Are your iPhone or Apple Watch alarms not going off? Here's how to fix it

Posted:
in General Discussion
If you've never had this problem, we're not surprised because it is really rare. However, we also envy you tremendously, because when you do get it, it is extraordinarily inconvenient. As yet, Apple has no fix for it -- but we do have a workaround.

We use our alarms a lot. And they don't always work.
We use our alarms a lot. And they don't always work.


There are untold millions of iPhone and Apple Watch users who have no problems with their alarms whatsoever. Yet that's no help if you're one of the few for whom an alarm will occasionally just not sound.

So far, Apple has simply not got to the bottom of this years-old bug.

Nor have we, but after repeatedly getting it ourselves, we have developed a workaround. There isn't a solution, even when talking with Apple Support they haven't been able to find a fix. However, it is a workaround that has prevented us ending up with important alarms that simply haven't sounded.

Here's the problem

If only to help anyone Googling for a solution as desperately as we have done, this is what happens, this is what goes wrong with Apple Watch and iPhone alarms.

There are two problems, which we believe are not related, but they have the same effect. One is on the Apple Watch and is particularly exasperating.

Apple Watch bug

"Hey, Siri," we'll say, "set an alarm for 6pm." And every time, Siri will reply with "OK, I've set your alarm."

It's just that sometimes it hasn't done any such thing.

On the left, the alarm going wrong. On the right, what you should see every time.
On the left, the alarm going wrong. On the right, what you should see every time.


When you do this on the Watch and you get that Siri response, you also get a line on the screen showing you the time of the alarm. Next to that is a typical on/off switch and of course it's switched to on.

Except when it isn't.

There are times when Siri says it has set the alarm, and it may even have entered the right time, but hasn't switched the alarm on.

We have suspected that the problem occurs most often if you are setting an alarm for a time you have previously had one. Once we even told Siri to "set an alarm for 5am called 'Stupidly Early,'," and it set it but the name was "Airport." Siri and Apple Watch had kept the name from when we previously set a 5am alarm, and it also failed to switch that alarm on.

Whatever the fault is, though, it isn't solely tied to any one thing. We can't reliably reproduce the error, and nor can Apple. It does seem more common with these existing alarms, but that could just be because we happen to set these same alarms often and so notice it.

Apple's advice to us, by the way, was to unpair and re-pair the watch to our phones, and to cycle off the "Hey Siri" feature on both devices.

It didn't appear to improve anything, but since the problem is rare, it's only when it fails again that we ever know if an actual fix has achieved much.

Alarms on the iPhone

The similar problem on the iPhone is, as far as we can tell, even rarer. We tended to get it quite often during the iPhone 5 and 6 days, and it's only come up once on our iPhone XS Max model.

In this case, what happens is that you set an alarm -- by Siri or by hand -- and everything looks right. If you go into your alarms, you'll see that the time is set and the alarm is switched on.

It's rare, but you can pick up your iPhone to see that the alarm is sounding for ten minutes and yet there's been no sound. It isn't your ears.
It's rare, but you can pick up your iPhone to see that the alarm is sounding and yet there's been no sound. It isn't your ears.


Yet the next morning, or whenever, nothing appears to happen.

We have now many times idly turned to our iPhones on the bedside table and discovered that we were late. What's more, we have discovered that the iPhone screen is showing us the alarm as ringing -- but there's been no sound.

First, you'll suspect your hearing, then you suspect the volume control, lastly you'll cross your fingers that somehow switching the phone to vibrate has done it, but no. At some times, for no repeatable or discernible reason, the iPhone alarm does not sound.

The workaround

Do this. Every other day or whenever it enters your head, say to your Apple Watch "Hey, Siri, delete all my alarms." Wipe the list clean. You know you've already got twenty different ones in there, let them go.

And do the same with your iPhone, too. Just every once in a while.

Setting an extra alarm for one minute later somehow makes the iPhone sound the first alarm correctly.
Setting an extra alarm for one minute later somehow makes the iPhone sound the first alarm correctly.


Then whenever you set an alarm that's important to you, set it twice and use the one-minute-trick.

To use our iPhone's 5am example, we promise you this works. Set an alarm for 5am and then immediately set another one for 5:01am.

Let us be really clear here: we're not talking about snoozing, and we're not even really doubling up on the alarms. For some reason, if you also set a 5:01am alarm, your 5:00am one will sound correctly.

Frankly, that's less a fix and more like alchemy. But it works.

It works on both iPhone and Apple Watch and until Apple squashes this years-old bug in iOS, it's what we do with every important alarm.


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netling
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    racerhomie3racerhomie3 Posts: 1,148member
    This must be very rare. I never had this issue on Apple Watch or iPhone.No issues since iOS 3.
    lolliverStrangeDays
  • Reply 2 of 22
    cmauscmaus Posts: 29member
    I have a totally different problem with the iOS/watchOS alarms:

    apparently, my sleep is deep enough that it could take more than 15 minutes for me to actually react to an alarm.

    But: I observed that iOS‘s and watchOS‘s Alarms would stop making any sound after 15 minutes of chiming. The snooze and stop buttons remain on the screen, but the device remains silent. This has caused me several times being late at work - since I spotted the culprit, I installed Alarmy because that app keeps ringing until I do something about it.

    Anyone else knows this problem? Anyone who knows what the reason is or knows any workaround?

    Thanks in advance.
    dysamoriacornchipmac_128
  • Reply 3 of 22
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 2,739member
    With my wife’s phone (XS Max) it’s not alarms but alerts.

    When a text or Messenger message comes in, the phone usually makes a sound. But every once in a while it doesn’t. No vibration either. Unlocking the phone shows a message has been received, but no alert heralded its arrival.
    edited July 14 dysamoriaWgkruegerflyingdp
  • Reply 4 of 22
    GabyGaby Posts: 69member
    I must be one of the unlucky few. I have this problem on my watch 70% of the time. And so far have found no fix but like AppleInsider, it’s compounded if and when there have been previously set alarms. As well as not activating they also show the previous label too. It has happened much less frequently on my phones and iPad Pro. I’m surprised to see an article as I haven’t really heard of others having the issue, but then I don’t know very many who wear an Apple Watch. 
  • Reply 5 of 22
    hawksehawkse Posts: 28member
    With my wife’s phone (XS Max) it’s not alarms but alerts.

    When a text or Messenger message comes in, the phone usually makes a sound. But very once in a while it doesn’t. No vibration either. Unlocking the phone shows a message has been received, but no alert heralded its arrival.
    Yep. This one. Alarms work fine, alerts are getting spottier by the month. Running a 5S on IOS 10 (since I have a bunch of 32-bit apps I want to keep) but the issue first appeared about a year ago. At times, my phone will also 'catch up' on forgotten reminders and I'll get a flurry of reminders, even ones set in the future. Most weird.
    unbeliever2
  • Reply 6 of 22
    riverkoriverko Posts: 70member
    I have different issue - my alarm starts both on iPhone and Watch. When i turn it off on iphone, it’s ok. When i turn it off on watch, it still runs on iphone. That is really annoying... didn’t find any way how to fix this
  • Reply 7 of 22
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,547member
    I had the problem once of not getting message alerts on my watch. Everything seemed to be set correctly but I would find text messages on my watch without any notification, just like it was on do not disturb. After doing some digging, I discovered that while the alerts were tuned on, the alert tone on my watch had somehow gotten set to 'none.' I have no idea why that's even an option. If you don't want any alerts, just put your watch on silent or DND.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,257member
    I’ve been hit by the no alert issue on notifications at least once recently. No idea what the cause was. Luckily it wasn’t a critical situation.

    My bigger complaint with notifications is that they aren’t synched to my Mac correctly. I’ll turn on my Mac after leaving it asleep for days or weeks, and it’ll show all my alerts for reminders that have come and gone in all the time I’ve not used it, even though I’ve dismissed them on my iOS devices. There’s no way to clear them all. I have had to go to reminders repeatedly to get it to synch with iCloud.

    Speaking of broken features and voodoo, here are two that really irritate me:

    1. iOS repeatedly downloads music while on cellular data, just because my car has selected my iPhone 6s (wrongly) to play music and there is none on that phone. Every setting that supposedly controls data usage and iTunes is set to NOT download anything, but it does it anyway. You will find other people online reporting this problem and there is no solution at all. I’m not sure why we should trust security on these devices when crap like this happens regardless of having all settings set correctly. 

    2. I have not been able to use Universal Clipboard in months. All settings are correct. Nothing solves the problem.
    lolliver
  • Reply 9 of 22
    I gave up on the alarm as just too unreliable and bought a third party app which works every single time. Thanks for this article, I just thought it was me was the problem.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    arthurbaarthurba Posts: 108member
    I’m paranoid about missing alarms. So I always set an alarm and another 5 minutes later.  And another 30 minutes later. 

    So so I guess even if I was affected by this bug I wouldn’t be affected by this bug. 

    Is it possible to create a Siri shortcut for this?  So when you ask for an alarm it always sets two alarms?
    edited July 14 lolliver
  • Reply 11 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,946member
    This brings me nightmares -- not for missing an alarm -- I don't sleep long enough for that (One of the few advantages of being old!).
    But, it brought back my days as support programmer -- and these kind of sporadic problems were just nightmares to deal with.  For the most part all you could do was isolate it down as much as possible and then start pouring through the code running What-If scenarios through your brain.   But, even if you found it (or thought you found it) it was a bear to test & verify the solution because you never knew if it would happen or not.

    Then, you go to the user and, in a sheepish voice say:  "I think I fixed it.  But, if it happens again -- please call somebody else!"  (Unfortunately, generally there was nobody else to call!)
  • Reply 12 of 22
    cmaus said:
    I have a totally different problem with the iOS/watchOS alarms:

    apparently, my sleep is deep enough that it could take more than 15 minutes for me to actually react to an alarm.

    But: I observed that iOS‘s and watchOS‘s Alarms would stop making any sound after 15 minutes of chiming. The snooze and stop buttons remain on the screen, but the device remains silent. This has caused me several times being late at work - since I spotted the culprit, I installed Alarmy because that app keeps ringing until I do something about it.

    Anyone else knows this problem? Anyone who knows what the reason is or knows any workaround?

    Thanks in advance.
    Consider using an app such as Sleep Cycle. In apps like these you set a range of time to be woken up in whereby the app will aim to wake you in between sleep cycles. As some background, a sleep cycle is a period of time, of approximately 90 minutes, in which your body goes from being awake to deep sleep to a state that is technically awake again. (Although you rarely store memories of this awoken state.)  The app takes advantage of this fact to detect when you're technically awake, and fires off your alarm at that time. The result is that you are more easily woken, and not feeling "groggy", which is how one typically feels if awoken from the deeper portion of their sleep cycle.

    Also, as a simpler work around: If you know you take more than 15 minutes to wake up, simply set two successive alarms, the second for 15 minutes after the first.
    edited July 14 racerhomie3
  • Reply 13 of 22
    dysamoria said:

    My bigger complaint with notifications is that they aren’t synched to my Mac correctly. I’ll turn on my Mac after leaving it asleep for days or weeks, and it’ll show all my alerts for reminders that have come and gone in all the time I’ve not used it, even though I’ve dismissed them on my iOS devices. 
    Same here.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,361member
    Happens occasionally, but it’s fairly rare. For me it’s the location based reminders that are real spotty. That and the extremely annoying iPad empty share box which necessitates the app being force-quit and reopened for sharing window to work again.

    also this forum system...
    edited July 14
  • Reply 15 of 22
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,449member
    cmaus said:
    I have a totally different problem with the iOS/watchOS alarms:

    apparently, my sleep is deep enough that it could take more than 15 minutes for me to actually react to an alarm.

    But: I observed that iOS‘s and watchOS‘s Alarms would stop making any sound after 15 minutes of chiming. The snooze and stop buttons remain on the screen, but the device remains silent. This has caused me several times being late at work - since I spotted the culprit, I installed Alarmy because that app keeps ringing until I do something about it.

    Anyone else knows this problem? Anyone who knows what the reason is or knows any workaround?

    Thanks in advance.
    Yes, I have the exact same problem. I have no idea how to fix it.
  • Reply 16 of 22
    netlingnetling Posts: 41member
    I missed a flight to China because if this exact problem!!  I tried to figure it out, thought maybe because if it being on vibrate but it is a bug and it’s something that Apple needs to seriously address!
  • Reply 17 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,357member
    I can't remember every having an alarm misfire. And as long as I get three hours or more sleep, I never sleep through the iPhone or watch's alarm. My complaint is that the Taptic alert doesn't always.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    JustARegularGuyJustARegularGuy Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    If you use the DO NOT DISTURB feature and it's time-activated, say 10p-6a, alarms and alerts are all supressed, or at least that's been my experience.  Like the other user, even w/o it, I've had issues with alerts not happening for texts or other features.  Restarting the phone, disabling/re-enabling sound and a few other gyrations worked in the past, but not on latest IOS 12.3.1 (16F203) on an XS MAX.

    FWIW -- I've notcied that my WatchIOS seems to now randomly set the alert s off.  Phone might ring, but not watch -- slide up, there it shows disabled.  Now before everyone tells me I must have covered the screen at some point -- it's summer, no sleeves, and no reason to put my hand over the screen to silence it.

    One other data point, the randomly disappearing sounds was occuring well in advance of current IOS, and disabling and re-enabling sound after an IOS update seemed to fix that issue.  Again, up until most recent update.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,547member
    mac_128 said:
    cmaus said:
    I have a totally different problem with the iOS/watchOS alarms:

    apparently, my sleep is deep enough that it could take more than 15 minutes for me to actually react to an alarm.

    But: I observed that iOS‘s and watchOS‘s Alarms would stop making any sound after 15 minutes of chiming. The snooze and stop buttons remain on the screen, but the device remains silent. This has caused me several times being late at work - since I spotted the culprit, I installed Alarmy because that app keeps ringing until I do something about it.

    Anyone else knows this problem? Anyone who knows what the reason is or knows any workaround?

    Thanks in advance.
    Yes, I have the exact same problem. I have no idea how to fix it.
    What happens if you set a second alarm 16 minutes after the first one? Will it go off or is it ‘silenced’ by the fact that you haven’t responded to the first one? It sounds like the 3rd party app may be your best solution.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    andyringandyring Posts: 28member
    I haven't run into either of these, but I never use Siri to set an alarm. I use the iOS "bedtime" feature and it's never been a problem for me. On days when I don't need to get up as early, such as weekends or vacation, I just turn off the bedtime feature and manually turn on an alarm on the phone.

    However, I do recall a few years back Apple had an oddball bug with alarms that was specifically related to daylight saving time. Something about the time changing by an hour in the middle of the night would sometimes screw up alarms. And since that change only happens twice a year, it took a while to nail down from what I recall.
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