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Review: Night Recorder for iPhone

Let’s face it, the built-in iPhone recording app that Apple ships with iPhone OS 3.0 kinda sucks. It barely functions on my original iPhone, and the audio quality is awful. That means there is room for improvement for recording apps on iPhone. Night Recorder is aimed at that market, and for the most part succeeds.

Night Recorder from iPaguri (an Italian iPhone development firm) aims to help people find any sleep disturbances one might have throughout the night. Things like sleep apnea, or snoring.

When firing up the app for the first time, I was met with this clumsy user interface. You as the user, have to learn where most of the functionality is, granted they include an “instructions” page under the settings button. Good luck finding it. I know the look and feel these guys were aiming for, and it is admirable, but as it stands, it’s a mess. The most impressive part of this application for me, was the ability for the user to set a minimum volume threshold for the app to start recording. You set the needle on the meter, and it does the rest. This really the only place where this app’s user interface shines. Once the threshold is set, you’re ready to record. Sometimes… On more than one occasion the built-in microphone wasn’t detected when the app launched; no audio was picked up. This is frustrating, and if you are just casually using the app, you may not notice, and miss recording that night’s sleep. This could easily be fixed in a software update. Anyway the reason for setting the minimum threshold I assume, is to cancel background noise like the rustling of sheets, or things that go bump in the night. Recording stops each time sound levels drop below the threshold. When sound levels meet the threshold again, recording resumes once more. The app creates a new file every time a recording starts, so you can better locate incidences, and you don’t have to search through one long recording.

Here’s a sample recording of me durning the night. I rolled over onto my iPhone and choked. Seriously.

When morning comes, and you’re done recording, you can see the list of recording that were created overnight. Here, I wish you could sort your recordings into folders for each night of the week, or some form of organization. At any rate, you are presented with a list of your recordings; this is where you can hear your recordings. I noticed several different times that progress indicator moves faster than the recording your listening to. So, the indicator stops long before the audio has stopped.

Some of your recordings are going to be “false positives”, which is unavoidable, and you may want to delete them. Pressing the “edit” button presents you with with deletion buttons similar to that of iPhone’s mail app. Sliding your finger from right to left, still displays the delete button, this is dangerous (accidental deletage), and moreover, unnecessary, when all of this is displayed when the edit button is tapped.

Scrolling through this list, I noticed the item at the top of the list is unresponsive most of the time. I repeatedly tapped it, and it would respond normally after the umpteenth attempt. No other item in the list would have this problem. Again, nothing that can’t be fixed in an update, it’s just frustrating, and casual users may think they’ve broken something.

The Wi-Fi connect, aspect of this app is crummy in the sense that you have to enter the the IP address provided, by hand, into your computer’s browser. After that mess of numbers, you can see and download all of your recordings from the app. This is of course, an easier work around for getting your recordings off your iPhone, than say, syncing through iTunes. Very cool. For this to work however, your iPhone and computer must be on the same Wi-Fi connection.

In the browser

This app has functionality that Apple hasn’t placed in their own recording app, but it’s janky user interface may deter some users. That said, it is a far better application than the “built-in” iPhone recorder app. Also worth noting, this will work with all iPhone models, and all iPod touch models (external microphone is needed and is sold separately) except for the first generation iPod touch (microphones don’t work with that generation).

Night Recorder is an excellent idea, with the technical underpinnings in place, they just need to fix the user experience, which is easy to do. On the whole I recommend it, even if you don’t use it to record your partner’s snoring, it still has practical uses.

So, by all means check out iParguri’s site here. And pick up your copy of Night Recorder in the iTunes App Store for $2.99.

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