AutoSleep, the automatic sleep tracker for iPhone and Apple Watch, has followed up its big 6.0 release from late last year with a 6.1 update that adds a brand new Today screen, the ability to customize the design of the app’s sleep clock, and several other smaller improvements.
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If you’ve followed MacStories for long, you probably already know that AutoSleep is one of our favorite sleep tracking apps on iOS. The app stands out for offering a frictionless, effort-free experience. Where other sleep trackers may require you to start and stop sleep tracking manually, AutoSleep takes the burden of remembering those tedious tasks off your plate. If you wear an Apple Watch to sleep, the app will automatically detect your sleep patterns even without a separate Watch app installed. If you don’t have a Watch, or simply don’t wear it to bed, the app will track your sleep through other methods. Whatever your habits are, AutoSleep has you covered.
Today marks the debut of AutoSleep’s latest major iteration: version 6.0, which introduces new wellness features, refined graphs and color schemes, sleep hygiene trends, Siri shortcuts, an improved Watch app, and more. It’s an extensive update that simplifies some aspects of the app while branching out into fresh, innovative areas of health tracking.
Slowly but surely, the Series 3 has changed my Apple Watch habits. I abandoned earlier models of the Watch for most tasks other than notifications and workout tracking because, with some notable exceptions, few apps worked well enough to be more convenient than pulling out my iPhone in most circumstances.
The Series 3 Watch is different. Not only is it faster, but the battery life is significantly better. The changes have caused me to rethink how I use my Apple Watch and look for new ways to use it. So when I heard AutoSleep, an app that Federico uses and has reviewed in the past, was getting a big update that includes enhanced Apple Watch functionality, I saw another opportunity to extend how I use my Series 3.
I haven’t been disappointed. AutoSleep 5 is a broad-based update that touches every aspect of the app, but what I like best is its Apple Watch integration, which has begun to give me new insight into my sleep patterns. Although I find the amount of data displayed in AutoSleep overwhelming at times, after spending several days with the app, I plan to stick with it as I try to adjust my schedule to get more rest each week.
AutoSleep, my favorite sleep tracking app for Apple Watch, has received a major update to version 4.0 earlier this week, which has brought a complete redesign that makes the app more intuitive and informative.
Developer David Walsh has been busy with AutoSleep’s development: version 3.0 was already quite a departure from the original app released in December 2016, but AutoSleep 4.0 feels like something else entirely. The app is finally beautiful to look at, with a clever visualization of sleep times and quality based on rings. In the main clock UI, you can now easily see how much you’ve slept and the quality of your sleep; at the bottom of the same page, another set of rings displays ‘Today’s Sleep’ alongside an arguably more useful 7-day average. This use of rings is reminiscent of Apple’s Activity app, and I think it’s a perfect match for sleep tracking. If Apple ever adds native sleep tracking to watchOS, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an implementation similar to AutoSleep.
There’s a lot more to explore in AutoSleep 4.0 – the app now has a dark interface (which makes the colored rings truly pop), every chart has been redesigned and reworded for clarity, and browsing an individual day’s timeline is faster than before. I continue to be impressed with Walsh’s ability to listen to feedback and iterate without drifting away from AutoSleep’s underlying goal, which is to help you form better sleep habits by seeing what you’re doing wrong.
AutoSleep makes me appreciate wearing the Apple Watch more. I highly recommend taking version 4.0 for a spin if you haven’t tried the app in a while.
AutoSleep 4.0 is available on the App Store.
I first reviewed AutoSleep by David Walsh in December, noting how his idea of an automatic watchOS sleep tracker could bring one of the best Fitbit features to the Apple Watch. I’ve been wearing my Watch to bed every night, and AutoSleep has successfully logged sleep data with impressive accuracy.
As I wrote in my original review, however, AutoSleep needed an easier setup process and a cleaner design to help users understand and edit logged data. Walsh has been working hard on AutoSleep since launch, and version 3.0, released today on the App Store, addresses several of my complaints from the original app.
The setup wizard has been completely redesigned with a series of questions that make it easy to configure the app for your habits. Instead of cramming information on a single page, Sleep Quality and Day now have their own tabs in the app; the Day section is particularly handy to view a timeline of your day as logged by sensors on the iPhone and Apple Watch. Generally speaking, everything feels cleaner and better organized, and while some menus and symbols could still be explained differently, the overall app is more intuitive and accurate in its measurements.
Thanks to the fantastic battery life of the Apple Watch Series 2, wearing the Watch at night for sleep tracking isn’t a problem, and AutoSleep makes automatic tracking a reality with features I can’t find in any other app. If you tried the app and abandoned it at version 1.0, now’s a good time to check it out again.
AutoSleep 3.0 is available on the App Store.
I’m terrible at keeping a decent sleep schedule. I love my job and I often stay up late working on my latest story. Sometimes, I decide to relax with a videogame, I lose track of time, and suddenly it’s 4 AM. I know, however, that getting enough quality sleep every night is key to a healthy lifestyle, which is why, over the past month, I’ve tried to wake up earlier and work out in the morning.
With these personal changes, motivation only goes so far for me. I want to be able to visualize my progress and current streak. Since getting an Apple Watch Series 2 a couple of weeks ago, I’ve started looking into the idea of using it as a sleep tracker again. There are some solid options on watchOS, but all of them require pressing a button in an app right before you’re about to sleep. And because I normally drift off to sleep, I forget to activate sleep tracking mode and no sleep gets tracked at all.
In my limited tests with a Fitbit this month (before getting a new Apple Watch), I came away thinking that automatic sleep detection was my favorite feature of the product. You don’t have to press anything and the Fitbit figures out when you started sleeping and when you woke up. Combined with a dashboard like Gyroscope, it’s a great way to build an automatic sleep log that passively monitors your sleeping habits.
David Walsh, developer of MacStories favorite HeartWatch, wants to recreate the same experience with AutoSleep, an iPhone app that turns your Apple Watch into an automatic sleep tracker without installing a Watch app. I’ve been wearing my Watch to bed for the past week, and AutoSleep has worked surprisingly well.
HeartWatch takes the existing heart and activity data captured by your Apple Watch and presents it in a different way than Apple’s own Health app. The app has long offered fresh approaches to visualizing your data, but the sheer amount of information, and how it’s organized, can easily feel overwhelming. The main goal of HeartWatch 4 was to simplify everything, making it easier to navigate and thus more approachable. Spend just a couple minutes with this update and it’s clear that it succeeded.
I’m not going to re-hash all of the functionality of HeartWatch, since we’ve covered that in the past. You still have access to important metrics like your heart’s average daily bpm, sedentary bpm, sleep data, movement stats, and more, accompanied by charts, graphs, and comparisons over time. But the way everything’s organized has been drastically improved.
In the last version of HeartWatch, a navigation bar divided the app into four main sections: Vitals, Dashboard, Activity, and More. The difference between each of these screens wasn’t immediately obvious, so until you spent significant time getting situated in the app, it felt like work trying to find what you wanted. All of that’s changed now thanks to a design that puts everything in a single scrolling view.
The new HeartWatch design is broken into Wellness, Activity, and Workout sections that are stacked vertically in the new one-stop dashboard. Inside each section is a collection of tiles for different data points, not unlike what Walsh did with the Today dashboard in AutoSleep last year. The tile design provides a great overview of data, and it’s entirely customizable so you can, from the Settings screen, disable any tiles you don’t want to see.
At first glance, HeartWatch’s tile design may seem like it’s eliminated much of the valuable data comparisons and visualizations previously found in the app, but all of that is actually just hidden behind each tile. You can swipe on a tile to flip it over and get more info, or tap, or even tap and hold to view more details; personally I think loading different screens depending on whether you tap or tap and hold is overly complicated, but regardless the whole system remains a major improvement. The simple data is kept front and center, and when you want more, you can easily get to it in an intuitive way.
HeartWatch 4 includes other improvements too – like its custom activity metrics as an alternative to Apple’s rings, support for automatic system switching between light and dark modes, and an upgraded Watch app – but the highlight here is definitely the redesigned iPhone app. If you ever found HeartWatch and all of its data overwhelming, version 4 is a compelling reason to give the app another try. It’s strong evidence of the power of iteration and simplicity.
HeartWatch 4 is available on the App Store.
Every year in late October, I start putting together a rough list of candidates for my annual ‘Must-Have Apps’ story, which I’ve historically published in late December, right before the holiday break. As you can tell by the date on this article, the 2019 edition of this story is different: not only did I spend the last months of the year testing a variety of new apps and betas, but I also kept tweaking my Home screen to accomodate MusicBot and new Home screen shortcuts. As a result, it took me a bit longer to finalize the 2019 collection of my must-have apps; in the process, however, I’ve come up with a slightly updated format that I believe will scale better over the next few years.
In terms of app usage, 2019 was a year of stabilization for me. Having settled on a specific writing workflow revolving around iA Writer and Working Copy, and having figured out a solution to record podcasts from my iPad Pro, I spent the year fine-tuning my usage of those apps, refining my file management habits thanks to iPadOS’ improved Files app, and cutting down on the number of apps I kept tucked away in folders on my iPhone and iPad.
Two themes emerged over the second half of 2019, though. First, thanks to various improvements in iOS and iPadOS 13, I increased my reliance on “first-party” Apple apps: I embraced the new Reminders app and its exclusive features, stopped using third-party note-taking apps and moved everything to Notes, and switched back to Apple Mail as my default email client. I’ve written about the idea of comfort in the Apple ecosystem before, and I’ve seen that concept work its way into my app preferences more and more over the course of 2019.
The second theme, unsurprisingly, is my adoption of a hybrid Home screen that combines apps and shortcuts powered by our custom MacStories Shortcuts Icons. Following changes to running shortcuts from the Home screen in iOS 13, I realized how much I was going to benefit from the ability to execute commands with the tap of an icon, so I decided to mix and match apps and shortcuts on my Home screens to maximize efficiency. Thanks to the different flavors of MacStories Shortcuts Icons (we just launched a Color set), I’ve been able to assemble a truly personalized Home screen layout that puts the best of both worlds – my favorite apps and custom shortcuts – right at my fingertips.
For this reason, starting this year you’ll find a new Home Screens section at the beginning of this roundup that covers the first tier of my must-have apps – the “ultimate favorites” I tend to keep on the Home screens of both devices. Because I like to keep my iPhone and iPad Home screens consistent, it made sense to start grouping these apps together in their own special section. These are the apps I use most on a daily basis; I’m pretty sure you’ll find at least a couple surprises this year.
This entire story features a collection of the 50 apps I consider my must-haves on the iPhone and iPad, organized in seven categories; whenever possible, I included links to original reviews and past coverage on MacStories. As for the traditional list of awards for best new app and best app update: those are now part of our annual MacStories Selects awards, which we published last December and you can find here.
Let’s dig in.
Sleep tracking is an area of health that Apple hasn’t yet formally moved into, but all signs point to that changing soon. iOS 13 saw the company build more advanced wellness tracking features into the Health app, Beddit was acquired by Apple a couple years ago, and very recently the App Store leaked evidence of a Sleep app that is (or was) in development for Apple Watch. But for the time being, anyone interested in sleep tracking with a Watch or iPhone needs a third-party app.
NapBot is one such app, a new debut from the maker of CardioBot that launched in recent weeks. NapBot applies CoreML to perform automatic sleep tracking when you’re wearing an Apple Watch to bed, the results of which you can then view in either the iPhone or Watch apps.