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Fast Time Zone Conversions with Zones

I find myself dealing with time zone conversions more often these days. The MacStories team has grown and we’re all in different time zones; with AppStories, we’ve begun interviewing guests, and it can be tricky to coordinate times that work for everyone. While I’ve mostly learned to perform time zone calculations in my head, it can still be difficult when I’m dealing with cities I don’t know, or when countries change to DST in different periods of the year. I still appreciate a good utility that converts time zones for me.

Zones by Tom Izaks is a popular time zone conversion app that has received a major update to version 2.0 today. I’ve been playing with the update for the past few days, and I like the ideas that Izaks implemented. Zones’ primary interface element is a list of cities and their respective times. Each city displays its time zone code (these are useful to learn when arranging interviews and Skype calls) and, optionally, the country name. By default, Zones uses a bold font that makes city names stand out – particularly against the app’s white theme. I’m a fan of the light theme, though the ‘Stone’ one also looks good; when you pick a different theme, the app’s icon changes accordingly, which is a nice touch.

Zones includes some useful settings to adjust its presentation to your needs. If you have a lot of cities in your list, you can switch to a compact mode that packs more of them in a single screen. Similarly, you can tweak the app’s widget (which is now pinned to my widget view) so it only displays up to 5, 6, or 7 cities instead of all the locations you’ve added. The best option, however, is time zone sort order: cities can be sorted manually, by alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order and, my favorite, by GMT offset. With the latter, Zones displays my local time at the top of the list, followed by London (which is only an hour behind Rome, Italy) and other American cities that are farther away from Rome.

Zones' compact mode and widget.

Zones’ compact mode and widget.

Zones also features a handy system to convert arbitrary times across multiple time zones. If you tap on a city, you’ll open a contextual menu with a date picker where you can adjust the location’s time. The app defaults to adjusting 5-minute increments, but this can be changed in the settings, too.

This is great when someone asks you to “jump on a call at 10 AM EDT” and you’re not sure what it means, or when Nintendo announces a Direct at 5 PM PDT and you need to confirm that, indeed, it happens to be 2 AM in Italy (sigh). This gets even more useful when combined with the app’s Share menu, which generates a plain text list of converted time zones that you can send to iOS extensions.

If you deal with time zone conversions on a daily basis, Zones is a polished, useful app to calculate time differences between cities. In a future version of the app, I’d like to see iPad support (Zones is iPhone-only) and automatic iCloud backup of saved cities. Zones balances simplicity in interaction and presentation with the right amount of settings; I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick way to calculate time zones.

Zones is free to download on the App Store, with a $2.99 In-App Purchase to unlock all themes and unlimited cities.

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