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Do you still need an alarm clock?

Unless you rise with the sun, or happen to have a rooster roaming around your house, you probably have owned an alarm clock. Set it the night before, and it goes off in the morning, awakening you with a loud blaring siren, music or inane chatter from your favorite radio station, or maybe you have one of those clocks that awakens you with light -- whatever it does, it has one job and it does that job pretty well. But now alarm clocks face new competition from cellphones, the current do-everything device. It is time to free up some space on your bedside table and lay the ol' alarm clock to rest?

With a basic alarm clock, you set the time you want to get up, and then you turn it on, and when the anointed time comes, it goes off. If you need to wake up at a different time, you have to reset the alarm. If you don't have to get up on a particular day, you have to remember to turn it off before you go to sleep. As much as it may suck to sleep through an alarm, it's also pretty bad to be woken up on a day off.

While a basic featurephone pretty much works in the same way, smartphones blow both alarm clocks and featurephones out of the water with their customization options. You can set multiple wake-up times, on different days, and make sure it never goes off on a weekend (or whatever days you have off). Have to wake up at 6am on Mondays and Wednesdays but you don't have to be up until 8am on Tuesdays and Thursdays? You can set two different alarms, choosing the days each is set for. You can have multiple alarms on the same day as well. And this is just the basic function built in to every iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device -- there are apps you can download that offer even more options, like doubleTwist Alarm Clock for Android or Nightstand Central for iOS, that offer even more options, like going off with your natural sleep cycle, or awakening you at sunrise.
Advantage: Cellphones

Plug it in, and your alarm is a trusty soldier at your bedside, going off at the same time day in and day out. But that's just it -- it's tied to a wall outlet, and as much as you may love it, you're not going to be packing it in your suitcase on your next trip. That's why hotels provide an alarm clock on the nightstand for you to use. But rather than struggle with figuring out an unfamiliar device, it's easier to just use your cellphone on trips. You were going to bring it with you anyway, so it's not taking up extra space in your bag, and it also uses a lot less space on the nightstand. You'll still need to plug it in at night; many smartphones struggle to make it through a day of light usage, and adding a nighttime vigil to that isn't helping battery life. But as long as you remember your charger, it should be your go-to wake-up device.
Advantage: Cellphones

If the power goes out, your alarm clock starts blinking "12:00" and fails to wake you up and now you're late for work or school. This isn't a problem for cellphones -- or is it? As mentioned in the previous point, you do need to remember to charge your phone on a daily basis, specifically by plugging it in at night, and it's surprising how many people may forget, waking up to a dead phone. And a dead phone isn't going to wake anyone up. So while cellphones have the edge technology-wise, this is a case where human error can bring them down. Add that to the fact that most alarm clocks now have a space for a backup battery (usually a nine-volt) that can keep the clock running in case of a power outage, and an alarm clock is just better for people who tend to forget. Unless you live in an area with long, constant power outages, that battery will hold you for years -- it's more likely to leak than it is to run dry.
Advantage: None

It's the middle of the night, and you're awake, and not falling back asleep any time soon. You reach for your cellphone, turning on the screen to peer at the time, hoping it isn't too bright for your eyes. Or you could just roll over and peer at the display on your alarm clock, which is big and not-too-bright, and you don't have to reach for anything or turn it on. It's just there. This is a case where the size of the clock is an asset. Put it in the right place and you can look at it without even raising your head from your pillow. And some clocks even let you adjust the brightness; keep it bright for use as a nightlight, or turn the light off completely and forget about it until morning if need be.
Advantage: Alarm clocks

Let's face it, alarm clocks can be a real pain. Most don't have fancy touch screens or keypads to enter data, meaning you're going to be entering the time by fiddling with "hour" and "minute" buttons where you need to scroll through the hours and minutes of the day one-by-one. And sometimes they're not exactly intuitive -- why doesn't the button for the radio alarm actually say "radio" on it? But when it goes off in the morning, you know what you need to do to get it to shut up. Tap the snooze button and get a few more minutes of sleep, or flick the switch to turn it off for now. With a cellphone, though, it's a little different depending on the phone and program. First you need to find the phone, then you get to swipe or tap or even shout at it to turn it off. Some require just a little more work to actually shut it off, as a simple tap or swipe might only put it into "snooze" mode. It really depends on how you set it, and what program you use. But it's usually intuitive, at least.
Advantage: Cellphones

You already own a cellphone, so an alarm clock is just more money to spend that you may not necessarily need to spend. However, alarm clocks aren't a luxury item, either -- a basic alarm clock will cost under $20, a bit more if you pick up one with some bells and whistles like temperature readings, or vibration, or a wake-up light. The more expensive clocks are generally trying to offer you more for your money, with functions that aren't easily replicated by cellphones. But regardless, you're not buying an alarm clock instead of a cellphone, you're buying it in addition to one, and unless you're on an extremely tight budget, a basic alarm clock won't break the bank. As for alarm apps, most cellphones come with a built-in alarm, which will probably suffice and won't cost you extra, but for an app with a bit more "oomph" you'll probably pay about $1.99.
Advantage: None

doubleTwist Alarm Clock for Android

Chances are, if you choose to make the jump to using a cellphone as your personal wakeup device, you're going to spend the first few weeks figuring out what works best for you. And that's what makes them so appealing; cellphone alarm apps are very flexible, and can fit a wide variety of needs. But they don't fit every need, and in those cases, you can still buy an alarm clock and proudly display it by your bed, desperately slapping the snooze button to catch a few more minutes of sleep.