There are a lot of white noise apps available in the App Store, but this one is by far the most robust. Available in both a free and a paid version for the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, White Noise HQ is packed with sounds and customization features.
In general, most free apps come with extremely limited features. Even paid versions of similar apps contain only different variations of the same sounds, such as water, crickets, etc... White Noise isn't like that. The free version has 25 sounds that include everything from nature to household sounds and industrial machinery. There are also three different "noise" sounds: white, pink and brown.
You can create custom mixes of up to six sounds. Create different mixes for meditation, relaxation and motivation.
Another thing, Phase4 Mobile didn't just design White Noise to help you sleep. It's also built to free you from distracts and improve your productivity.
There's a timer with very specific preset intervals. If you use the Pomodoro method of productivity, you'll love this for timing your tasks. Those of you who want the timer for sleep will be happy to hear that the audio fades out before shutting off. There's no sudden stopping of the noise to wake you up.
My favorite feature is when you mix the white noise sounds with other apps, like Audible. Flip over to the settings panel and enable "mix with other apps." This lets White Noise run in the background while other audio apps are active.
I spent some time this weekend listening to the new Lev Grossman novel with the sounds of a train in the background. Audiobooks themselves don't do much to drown out noise. Pairing Audible with White Noise helps. There is a caveat here, your audiobook and White Noise play at the same volume. You have to choose your sounds carefully. For instance, the indoor fan noise is quite loud and made it impossible for me to hear the narrator. Surprisingly, the Russian passenger train (yes, that's really a sound on here) was the perfect background for the book. Have a little fun experimenting and see which sounds compliment the mood of the book to which you are listening.
Another nice thing about the free app: It's gorgeous. The high-resolution images of beautiful locations are enough to relax you. It does have ads, but they are relatively unobtrusive.
If you are annoyed by the ads, you can spend the US$0.99 for the upgrade, which is labeled White Noise HQ.
In addition to being ad-free, you'll get 75 sounds, instead of the 25 that come with the free version. Most of these sounds are redundant, which makes the paid version a lot more like all of its competitors. Does a creek in Texas really sound that different from a creek in a forest? Not to me.
Still, there is some variety here, like the vacuum cleaner and industrial heat pump options. The best sound is the virtual space wind. The blizzard one is not bad either.
Despite the lack of ads and the wider sound choices, I'm not sure that the upgrade is worth it. Yes, you are only spending $0.99, but the free app gives you plenty of options. Plus, the paid version only comes with six sounds installed. You have to manually download any other sounds that you want. It only takes seconds per sound, but it was enough to annoy me.
For those of you who cannot stand ads or really need a wider selection of sounds, then spring for the paid version, otherwise, stick with the free app.