Friday, July 22, 2011

White noise app

10/28/13: I'm not planning to upgrade beyond 5.4.2; subsequent versions may exhibit behavior that diverges further from what I wrote here.

After trying several free "noise-making" apps to mask external noises and allow me to sleep more easily, I bought the appropriately named White Noise app from TMSOFT ($1.99 when I installed it).

I first tested the free White Noise Lite version, which has ads and reduced options, for a while. After several uses, it displayed a nag screen to encourage purchase of a full-functionality version (I do not begrudge the company that nagging, though). It periodically also displayed an error message ("WhiteNoiseEngine Error AVAudioSession activation error: Error..."), but continued to be usable.

I initially liked the "Oscillating Fan" sound, which stays at a fairly consistently loud level. That was also available in the free version's smaller selection of sounds, so I was able to do truly practical testing before buying the app. The "Air Conditioner" sound is not bad, either.

I like being able to set multiple timer choices (e.g., 8 hours, 3 hours, 1 hour), any one of which you can choose when playing a sound. That ensures that the sound ends before your alarm rings (will your alarm wake you if the sound is still playing?). That's not an option if you are, e.g., running a mechanical white noise device all night. If you wake up an hour and a half before your alarm, but want to sleep longer, you could play a sound for 1 hour.

It's inadvisable to download anything (e.g., an app or podcast) in the background while playing a White Noise sound, because when a download finishes, the White Noise sound will stop playing. The same thing applies when playing a podcast, according to my recollection of trying to listen to consecutive podcasts while washing dishes, and finding the podcasts ending unexpectedly.

White Noise has multiple alarm capabilities, which I find quite useful.

If you sleep on your side, and if White Noise can help you sleep even with only one earphone in (i.e., the pillow muffling noise for your other ear), that might improve your chances of hearing your alarm, a fire alarm, or any other noise by which you would really want to be awakened.

When running White Noise, if you don't set the iPod to Sleep, the display will change after 1-2 minutes to be a digital clock, with simulated LEDs, down to the amusing very weakly lit LED segments that are "off" (A numeral 8 has all seven possible segments lit. A numeral 0 has only six of the seven lit; the middle segment is very weakly lit.).  I learned from ricosgirl's Apple App Store review that setting the iPod to Sleep is a convenient way to keep the iPod screen on continuously, displaying the clock time -- great for me, since I don't have a clock in the car.

If you wanted your iPod to have more battery power when you get up (presuming you don't sleep with it while it's charging), you would do better to activate Airplane Mode so it won't waste energy doing anything with WiFi (as mentioned by Apple here), and also set it to sleep. Hey, it might as well "sleep" while you sleep.

After I had already bought White Noise, I read various, mostly positive, reviews at the Apple App Store. Some people apparently use the app to help them sleep on planes and in military zones.

TMSOFT also makes a White Noise Pro app which only works on the iPad. If the White Noise app, which works on both the iPod and iPad, did what you needed, and the White Noise Pro app didn't have any compelling additional features, it's difficult to see why you would buy that over White Noise, which could be loaded onto multiple iOS devices at no additional cost.

I've known for some time that additional sounds could be downloaded into the app, and finally got around to downloading some that I might use. In the app (version 5.2.3), tapping the Web button takes you to several choices, one of which is White Noise Market. Tapping that will launch the Safari browser onto a web page with a limited list of new sound choices, but multiple additional screens' worth of choices can be loaded. In Safari, tap "Load more entries..." enough times to load the entire list.

If you then just tap directly on a choice, it will open in the same Safari page, and when you return to the list using Safari's back button, you will almost certainly need to reload the complete list repeatedly (presuming you seek to work through all the new sounds). Instead, use Long-Press, selecting "Open in New Page", to open each choice in a new Safari page. As long as you go back to the list page within some reasonably short timeframe, you should not need to load the entire list of new sounds more than once.

If there is no "Open in WhiteNoise" button after you subsequently tap to download a new sound, Use "Open in..." to select the WhiteNoise app, which should then make such a button available going forward.

The titles of sounds in the list do not always match the titles shown in the White Noise app. The "Rain on Deck" entry in the list offers two downloadable sounds (different intensities of rain), so the "Open in New Page" technique can help save time there as well, if you want them both.

7/1/13: "Passenger Train" (posted in the White Noise Market on 1/28/13 by trey) is my current favorite additional downloadable sound to fall asleep to -- highly recommended!

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