The maddening glitch in the “Breathe” app on Apple Watch

Last year, Apple added ‘Breathe’ to watchOS 3. This simple app invites the user to pause for mindful meditation, bringing attention to the breath for a few minutes at a time. The exercise is accompanied by a slick little animation: translucent teal circles that expand and contract along with your breathing’s steady rhythm.

Animation start and end frames
The first and last frames of the Breathe app’s animation. I’ve bumped up the contrast here to make the difference easier to see.

I like Breathe, but the animation has an annoying little hiccup. At the very end of every breath, the graphic resets to prep for the next inhale/exhale cycle. Watch the contracted circles at that point, and you’ll notice the glitch: a jarring ‘jump cut’ from one gradient fill to another.

Yes, it’s a subtle niggle. But once you see it, you can’t unsee it. After all, we’re talking about an app that requires you to focus intently; any distraction, no matter how small, is magnified by close attention. I notice the cut with every breath. It’s a distraction that undermines the very focus the app is designed to foster. It as if the air catches in my lungs.

It wouldn’t take much to fix this; even a linear fade between the last frame and the first would ease the animated transition. But, so far, there’s been no sign that Apple has even noticed the problem; the choppy cut’s still there in watchOS 4. ■


‘Land Before Time XIV’: perpetually prepubescent dinosaurs

Ten points for Gryffindor if you knew that The Land Before Time had spawned thirteen direct-to-video sequels. The latest release, “The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave,” continues the series after a nine-year hiatus.

Somehow, this property has survived without a reboot for nearly thirty years. The original film’s creative team (including director Don Bluth, executive producer Steven Spielberg, and composer James Horner) abandoned the franchise decades ago. Since then, no fewer than nine separate voice actors have played the lead character, Littlefoot the Longneck.

I’d be fascinated to learn more about these movies’ ongoing production. How do the economics work? Was the original movie so iconic that even the diminishing returns of watered-down sequels can justify the production costs? Or is there some minimum threshold that a cute dinosaur movie is guaranteed to haul in?

I’m also curious who works on these movies. Are these films staffed by leftovers from the heyday of hand-drawn animation? Or by eager young film students, determined to get their feet in the show business door? What’s it like to tell friends and family that you’ve been hired to mix sound for Land Before Time XIII?

Finally, who watches these films? Kids are the primary target audience, but do nostalgic parents keep the franchise afloat? Or is there a “brony” factor at play here? Is there a contingent of adults who follow Land Before Time like the bronies track My Little Pony? That seems possible; there is a YouTube channel dedicated entirely to speculation and “hot news” about the Land Before Time franchise. Here’s a recent video in which a grown man spends nearly ten minutes dissecting the Wal-Mart product page for Land Before Time XIV. Yes, really.

To be fair, I also loved Don Bluth’s original feature film when it hit theaters. But I was seven years old then. Now, at thirty-four, I doubt I could make it through Land Before Time XIV without clawing out my eyes. Please, never tell my daughter that these movies exist.