Review: Relaxiness - Rain Sounds
Now, don't switch off because you probably know what this application does just from the title. You'd be 100% right, of course, the idea here is to present white noise in the form of rain in order to get your brain to switch off and get to sleep. What's not obvious from the title though, is how well implemented this is, given the restrictions of running under Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile. I even found myself willingly paying the pound or so for the 'pro' version within ten minutes - it's done presented that well. Not perfectly, of course - as ever, I have some suggestions for the developer!
At first glance, you'd think that a sound-producing application would be trivial to develop. Find some samples, loop them appropriately, shut off after a while, and so forth. However, running under Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile presents a number of challenges. For example, while the platform supports background audio playback, this is handled by the OS's media player and isn't subject to direct application control. So the app has to stay in the foreground, playing and controlling. Except then the lockscreen cuts in and playback stops. So the app has to stay in the foreground and override the lockscreen cut-in. Except then the interface will start burning in on all AMOLED-screened devices, not to mention burning through battery power. So a 'night' mode is needed, with no display. And then the rain's too loud for you to go to sleep so you turn down the system 'media' volume and then when you next listen to a podcast or music you have to turn it all the way up again.
You get the idea. In fact, having tried numerous applications along these lines (I do occasionally have trouble dropping off!), Relaxiness gets closest to getting all the above right on this platform. In fact, it goes above and beyond 'right', with perfectly looped samples that seem utterly continuous, and with really attractive visuals to draw you in, in the first place. The free version gets some extra rain 'themes', plus a useful intra-app volume control, independent of the main phone volumes.
Each of the dozen or so rain themes is convincing, and also very different from each other, so most people should find a white noise 'rain' sound that they find sleep-inducing. A built-in timer is preset for one of five different periods, starting with 15 minutes and working up from there.
But hang on, if Relaxiness is up on-screen and active, doing its thing - producing the sound of rain and showing a nice colourful visual for... 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or whatever, what about battery drain? And, if used regularly, what about screen burn-in on phones with AMOLED displays? Not to mention having a bright, glowing experience when you're trying to drop off in a darkened room.
The developers have thought of this, thankfully, with a 'Night mode', essentially turning the display all black apart from a Glance-like time. And, when the timer expires, Relaxiness gracefully relinquishes control and the phone returns to whatever it normally does when the screen is off, perhaps the normal Windows Glance display, without a transient pulse or glow from the main UI. Thankfully.
The battery drain isn't too bad, especially when the display's all black (all my main phones use AMOLED), though as the use case for Relaxiness is in a bedroom or similar, it's more or less assumed that your smartphone would be plugged in and charging anyway.
If I had a complaint, it's that there's no way of more easily enabling 'Night mode' - this is more or less essential in real world use, and it's two taps away at the moment - I'd like to see it as a control in the main UI.
With visuals and themes that perfectly match the high quality audio loops, Relaxiness won me over very quickly. The whole thing is only 30MB, impressively small considering the samples used - other, competing, apps are often hundreds of Megabytes. Something this small can be left installed on a disk and there's no need to worry about it taking up valuable space.
The in-app-purchase is only £1 or so and, in case you were wondering, is immediately 'picked up' by an install on any other Windows Phones you own, which is a nice touch.
Relaxiness - Rain Sounds is simply very well done and an application the ecosystem should be proud of.
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at