the sun was setting. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an iPhone app that would remind me that I had an hour left of daylight? I could catch the sun as it was setting on my way back home.

I checked the App Store and there was one app that would give me an alarm when the sun was setting, but that was already too late. I didn’t want to be reminded when it was already dark—I could usually figure that out—I wanted to be reminded when  I only had an hour or so left of light. Good for photography; and useful for exercising… I could think of many more people that might use this.  None of the other apps in the store could do it.

Josh Warren and I had worked together on the original Aquarium 2 app for Blu-ray, and he was excited to contribute some great design ideas and work to Sol: Sun Clock that would help take this app from something with a list of cool features to a unique user experience as well. We really wanted an app that would help you visualize what the day looked like, plus was fun to interact with.

As an obsessed amateur photographer, I started to use the app to remind me when the golden hour was. When my wife and I took a trip to Gulf Shores, I had it remind me to walk back out to the beach to catch the last hour of light, taking photos with my iPhone; and had it wake me up in the early morning to walk outside to catch the sunrise.

Gulf Shores Sunset

We spent a lot more time working on this app than we planned but I think that anyone who is interested in the changing daylight conditions —everyone from gardeners to exercise junkies to vampires — is going to get a lot out of this. Travelers, photographers and event planners whose work depends on it will find it essential.

Also, as someone who lived in Dublin, Ireland through three winters can tell you, the amount of sunlight you are exposed to can have a huge effect on your general happiness (so can a pint of Guinness of course).  I realized that the wintertime blues all but vanished upon my moving down to sunny Louisiana, but that I still needed to make sure I got outside when it was light. I’ve used this app to make sure I get enough time outside when it counts, especially in the winter when the days are shorter.

There was an insane amount of math and calculations involved in this app that, combined with our perfectionistic attitude to having the perfect UI, caused it to take a bit longer than we hoped. I’d love to find out how you use it, and feel free to contact us with your suggestions as well.

Sol: Sun Clock official page

Sol: Sun Clock for iPhone at the App Store

 

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18 Responses to Why I made Sol: Sun Clock

  1. Pingback: Sol: Sun Clock is now available for iPad | Juggleware Developers' Blog

  2. Chris says:

    Any plans to port it to Android?

  3. Pingback: ale{atori}c» Blog Archive » Oops, forgot to mention…

  4. Danial says:

    I only just discovered this app the other day and it has already become one of my most used. I’m a photographer, so it’s been very useful in that regard, but even when I don’t need to know the sun times, I still love being able to visually see where I am in relation to the day. Thank you very much for making it!

  5. Tony Belding says:

    I’ve been looking for an app that could take the place of my great old Yes Watch. This one comes close… What’s missing is the moonrise, moonset and phase. For anyone engaged in astronomy or nighttime activities, that’s a bothersome omission. Is there any possibility that we can get a Sun-and-Moon Clock?

  6. alec says:

    Tony, yes! Please stay tuned….

  7. Dana says:

    This app is great. I love the ability to set alarms based on solar events. Two simple additions to the alarm settings will make it even more useful.

    Can you add civil time limits to the alarms? That is, coerce an alarm to happen before or after a certain civil time. Say; alarm at sunrise, but no earlier than 6:00am. I imagine a selector with 5 settings: Solar time (default) – Alarm no later than {time} – Alarm no earlier than {time} – Silent if later than {time} – Silent if earlier than {time}.

    Also, can you add on/off selectors like those in the Apple Clock app that allow you to disable an alarm without changing any other settings.

  8. Dana says:

    Now that I think about it, perhaps it’s better to have two civil time limits for each alarm: A before limit ( No limit – Alarm no earlier than {time} – Silent if earlier than {time} ) and an after limit. ( No limit – Alarm no later than {time} – Silent if later than {time} )

  9. Treisee says:

    I am really looking forward to a Sun and Moon clock, that would make the app absolutely top notch!

    It would also be wonderful if we could add alarms that were a percentage of the day or night, ie 15% of daylight passed or 25% of night passed , and it would also be cool if there could be a small agenda on the display screen that lists the alarms, the event title and the time, so at a quick glance it can be seen like an appointment list.

    But thanks for this app! its awesome!!

  10. jon ward says:

    Love the app but please make an android version. I’m now a owner of a ipad and android tablet and I’m missing some of these great apps.

  11. David says:

    If you’re looking for something on Android, consider Sundroid Pro Sunrise Sunset, a fairly nice app that does pretty much the same thing, including the event-relative alarms (ie: x minutes before/after sunrise/sunset/whatever).

    That said, personally, I’d still love to see Sol on Android; it’s a simple, elegant interface that gets the job done very effectively. Even though I’ve picked up Sundroid, I’d still seriously consider buying Sol anyway. The Sundroid interface is perfectly functional, but Sol just flows more easily.

  12. John says:

    Android?

    Three years since you’ve made the app, two since the past question asking about Android. Looks like this would be a cool app to own, but it would have to be android…

  13. Wayne Manners says:

    People stop asking about Android. No one who is anyone cares about it.

  14. admin says:

    I appreciate the interest in Android, but I’m not sure there are enough paying Android customers out there who’d be interested in the app to merit the development time.

  15. Brian Byars says:

    I love this app and have several alarms set for every day. One feature that I wish were available is solar hours. I would like to set an alarm for a mid-morning break at the 3rd hour or halfway between sunrise and midday. That sort of thing.
    Using solar time, the hours are different lengths. A summer hour might be 80 minutes long, whereas a winter hour might be 45 minutes long.
    Thank you for an excellent app. Please let me know if you like my idea and if it would be possible.

  16. Barry says:

    Did you ever consider doing a comparable App for the Moon?

  17. Frank says:

    Hi alec. I’m puzzled by your response to the Android question, about there not being enough paying customers. According to stats I just looked up, Android not only vastly outnumbers iOS around the world, even just in the US, 67% of phone activations were Android from April-June 2017, vs. just 31% for iOS.

  18. admin says:

    Hi Frank, the Android market has certainly grown a lot since I originally wrote that, and there are plenty enough Android users out there. It was the percentage of paying customers that concerned me, however. From an app developer’s point of view, the statistics at the time showed that Android owners were far less likely to pay for apps… but maybe that has changed as well.

    I may yet consider developing an Android version in the future, however as a small developer I only have so much time and my expertise does not currently include Android development, so I’d need to invest time in learning the platform from the ground up — or hire some talent to do the job well. Thanks for writing!

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