After so many years of operation, there are rarely completely original app ideas anymore. Most categories are extremely well represented, from email clients to white noise apps. To truly stand out in a fairly crowded market you need to make your app something special. It needs to look good, or perform better than the competition. Luckily, Charlie Chapman, first time iOS developer and all round great guy, has been meticulously crafting one such app that I’d like share with you today.
This app is called Dark Noise, a white noise app with a difference. Before diving into the app itself I’ll let Charlie describe himself1 to those of you that don’t know him:
I’m a software engineer in St. Louis, Missouri by day, and a designer, motion graphics artist, podcaster, and indie dev by night.
If you want to hear a little more about the actual design process behind Dark Noise, or where it may go next, you can hear Charlie talk all about it on the latest episode of the excellent The Outpost Show with Daryl Baxter. It’s well worth a listen, but don’t forget to come back here if you go and dive into your podcast player of choice right now …
So, what sets Dark Noise apart from other white noise apps? Quite simply, it’s crafted with love. I’ve been lucky enough to have been beta testing the app for a few months now, and I’ve never known another developer be so receptive to feedback and also so quick to make tweaks, improvements and enhancements on the back of it.
As you launch the app you’re greeted with a great looking, yet simple, list view of various available sounds. Included in the one time purchase price are over 30 sounds, across large range of areas, from traditional white noise app favourites like Thunderstorms and Waterfalls to more unique offerings like Lawn Mower and even Snoring2
Tapping on any sound in this list will, as you’d imagine, start your chosen sound. When doing so, you aren’t taken into a kind of ‘now playing’ screen, however. You instead get a nice tan of sorts at the bottom that tells you what’s playing with a play / pause button. This is a nice design choice as it allows you to continue browsing the other various sounds without interrupting the current one. By playing a sound you’re also treated to your first example of some of the beautiful little animations sprinkled around the app. Tapping the pause button makes the icon morph into a play button and vice versa when pressed again. This may seem small, and an odd thing to call out, but it really is quite pleasant and just adds onto a long list of small things in the app that, again, highlight the care and attention Charlie has put into his app.
Speaking of animations, another real treat are the simple, yet affective animations each of the sounds icons have. While the Dark Noise app is about white noise you can listen to to help you sleep, or focus, the animated sound effect images are so mesmerising I will often just want to stare at them to relax as much as I want to listen to the beach sounds.
While a large Now Playing screen isn’t the default when playing a new sound, you can press the Now Playing bar at the bottom of the page to jump into a dedicated view, should you want to.
This view gives you some further options not previously available. From here you can AirPlay the sound to other devices, such as a HomePod, which works very well indeed I might add. You also get a volume slider and a timer option so you can set the sounds to stop after a set period of time. This is, as you’d imagine, very useful for an app you’re likely to fall asleep listening to. This page also gives a much better view of those gorgeously animated icons again.
Back on the main view, you have an option to favourite your, well, favourite sounds. When pressing the heart outline next to a sound it becomes a favourite and it bumped up to the top of the list. When you have a few here you can quickly rearrange them into whatever order you’d like, via the grab handles along the side.
In terms of core app functionality, that’s it. It’s a simple premise, and it’s not alone in the white noise space, but Dark Noise sets itself apart from the competition with a great design aesthetic and wonderfully intuitive UI flow. It’s extremely easy to navigate and use, and a real joy to do so. It’s also blazingly fast.
If you dive into the settings area you’re once again treated to a real plethora of options. For a one time payment app, that is quite frankly criminally low, you also get a large range of customisation options you’d usually expect to pay various levels of in-app purchase prices for. Firstly you can customise your widget settings which allows you to select up to 4 sounds to display there. This is a nice touch and looks particularly good on the iPadOS beta, now that you can pin widgets to the Homescreen.
The app also includes extensive Siri Shortcuts support which allows you to set a shortcut for any of the sounds in the app, so you can trigger any of them with your voice. All available sounds are available from the get go, you don’t have to have played one of them first, which is another nice touch and one other app developers often don’t take the time to implement. There are also some quite extensive appearance options from various themes to a very impressive choice of custom app icons. At last found there were over 20 to choose from, ranging from alternative colours of the default icon to some inspired by various well known podcasts and bloggers such as Cortex, Accidental Tech Podcast and Jason Snells Six Colors. This is yet another example of Charlie’s efforts on making this app the real best in class.
One of the things I’ve found most impressive about Dark Noise is the fact that this is Charlie’s very first app. Most app developers could create 100s of apps and never come up with a product as well designed, and implemented as Charlie has managed to do with his very first release. While people’s need for an app like Dark Noise will vary, and not everyone will need it, I still think this is a must buy. If you do need a Dark Noise app then congratulations, because you’ve now found the best one I’ve ever tried. If you don’t think you need one, for the price of a coffee you can still help support an indie developer that has poured a whole lot of time and effort to create a real gem of an app. I have a lot of affection for this app, after seeing Charlie take on board thoughts and suggestions from friends during its development cycle, and I’m really excited to see where both this app goes, but also what project Charlie decides to turn his hand to next. With design skills like this I’d personally love to see him try his hand at a podcast app …
Not only is Charlie now a great app developer, it seems he’s also a great video producer, because he made this excellent launch trailer for Dark Noise as well. If I’ve not yet convinced you this is a great app, perhaps this will help: