Sleep apps and their usefulness.

I was using a sleep app to track and monitor my sleep pattern for over 6 months when iOS 7 launched with health kit. The first few days or rather a few weeks were fun and interesting. I got insights into how my body had rested and I was able understand how my body would react to a stress or a workout(cycling, running, etc) the following day. All that data was interesting to analyse and understand. Sometimes there were odd days, where one would notice that the day goes really well, despite the fact that sleep was hardly 4 hours or so. As weeks and months passed, the initial enthusiasm died and I wasn’t analysing the data anymore. I still tracked my sleep, but didn’t just look into the data in the morning. I did this for over two months, one fine day I realised that the sleep tracking didn’t change anything about how I lived my life for the past two months. That got me thinking and I came up with some questions. Some questions I should have asked before I set out to start tracking my sleep. The questions were

  • What is the point of this tracking?

  • How accurate is this sleep tracking?

  • If I could spend $2 to know everything about my sleep, then what are those expensive equipments in an actual sleep lab?

  • Is this sleep tracking really worth the effort?

I started digging around articles and forums on the internet. Its no surprise that the apps are some what beneficial (yes they track the time you spent in bed 😀, the movements yes, but sleep not really 😡) but they aren’t completely reliable and they aren’t accurate at all. Here is what I learned.

Any sleep tracking app does two things well, they tell the duration of the time spent in the bed, and they can record the movements in the bed. Both these aspects deal with the quantitative aspect of sleep. If only these quantitative aspects can give us insights into how our brain works and recovers, we all can be geniuses soon.

Sleep quality defines how the body works and not the time you spent in your bed rolling around, and these apps/motion trackers can hardly measure that.I would say it is just marketing speech for these apps and devices.

Here is an excerpt from a researched, guardian article

“Anything that allows you to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning is what you should be aiming for, which is generally between six and nine hours,” explained Dr Irshaad Ebrahim from the London Sleep Centre. “But it’s not all about time, it’s about the quality of the sleep, whether you complete sleep cycles.”

As to using motion trackers to measure sleep, he said: “They’re not measuring sleep, simply motion – not muscle tone, brain waves, heart rate or eye movement. You cannot infer quality of sleep from motion and tell what is crucial REM [rapid eye movement] sleep and what is not. People can become obsessed about their sleep through these gadgets doing them a disservice, worrying about it and in turn getting less decent sleep and having a negative impact.”

Here is more from a Ph.d candidate in neuroscience. Don’t forget to read the full article.

About every 90 minutes, we slip into REM, which is characterized by EEG waves that resemble wake, whole-body muscle paralysis, and—yes—rapid movement of the eyes. In the end, a pretty little roadmap of one’s night’s sleep, called a hypnogram, can be generated. It looks a little something like the image
…which is exactly what apps like Sleep Cycle and Sleep Time attempt to create for you.

Except that, without precise electrophysiological measures, the apps’ premise is fundamentally flawed.

So I stopped my sleep tracking. What a blissful feeling to not take your phone to your bed every night and not worry about iCloud backups in the morning. Yeah, iCloud doesn’t back up data when the sleep tracking app is running at night and you have to manually start the iCloud backup every morning if you care about iCloud backup like me.

We all had good life even before the onset of activity trackers and sleep apps. Lets not forget that. Humans are predictable and are a creature of habits. Just create a routine of an hour of workout and a regular habit of getting into bed at the same time everyday. In just a couple of weeks you will start feeling the improvements of a good sleep and your body and mind will thank you for the good habits 😀.

Analytics 3d

After reading my review of Analytics Pro, Richard from Codefrontiers sent me a promo code for trying their new app called Analytics3D. Below is a brief opinion of mine after using the app for the past week.

A very interesting app approach to view Google analytics data on you iphone or ipad. I must say the app is good. It adds a bit of spice to the monotonous apps that can just show Google Analytics data on your iDevice of choice. What I like about the app is that it has a gestures to navigate within categories. The location of visitors is my favorite feature. The bars on location view in a 3D is really cool. If you already are using an app for Google Analytics and you are interested to try something cool and a different app, this is the app for you.

As much as the app is cool, some functions/gestures aren’t obvious making it a bit confusing initially. Once you figure out it feels obvious. In all Analytics3D is a cool app, worth a try. Ideal for individuals who have blogs or personal sites and are not digging deep into their stats data, but just trying to get an overview of how their site is faring Its on the store for $2.99 and u can download from here

Apps I love on my iphone

I have close to 60 apps installed on the phone and have tried more than 100 odd apps on the app store, though that doesn’t make me an expert to review the apps store or how the apps work, I definitely would like to share a list of the few favorite apps that make my life easy and wouldnt want to have an iPhone without these apps.

All these apps are elegant and simple while easily setting the standards in their categories respectively.

  1. Instapaper:- have loved and had this on my home screen for over 2 years now, very simple and elegant app that helps you manage and read articles at a later time.
  2. Reeder :- The most popular and my favorite feed reader app that syncs with Google reader . For my detailed review see here.
  3. Camera+:- easily among the best camera App replacement I have tried. The post editing that u can do with the pictures taken is just awesome, fell in love the first time and fits my needs perfectly.
  4. OmniFocus :- The best GTD app available for the iPhone and iPad. I am a newbie to GTD learning things at my own pace. The App suits everybody, be a guru at GTD or a beginner, the app has a ton of features, but u can decide to use what you want to use for yourself.
  5. Instacast:-The only other podcast app i tried besides Apple’s own Podcasts app. I didn’t have a lot of feature needs, I just wanted a simple and easily manageable podcast client and this just fits my needs perfectly.The original Podcasts app by Apple is very pleasing to look and feels great us, but still doesn’t cut the deal on managing the podcasts and files quite the way I want it.
  6. Fast Analytics:- Ever since the blog has been self hosted, I have been using this App for tracking analytics. If you are a number junkie, this shows every important number u might want to look up in your Google Analytics account.Sadly it doesn’t do any graphs and that’s why I use Analytics. But i guess you cant get everything perfect in a free app can you.
  7. Analytics :- The App gives a simple representations of your Google Analytics data in graphs and numbers. I only wish somebody had a mix of both Fast Analytics and Analytics in one app that can do the deal for me.
  8. Byword:- My goto markdown/text editor on the iPhone/iPad. For a detailed review on why I like it please read here.
  9. TweetBot:- My favorite Twitter client on the iPhone and is easily the best twitter app ever made and the most loved twitter app by the Nerds 🙂
  10. Daily Tracker:- my default tracking app mostly used for Expenses tracking, health tracking, and sometimes sleep tracking. The App is very flexible and u can track almost anything u want to track and use it as a daily journal as well and is integrated with iCloud.

These are some of my favorite apps which are frequently used on my iPhone and iPad apart from the few essential apps like DropBox, Facebook, Skype,Instagram and Strava without which my phone feels incomplete.

The Magazine- My first Newsstand Subscription

The Newsstand app on the iPhone has been the unused app on my phone for over a year now. Some how I just don’t need news, I am a person who believes, if any news is worth my time it would come to me no matter what, that’s why I just don’t follow any political news what’s so ever. Most important news for day to day life like fuel price hikes, tax related news etc just comes to me from friends. Yeah you got it, I don’t read a news paper at all. How ever there is an exception, I do follow technology, I try to be on the bleeding edge by following a very cautiously selected set of tech blogs, so yeah Reeder is my second most used app after Mail on the phone. So newsstand had nothing till this Monday, this Monday that changed, and I am sure it changed for good.

Monday was when I found out about the launch of The Magazine. Ideally I should have found out about it last Friday, but given I was recovering from a week long flu and had an epic ride on Sunday, it happened only on Monday. I admire Marco and I trust him and his ideas and he is an inspiration.I read his blog all the time and don’t miss his podcast every week. So as soon as I found of his new idea from his blog, I knew I had to try it and I did.

I have had the magazine in the newsstand for over three days now, but I just had only about 2 hours to dig into it so far and I have to say, I enjoyed it. Time well spent. Below are a few reasons why I like it, and I think it’s very synonymous to the reasons for which the magazine was created and exists.

  1. The experience is nearly perfect. Navigation is minimal and elegant while the content is elaborate and interesting. Not many flashy images, and unwanted gibberish to skim through to find the important articles. Articles have links in them and links show up as previews right there at the bottom for you so that you can decide to read more of the link or not right there and continue with the article without moving out of the app.
  2. I don’t need news/ reviews and it doesn’t offer any.
  3. I can read long insightful articles, from time to time (not everyday) and I think that kind of reading is going to get a big boost from the Magazine, since all articles in the magazine are just that. They are insightful and aim to give u a bigger outlook of how things are.
  4. I have a predictable number of articles to read through every month, unlike the traditional magazines where I am not sure how much i will have to and how much i will be actually able to.
  5. I know and follow Marco and I like most of his content and so I am sure, I will like most of the content The Magazine would publish since he is the editor at least for now.

If you like reading technology columns and geeky insightful articles, you mostly will like the Magazine. Even of you don’t know who Marco is, you should just try the magazine free for week and decide for yourself. Just click here to try it remember the subscription is 1.99$ for a month.

Byword for IOS – Review

Byword app for ios is my recent purchase on the app store and the first of its kind for writing. I don’t have a Mac yet and hence do my writing on the iPad, iPhone or on Write Monkey (you can read my review of write monkey here) on my desktop. Dropbox on both helps me keep my files synced. While I sync my files on the desktop manually, Byword has the option to sync files using iCloud or Dropbox built right within and syncs files seamlessly. Setting up sync is just a breeze. Byword handles conflicts quite nicely as well. There is an option not sync files as well for people who don’t need the feature.

To me the number of features an app has matters but also their implementation and usability. I would prefer an app that has 2 features well implemented rather than 4 features not so usable. Byword is quite a minimalist on the iOS, yet at the same time it has all the features you would need to pour out your awesomeness into words. All you can customize in the preferences is your choice from 4 nice fonts, turn on/off autocorrect, auto capitalization and spell checker. On the settings screen you can export the text into HTML or copy as HTML to paste it directly to your blog , website etc or email it. You can print the document as well via AirPrint. I haven’t tried print as I don’t have an AirPrint printer yet.

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p style=”text-align:center;”> What I like about any app is the amount of attention to detail the developers put into the small things that constitutes for a far rewarding experience than otherwise. In Byword I am delighted by the toolbar which doubles as a status bar. It’s so nice and helpful I would like to call it the awesome bar. A few pictures should explain why I would call it the awesome bar. Byword status bar Byword toolbar Byword toolbar2

The awesome bar just shows the word count initially and a tap reveals the number of characters and another tap reveals both the word and character count. Gently swipe the status bar from right to left and you will be surprised to see that the status bar just became your toolbar with buttons for inserting tab spaces, various brackets, quotes and asterisk. On the iPhone the right half of the toolbar reveals an undo button which is nice, but I liked the left and right arrow keys the most. I always felt a need for these keys while typing on the mail composer on iOS, most often I have had to delete the entire word instead of just correcting a letter in the middle of the word and it’s been a pain to get the cursor to the right spot especially on the iPhone. The last button is a nifty keyboard minimizer button. On the iPad the tool remains the same except for the undo and minimize keyboard button are replaced by up and down cursor keys. I am not sure why they changed the buttons, but personally I would prefer the iPhone buttons and functionality.

Further swiping the toolbar once more to the left reveals more buttons to insert markdown shortcuts for headers, links, images and lists. While the right set of buttons remain the same as the previous tool bar. It is questionable that markdown was created with the notion to avoid the hassles of paying too much attention to the formatting and tagging and having tool bar buttons to insert these formatting defeats the purpose of markdown. Well actually in Byword it doesn’t. The iPad and iPhone don’t have a full size keyboard where we have access to all the symbols and numbers with in reach. Most often they are 1 or 2 taps away, so instead of tapping twice to get to a hash symbol for a header we are better off with the hash tool bar button. So the toolbar saves quite a lot of taps in all with out defeating some of the purpose of markdown.

What I would like to see in the future releases of Byword is for a night mode option to just reverse the font and background color. It would be quite nice and handy for somebody like me who fiddles with his iPhone at odd hours in the night.

To sum it up, Byword exceeds expectations for a minimalist writing app and is a perfect markdown writing tool for iOS. I would recommend it to anybody who is looking for a writing app on the iOS markdown or not.

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