Decreasing free playback contingent

Written by sven. Posted in features

Currently I am implementing the announced workflow changes and the first beta release will be available very soon. In the context of this release I will also make a change which will not bring me any kudos but nevertheless I prefer open communication instead of bead surprises: The next release will reduce the free monthly playback contingent from four to two hours.

Please let me explain why I’ve decided to take this step: The intention of the free contingent was to

  1. give new users the possibility to test uPod before purchasing it and
  2. allow occasional users, who only listen to single episodes form time to time, to use uPod for free (as probably most of them would not be willing to pay for a player).

My assumption was that there would be about 20% of non-paying users. But the truth at the moment is that 80% of the active users are using uPod for free and only 20% have purchased a license. And I guess the reason for that is that four hours per month are quite a lot of time.

So why is the money so important? This has two reasons: At first it is a welcome compensation for the lot of free time I’ve already invested into uPod and plan to invest in the future. But the even more important reason is that uPod consumes quite a lot of costs each month. The server infrastructure in the background is an important feature of uPod as it brings us unique features like episode push and cross device sync, but the sad truth at the moment is, that the license fees do not cover the monthly costs.

I hope you understand my intention and will like uPod as much as before.

Need your feedback on a workflow idea

Written by sven. Posted in feedback

From the feedback I’ve received I am getting the impression, that the current inbox mode feels like too much overhead for most of you and that it especially overburdens new uPod users. That’s why I have thought a little bit about it and have found an idea of which I think that it would suite both groups of users — those of us who love the inbox concept and those who like a more simple approach as known from other podcast players. I’m looking forward to hear your thoughts and feedback on the following idea.

The inbox would be dismissed. Instead every episode would be delivered to the library directly, but new episodes would be marked as new (like you know it from your e-mail client). The “New” view in the library would then be adjusted to show episodes marked as new and with one tap you could mark them as no longer being new (either for single episodes, episode selection or all episodes).

This sounds very much like the current inbox approach, but here comes the big difference: The new episodes would not only appear in the “New” section, but each episode would also occur in it’s natural place within the library (e.g. the “All” view) but will be explicitly highlighted as new there also.

These are the global options I would like to provide:

  • Show new only in New section: If enabled new episodes will only appear in the “New” section and not in any other places. Enabling this option would effectively bring back some kind of inbox mode.
  • Auto add to playlist: If enabled all new episodes would be added automatically to the playlist.

And the following podcast specific option:

  • Auto add to playlist: If enabled new episodes of this podcast would be added automatically to the playlist.

Please let me know what you think about it either on Twitter, Google+ or through the support site.

Immediate episode push

Written by sven. Posted in features

Today I am proud to announce that uPod is not only the most battery and data saving podcast player when it comes to scanning for new episodes, but since today also the one which delivers new episodes nearly immediately!

You can divide the available podcast players for Android into two sections: The standalone Android client apps and the server based apps. For the standalone apps you normally must decide for an update interval (e.g. two hours). The client then fetches all your subscribed podcasts for example every two hours to check whether there are new episodes available. This checking consumes a lot of battery and a lot of data traffic, as your device has to contact each single podcast. In most cases just to recognize that nothing has changed.

The server based apps like for examples Pocket Casts and uPod perform the update check of all the podcasts from a server: They are continuously “crawling” all the podcasts they know about in an endless loop. The benefit is, that the app only needs to contact one single server instead of contacting all the single podcasts. In the case of Pocket Casts you still need to decide how often the app should check the server for updates. For uPod this decision isn’t required, as the uPod server pushes all changes it recognizes directly to the affected clients. So regarding battery and data usage uPod’s solution is the most effective one.

On the other hand the server based approach also has it’s drawbacks: One crawl cycle (scanning all podcasts for new episodes) can take a few hours. For example yesterday the uPod server required four hours to scan all the about 1,700 podcasts it knows about for new episodes. As a result each podcast was only scanned six times a day and in the worst case you needed to wait for four hours to see a new episode on your device. This is also a known problem for Pocket Casts where a delay of two hours until a new episode appears on your device isn’t unusual.

Today I’ve solved this issue for uPod! New episodes for podcasts which support push notifications will appear within five minutes on your device. But even for classical podcasts not supporting push, you will receive new episodes within about twenty minutes. These results can only be achieved by a powerful server infrastructure, meaning that I need invest quite some money per month. But to my knowledge uPod now is not only the most battery and data saving podcast player when it comes to episode scanning, but also the one with the best reaction time. Please let me know if there are faster ones.

Happy listening!

Version 1.0.3

Written by sven. Posted in releases

This tiny new version changes the naming scheme of the stored audio/video files on your device (including the publish date). This is a preparation for some cleanup on the server, so please update to this version as soon as possible.

Version 1.0.2

Written by sven. Posted in releases

I’ve pushed a small update to Google play! Here are the changes:

Enhancements

  • renamed “Podcasts” section to “My podcasts”
  • a podcast’s episode list in the inbox or the library now contains a button at the bottom of the list that opens the same podcast in the “My podcasts” section to access episodes currently not in the inbox/library.

Fixes

  • fixed crash occuring during sync on some devices
  • back button on tablet can now close the app

uPod’s trial model

Written by sven. Posted in features

No doubt: uPod is a commercial app and was always planned as such. I know that talking about licensing and pricing isn’t a popular issue. But I think transparency is always a good solution. So first things first: The uPod license will start at a price of EUR 3.29.

But besides the price the question for commercial apps is always: How to provide the users a chance to tryout the app before purchasing it. Some providers simply don’t care about and only provide the paid version — so you as the paying customer have fifteen minutes to check whether the app does what it promises and get the money back otherwise. Not much for a complex app like a podcast player, right? Other vendors work with fixed time trial periods which are better but also have their drawbacks: Bought the app, but got sick? Trial period is over :-(

That’s why I’ve chosen another approach: uPod provides you a playback contingent of four hours per calendar month. So you can try out the full functionality and are only limited in playback time. If you do not start playback, you can continue to try. When you’ve exhausted your contingent everything like the sync, the playlist arrangement, etc. continuous to work — you only cannot playback until you either purchase the license or the next month starts.

Though this is mainly meant for trying out the app before purchasing it, this monthly contingent will also be sufficient for many occasional users.

Audio playback speed control

Written by sven. Posted in features

Today is Christmas Eve and so I have a present for the power audio podcast listeners among you: Audio playback speed control. This feature allows you to control the playback speed of most audio podcasts in a range between factor 0.5 to 2.0. From the playback view you can bring up the speed control (see screenshots above) with one tap on the speed indicator and change the playback speed. By default the changed speed is applied only to the current episode, but you can choose to apply the speed to all current and future episodes of this podcast. You can change this at any time in the podcast specific settings.

Like other audio players uPod utilizes the Presto sound library to implement playback speed control, meaning you need to install a 3rd party app to make playback speed control available in uPod. In the meanwhile there are a few implementations of the Presto API available at Google play! (alphabetical order):

I have mostly tested with Prestissimo and a little bit with Stable Speed. Please let me know if I am missing an app here.

Happy listening and merry Christmas!

Audio playback in portrait orientationAudio playback speed

Video playback

Written by sven. Posted in features

Aaaand Action! Now uPod also provides support for video podcasts. It brings a carefully designed portrait and landscape video view. In landscape orientation uPod uses every single pixel of your screen to provide you the best watching experience — on devices with on screen navigation buttons (home, back, etc.) even those are hidden. If you want you can also only listen to your video podcast — simply leave the playback view or turn off the screen and the audio will continue to play.

In this context I’ve also redesigned the audio playback views to look more modern and better utilize the available screen space. I am still not happy with the views on 10″ tablets as there is a lot of free space, but I like them very much on the phone.

Here are some screenshots:
Video playback in portrait orientationVideo playback in landscape orientation
Audio playback in portrait orientationAudio playback in landscape orientation

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