Apple Watch

App of the Week: Sleep Cycle

From the moment I walk into school, chaos surrounds me. Tasks begin, busses arrive, students transition the halls, and classroom lessons never stop. It is important to take frequent steps back to monitor my physical and mental health as it relates to my stress and energy levels throughout the week.

In an ongoing effort to stay healthy, I have continued to explore health apps on the App Store that will help me collect data on my body. I one day plan to blog about this in detail. But for now, here is an app that I have used on and off for a while, but have recently been experimenting with again.

Sleep Cycle is an alarm clock app that is based on the following premise: that you will wake up the most refreshed if it is during your least deep sleep. Sleep Cycle allows you to set a time you need to be up by, and a wake up window. Using the microphone of the phone, Sleep Cycle uses advanced technology to listen to your movements during your sleep and wake you up within that window of time when you are in the least deep sleep. Sleep Cycle then records your movement (much like a Fitbit but without wearing anything) and presents it to you on a graph.

Sleep Cycle has many features. Amongst my favorites are: 

- Soothing alarm sounds

- Inegration with Philips Hue light bulbs. I can link it to the lightbulb in my bedside lamp so that it slowly turns on with a red tone as my alarm goes off. This way, my wife is not disturbed but I am gently woken up. 

- Integration with Apple’s Health app. Sleep Cycle records my hours in bed and hours asleep to the Health app so that I can see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. How do activity and water intake influence my sleep? How does my sleep influence my weight? Etc... 



What did Apple check off on my WWDC wishlist?

A few weeks ago, I detailed my wishlist for WWDC. Below, I have reposted it with what Apple actually announced. My assessment over whether or not a feature was announced is based on whether or not the feature was announced verbally during the keynote, not on a slide or later discovered within the OS.


-News app to mirror the one on iOS NOPE

-improvements to pro apps (Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X) and additions to the Photos app NOPE

-splitting iTunes up into separate apps like what is on iOS: separate app for Music, TV, Podcasts, and iTunes Store NOPE


-default apps (won't happen) NOPE

-serious overhaul of iPad productivity (better file system, better home screen, drag and drop, better multitasking, more control over audio ins and outs) YESX100



-Ability to watch TV content from two apps at once NOPE

-ability to command with Siri without the Remote app (for example, I want to say to my phone, “hey Siri watch Game of Thrones,” and have it turn on the TV, launch the HBO app and start the most recent episode) NOPE

-ability to sync all Apple TVs in the house so that they show the same video at once (for parties...also, this won't happen) NOPE


-smart contexts: ability to change Watch face, complications, and notifications based on sensitivity to time and location CHECK, Siri watchface

-better audio controls (easier to access Now Playing screen, complications to play and pause audio, ability to scroll the crown for volume and use hardware buttons for control whenever audio has recently been playing) CHECK, sort of with swipe to audio controls within Workout app


-Siri improvements (more reliable, faster, more open to third party apps, better integration with tvOS, local dictation and basic commands CHECK

-AirPods with always listening Siri NOPE

-improvements to iCloud Drive (shared folders, files, and URLs) CHECK definitely to shared files, but not sure about others

Here are some of my favorite features that reddit users replied with:

-Multiple iOS user logins NOPE

-Hey Siri on Mac NOPE

-custom watch faces NOPE

-open CarPlay up to more developers (pasrticular third party maps apps and messenging apps) NOPE

-iOS dark mode NOPE

-Workflow integration NOPE

-Open up NFC to third party apps CHECK

-Apple Pay your friends and family over iMessage CHECK

-Apple Music continuity NOPE

New iPhone Announcement, September 7, 2016 - Reflections

Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 2, the iPhone 7, and a new set of wireless AirPods this past Wednesday. I wanted to take a hot second to jot down some quick reflections on some of the announcements. These are in somewhat chronological order.

Just one brief note: I went into watching this event without any real interest in purchasing anything announced.


Not sure what it is, but the announcement of a Mario game coming to iOS made me feel like a seven year old. It looks to have the characteristic tightness and polish I expect from Nintendo games. I will definitely buy and play this game. Also very cool that it is going to be a fixed price and not have in app purchases.


Oh boy. Anytime iWork gets mentioned, I sit up in my seat a little. It was announced that iWork is getting real time collaborative features (yeah yeah, just like Google Docs in 2007). The cool thing is that collaborators can be working on Pages, Numbers, and Keynote documents from on the web or in the native applications on Mac or iOS. As these apps are my primary tools of choice for making docs, spreadsheets, and presentations, I am pumped that Apple is working on this.

Sadly, these features depend on the reliability of iCloud sync to be awesome. If these newer features work as well as existing iWork document sync, I am going to need see them in action first hand before getting too excited.

Pokemon Go for Apple Watch

Again, I found myself surprised that one of the most exciting announcements for me was about a game. Pokemon Go is the perfect fit for Apple Watch. It will resolve every reason that I do not currently play the game often (even though I find it entertaining and aspire to play it more).

The app reconciles the fact that playing Pokemon Go is basically a workout and therefore tracks your calories and distance as you play and records this data to the Apple Health app. It tells you when Pokemon are near as you walk so that you don't have to be staring at your screen the entire time, ignoring the moment and running your battery dry.

I will play this game a ton.

Apple Watch Series 2

I was not planning to be excited about this device but it might be the most compelling thing to me about the entire presentation. Apple Watch Series 2 brings GPS, waterproofing, speed increase, and water related workouts to the watch and also has some new and cool designs.

The Nike+ version of the watch has a breathable sport band and comes with some extra software installed to help track runs and motivate the user to get outside.

I have the stainless steel version of the original Apple Watch but I have bounced around the idea of getting a cheaper aluminum model just for the work out features and speed increase. It was also announced that watchOS 3 will come out next Wednesday, September 13th. This update is advertised to improve speed so much that it will feel like a new watch. So far, reviews have indicated that the hype is real. I will wait to see how much faster my watch feels next week before deciding if I really want a the new model.

iPhone 7

Well, they really did it. They took away the headphone jack. Honestly, I think this is where the technology needs to go, but as an audio professional, I think I am going to introduce a lot of friction into my life for the next year if I early adopt this technology. I still want the ability to plug my phone into any sound system I come across, and while using a Lightning to 1/8th inch adaptor is not a huge hassle for me, I would really rather just not deal with it. Eventually I do believe the entire industry will move this way, but I really wish that in pushing things forward, Apple had gone with a standard solution like a USB C cable, not one that is proprietary like Lightning.

Audio jack aside, the new camera features on the phone look compelling and I am definitely interested in them. Maybe next time around...


Along with the audio jack removal, Apple announced a new set of wireless "AirPods" that are designed just like the ones that come in the box, but without wires. The AirPods come in a chargeable case that charges the pods itself. As soon as you take them out of the case, they immediately pair to whatever Apple device you want to use them with (Mac, Apple Watch, iPhone) in one tap. They seamlessly pass audio from one of these devices to the other in one tap without fiddling with Bluetooth settings. They allow you to talk to Siri and get a couple hours of playback from a few seconds of charge.

If you have seen the product photography of these, the potential for loosing them is immediately obvious. That being said, I am very compelled by these devices because they are the only one in the presentation that actually solve new technological problems for me in a user friendly way. If these don't sound like garbage and fit my ears, I will definitely buy them. If you are compelled by these but fear of loosing them, Apple's headphone company, Beats, is also releasing three new wireless headphone models that use them same pairing technology as the Apple AirPods. Each of the Beats models have a wire to attach the two ear pieces together.


I think for me, it is looking like:

iPhone: I'll wait.

Apple Watch: See how fast watchOS 3 feels first.

AirPods: See how they sound and fit first. If the fit is bad, consider Beats.

My favorite apps of 2015

I feel the need to defend these apps in a way that I didn't for my favorite albums of 2015 list I posted yesterday. In part, this is because music's role in my life has a certain type of inevitability that makes it difficult for me to immediately understand its value myself. Secondly, the music I experienced this past year is worth so many more words than I could possibly type. Finally, apps, especially paid ones, tend to require a defense; a "why do I need to buy this?" Their value is also often technical and practical, and can be condensed down into a few sentences.


Documents by Readdle

I can't remember what getting work done on an iPad or iPhone felt like before discovering this app. Think of this as the missing Finder on iOS.


My new favorite for setting timers and reminders. I like how persistently it bugs me until I actually complete the task.


Unbelievable automator for creating multi step workflows on iOS.


For getting all physical paper into the cloud as beautifully formatted, text searchable, PDFs. Syncs effortlessly to Evernote, lightning fast, and zero step scanning.

Apple Notes

Stellar update this year to the notes app that comes bundled with Apple devices. I love the rich text formatting, web clipping, and list support.


A great app by the makers of two of my favorites: OmniFocus and OmniOutliner. OmniGraffle has come to replace Adobe Illustrator for me. It is my go-to for designing graphics. Specifically, I use it to design seating charts for my classes.


Amazing service for linking different internet connected services and devices. You can create if-then statements to automate them. Example: If I am tagged in a Facebook post, save that photo to my Dropbox. Another example: When I arrive at home, then turn on the lights in my house.


Cooking game changer! My wife and I clip recipes from the web into this app and it formats them beautifully so we can isolate ingredients, directions, and set timers. It has a built in grocery list and meal planning feature that can send data to Apple Reminders and Calendar apps, respectively.


I have been listening to a lot of podcasts this year. Overcast offers the best experience of all the podcast apps I have tried.



Not a new app to me but I have really taken to organizing my scores on the iPad with this app over the last year. It has truly revolutionized my musical workflow throughout my band directing, private teaching, gigging, and church music directing jobs.


Still my favorite metronome app on iOS.


My favorite tuning app. Features gamified tuning, polyphonic tuning drones, just intonation, and simultaneous metronome and tuner playback.


Using these apps (and more) in combination with the Apple Health app and Apple Watch, I have lost about 30 pounds since late August. Ok, really, I worked out and changed my diet some, but the apps helped.


Helps me set goals for water consumption and see my progress each day. Logging water is easy with the Apple Watch app and all data syncs to the Apple Health app.


This app is fun for tracking work outs and food, but I use it primarily to track the hours I sleep each night. It accomplishes this through the motion of my iPhone.


I have been using this app to track calorie and nutrition data for almost a year now. Really easy and addictive to use once you get into a routine.


This app, in combination with the wearable tracker by the same name, has allowed me to track trends in my breathing for the last few months. The app categorizes my breathing patterns into "focus," "tense," "calm," and "activity." When it senses a streak of tension, it sends my watch a message to breathe slower. It also allows me to set goals for minutes of focus per day, offers guided meditation, and syncs respiratory rate data to Apple Health.


All of these require home automated hardware to be useful. By recommending them, I am recommending the devices themselves as well.


Automated TV remote. No more fuss over HDMI inputs and multiple remotes. This app controls all of the things plugged into my TV and allows me to trigger different things on and off with simple one tap button presses.

Philips Hue

Lights that connect to wifi. These can be controlled from a phone app, automated with services like IFTTT, and commanded with Siri.


High quality speakers that connect to one another over a home wifi network.


Crossy Road

Shooty Skies