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Portal App Review: Ambient Sound to Sleep, Focus, and Escape the Noise

We live in a noisy, stressful world; work, family and day-to-day issues can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, the world is also filled with beauty, nature, and music. It is the latter that the team at Portal Labs has tried to bring to their app: Portal. Featured as an “App Of The Day” on the App Store, the Portal app has now known increasing success and has become one of my favourite apps.

What is the Portal App?

Launched in 2019, Portal Labs has a mission to “inspire the world to reconnect with nature – and help both people, and planet”. It does this by bringing nature into your surroundings thanks to cinematic ultra HD visuals, binaural 3D audio and smart light integration, so you can benefit from it at all hours.

The app provides 3 modes to allow you to experience various locations around the world.

Sleep

The Sleep mode allows you to choose a portal you’d like to drift off to, and set a timer for it to stop playing after a while. It also allows you to set an alarm for the following day. You will then be woken up by a fade in of ambient sounds from the portal of your choosing, along with wakeup lighting if you’ve connected your HomeKit, Philips Hue or Nanoleaf smart lights. The volume and length of the fade in can be modified, along with the option for a backup alarm incase you dont wake up!

Eilean Donan Dusk, Scotland sound in Portal App
Eilean Donan Dusk, Scotland in Sleep Mode. Courtesy of Portal

Focus

Portal’s focus mode is perfect for those of us working from home, allowing you to stay concentrated on the task at hand, whilst listening to beautiful ambient sounds.

What sets the focus mode apart is its focus timer. The team at Portal Labs have directly integrated the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of work, 5-minute break), simply type in what you’re “focus is” (right now mine is “write Portal review” as I am indeed enjoying the wonderful Spring Barley Field, Devon, UK Portal) and the 25-minute timer will start.

Whether you’re studying, working, or doing a menial task, Focus mode can definitely improve your productivity.

Escape

The last mode available is Escape. Sometimes, the stresses of day-to-day life can just become too much, or you might simply want to take a 20 minute break, and escaping to the other end of the globe might be just what you need.

Thanks to ultra HD visuals, binaural 3D audio and smart light integration, you can escape to Scotland, Nepal or Slovenia for a few minutes, and take some time for yourself.

Portal will even help you make the most of this time by providing you with 4 different breathing exersices, to turn your escape into a mediation session!

The Sounds

When Portal first launched, it only offered 14 different locations, but the library has since grown to over 44 different portals and more are still to come!

Portal offers ambient sounds from all around the world, from the UK (where the company is based) to Slovenia to Brazil.

Currently you can browse 3 collections: Scottish Highlands, Slovenian Alps, and Portal Classics (the original sounds released on the app) with locations from all around the globe. The company has already announced plans for a new Devon & Cornwall collection to be released soon which will make the sound library even bigger.

Dawn at Lake Bled, Slovenia sound in Portal app
Dawn at Lake Bled, Slovenia. Courtesy of Portal

My Experience

I have now been using the app for about a month, after stumbling across it on the App Store. The first thing I noticed when opening up Portal, was the app design, which was so clean, intuitive and refreshing. If you’re a fan of well-designed apps, you’ll take great pleasure in using Portal.

The first thing I did when opening up the app, was heading to the Focus mode, and choosing a portal. As I previously mentioned, the focus mode is very useful thanks to its timer.

When it comes to the sounds, they are just incredible! They’re incredibly realistic, immersive and very calming, perfect for sitting down in front of your laptop and getting to work.

The visuals are also beautiful, it is essential a looping video of the location you’ve selected, but it complements the sounds very well. To really make the most of them, I recommend using an iPad instead of an iPhone, but they look great either way. The company has also announced plans to bring it to the Apple TV and Macs for an even more immersive experience!

How to Get the App

The Portal app is currently only available from the App Store and is free to download. However, you only get 7 Portals in the free version, to unlock the full library, along with the ability to sync your smart lights, they offer a yearly subscription of $29.99 / year.

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