- Great sleep mode
- Handy charging point
- Accurate data on the whole
- Still a lack of actionable info
- Not the greatest smart alarm
- Speaker takes up a lot of space
We've updated our score based on the addition of new features and adjusted the score from 3 stars to 3.5 stars accordingly.
Sleep tracking features are a wearable staple, and for many it's the key reason to pick up an activity band such as the Withings Activité or a Fibit Alta. But what if you want more data about those hours spent between the sheets? That's where the Withings Aura comes in.
It's a dedicated sleep monitor that slips in under your mattress to keep tabs on your slumber, in the aim to provide more detailed analysis of your sleep cycles.
It essentially does three things: it gets you to sleep, it tracks your sleep, and then it wakes you up. That's all the main bases covered, but we'll tackle how it performs in three stages.
But does the Aura work and is this the next level in sleep tracking? In one of our harder assignments, we hit the sack to find out.
Withings Aura: Design and build
The Aura itself is a small white unit, which sits on the bedside and connects to a sensor that slips under the mattress. The sensor is designed for one side of the bed only, so if you want to double up for a partner, that means buying another.
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It's a strange looking device, and adds a dose of futurism to your bedroom, although this might not be to everyone's tastes. The main dome houses an LED bulb and the base is a speaker, for reasons we'll reveal shortly. The Aura takes up a substantial amount of room on your bedside table, so think twice if space is at a minimum.
The rear of the device has a USB port for phone charging, which is useful if the sleep monitor and your adapter are fighting for plug space. Thankfully after hoping Withings would make better use of the speaker, you can now pair it with your phone to stream music including through Spotify Connect.
The Withings Aura is controlled by a host of touch
sensitive panels. Tap on the top and the light turns on, tap and hold on the
same spot and sleep mode will be initiated. Dragging you finger up and down the
right-hand-side will adjust brightness and volume.
These controls are a mixed bag, and while we didn't have problems with the on/off part, the volume control took some getting used to.
Withings Aura: Sleep features
When you get into bed the fun really starts with the Withings Aura.
The stresses of life and modern technology can take their toll on your sleep. The light from your phone, for example, will trick your brain into being more awake – so Aura aims to do the opposite.
When you bed down, you tap the top to enter sleep mode. Aura uses the built in LED to emit a warm red glow, as if the sun's setting in your room, and sleep-inducing melatonin starts to course through your veins. You can also choose from four sleepy soundtracks, from "moonlight waves" to "celestial piano" that slow and quieten as the light dims.
It's making us sleepy just recalling it, and it works brilliantly. What's more, the more you use it, the more you associate it with relaxation, and it's become a genuinely useful part of unwinding after a long day.
Withings Aura: Sleep tracking
When you fall off to sleep, part two of the Aura's trio of features kicks in.
From way below the mattress the Aura's pad can sense your heart rate as you sleep, as well as monitor tiny movements of your body, and log them in the Withings Healthmate app. The heart rate detection offers the best insights into your sleep cycles, which are also recorded, along with the luminoscity in the room, and the temperature.
It's all well and good, and the data works. Apart from one issue. Despite the pad only stretching across one half of the bed, it's hit and miss at distinguishing your habits from those of your partner. When we first tested Aura, sleep was recorded from the moment the first person lay down to the last person getting up, leading to immensely skewed readings.
Withings has improved on this dramatically over the last months, and readings certainly resemble our sleep patterns much more closely. However, it's not infallible. Some days we saw sleep recorded way into the afternoon, perhaps when something was rested on the bed, leading to extraordinary results.
What's more, aside from the temperature, resting heart rate and temperature data, the Aura offers little more analysis than wearing one of Withings' activity bands. Yes, the information is more accurate with Aura – and least, it should be – but the graphs are still as vague and there's the same lack of actionable data. After a week, you stop bothering to check.
The only interesting data is the resting heart rate, which reassuringly remained constant. Any jumps here would be a good indication of something going awry, and we did go back to check every couple of weeks.
Withings Aura: The app
The Aura uses Withing's excellent Healthmate app, which also loops in information from the smart scales, Withings Activité or Pulse activity tracker and the blood pressure monitor.
As we mentioned earlier, the app's sleep graph is on par with the best in the business – but that isn't as ringing an endorsement given the lack of usable information across the board.
However, Withings' is especially well laid out, and you can dive into any night's sleep, and bring up a chart of your sleep. At the end of each week, you get a summary, but there's a lack of longer term analysis, which would be more useful.
Withings Aura: Smart alarm
When morning calls, the Withings Aura completes its job. It comes with a smart alarm set from within the app that involves setting a time to be woken, and a period in minutes, set by you, in which it's okay for Aura wake you up should it notice you stir. The idea is that waking in a light sleep cycle makes the process more pleasant.
At Wareable we've written about reservations about these in the past, namely that getting 20 minutes more sleep is better for you in the long term than waking up in a lighter part of your sleep cycle.
Anyway, the alarm worked fairly well – although no-one enjoys waking up.
There are two fairly major complaints here, however.
First, despite being “smart", the alarm is more basic than you could ever imagine. It's either on or off, so you can't set a different alarm for the weekend, so you have to remember to enable or disable it. Rubbish.
The second part is that as notorious snoozers, the biggest early morning battle we face is falling back to sleep after we've turned off the alarm. Given that the entire job of the Aura is to know when you're asleep, it's astounding that it will let you turn off the alarm, turn over and fall unconscious again without so much as a helpful nudge.
How we test