16: Picomac review – 3 months with Sense

For the past three months I've been sleeping next to, on, and with Sense, a sleep-tracking product that is confusingly sometimes synonymous with its parent company, Hello. It has three components: a bedside bird's-nest ball, a "sleep pill" that attaches to your pillow, and an iOS app for setting alarms and tracking your sleep data.

I have a checkered history with iOS sleep tracking. I religiously used Sleep Cycle for years, until my iPhone 5s died a quiet and mysterious death. I think Sleep Cycle was the culprit, but that's a story for another day. I went with standard iOS alarms for several months before receiving Sense as a gift last Christmas.

To keep this review short but still provide some detail: Sense is a lousy sleep tracker and still a very good device. This lies in the fact that the bedside Sense hardware, which plugs into the wall and connects to Wi-Fi, does everything but the sleep tracking. It tracks temperature, humidity, air quality, light, and noise — and, best of all, you can view 24-hour or one-week graphs for all of these from anywhere in the world with the Sense iOS app.

Checking these numbers has become part of my daily routine. We typically run a humidifier in our bedroom in the cold, dry winter months; with warmer spring weather finally moving in, last night I checked the humidity and — with confidence, rather than guessing — could say "we don't need the humidifier tonight." Sense's data has also provided great peace of mind when traveling away from home. It acted as an independent check on whether our Hue lights were properly turning on and off while away, since its luminosity sensor sits directly beneath one on my bedside table.

On the other hand, Sense's sleep tracking has proven subpar. It takes one week to start providing any data on your sleep trends. I traveled away from home for a few days in my first week with Sense. After seven total nights I thought "OK, I must need seven consecutive days to start." But now, returning home from a week-long vacation, Sense has replaced months of my in-app data with its original message about establishing trends, rather than allowing a gap. And since I want Sense to monitor my home while I'm away, taking it on the road would be counterproductive. What's more, Sense sometimes misses an entire night's sleep, despite giving its friendly green glow at night and waking you in the morning. And when it does record, I often have to manually adjust the times it reports. Sleep time does connect to Health.app, but unfortunately all the more-valuable sensor data doesn't talk to HomeKit. I hope that the Sense team will make the firmware and software updates to fix and improve these issues in the future. Until then, I'll rest easy about my home, but still be in the dark about my sleep.

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