I've previously noted how, almost a year into the Apple Watch, I haven't found myself depending on any particular Watch app. I mostly use my Apple Watch for basic features such as notifications and timers, and I like wearing it because it looks nice. All the productivity or utility apps I've tried are either too slow, too complex for a tiny screen, or they don't launch at all because of watchOS performance issues.
David Smith's Pedometer++ and Sleep++, on the other hand, are great examples of Watch apps that have been built from the ground up with the right amount of functionality in mind and a clear use case. Pedometer++ is a step counter that makes sense and Sleep++ lets you use the Apple Watch to monitor your sleep at night. I'm not exaggerating when I say that these two apps make a strong case for wearing an Apple Watch as much as possible. Step counting and sleep analysis were two key features I expected Apple to build just right with current hardware and software, but David Smith did instead.
Sleep ++ is receiving a major 2.0 update today that brings improved sleep analysis, better communication with HealthKit1, and a redesigned night detail screen with more information about the quality of each night and the ability to trim minutes.
According to Smith, the algorithm behind sleep analysis has been completely overhauled to differentiate between deep and light sleep, restlessness, and wakefulness. To do this, the algorithm uses movement recognition from the Apple Watch (but not heart rate data, which can only be read every 10 minutes unless in Workout mode). The benefit of a wrist-worn sleep monitoring app like Sleep++ is obvious: unlike existing solutions such as placing an iPhone under your pillow – which, for me, regularly captured movements from my girlfriend (who sleeps next to me) or my dog (who would like to sleep next to me ) – the Apple Watch should measure movements more precisely because it's on you. In my tests, the app did paint a more accurate picture of my typical night, analyzing restless minutes and best sleep time.
The new night detail screen is a welcome change. In version 2.0, Sleep++ presents times and percentages neatly in a concise summary, visualizing light sleep and awake times on the night's timeline with colored indicators. The new trim controls are also an intelligent addition: the downside of sleep monitoring apps is that you may forget to turn them off after you wake up, and Sleep++ makes it easy to do so with a trimming UI that's reminiscent of trimming a video in your media library. Edits are non-destructive, so you can revert to the original data any time you want.
Charging my Apple Watch before bed to wear it at night with Sleep++ has become a habit for me. The biggest compliment I can pay to Smith's app is that, once you start using it, its simplicity blends into the Watch itself, almost like a native feature of watchOS. Version 2.0, with its superior analysis and deeper HealthKit integration, is an improvement over what I consider one of my must-have Apple Watch apps, and it's still free to try from the App Store.
- The app now saves 'In Bed' and 'Asleep' data in Apple's Health. ↩︎