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 released

Written by sven. Posted in releases

At first I wish all of you a hap­py new year 2014. If you are lazy and don’t know what to do with this day I have good news for you: uPod has been released and is now avail­able at Google play! Have fun!

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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