Simple mode, subscription settings and stars

Written by sven. Posted in features

There are some fea­tures which I’ve imple­ment­ed in the serv­er a long time ago (in spring) but which haven’t made it into the uPod user inter­face … until today! Some of you who only have a hand­ful of pod­casts and lis­ten to each and every episode asked for a »sim­ple mode« where new episodes are added direct­ly to the library and the inbox is no longer avail­able. Well, here it is: Sim­ply dis­able the »Inbox mode« in the »User Inter­face« set­tings and all new episodes will be deliv­ered direct­ly to your library and the inbox sec­tion will be hid­den. Chang­ing the inbox mode on one device will apply it to all of your devices.

A real­ly pow­er­ful fea­ture are the sub­scrip­tion spe­cif­ic set­tings (see first screen­shot below). These allow you to edit the fol­low­ing set­tings spe­cif­ic for each of your sub­scribed pod­casts:

  • Add to library: If enabled, new episodes for this pod­cast will be deliv­ered direct­ly to your library instead of your inbox (not avail­able if you dis­abled the inbox mode).
  • Max kept episodes: Espe­cial­ly use­ful in con­junc­tion with the pre­vi­ous set­ting, this one allows you to con­fig­ure the max­i­mum num­ber of episodes of this pod­cast to keep in your library — old­er ones will auto­mat­i­cal­ly be delet­ed (unless they are starred — see below). I use this with a num­ber of one for my dai­ly news pod­cast, so that I always have the lat­est episode of the pod­cast in my library ready for lis­ten­ing. I am nev­er inter­est­ed in the news of yes­ter­day, so it’s OK, that old­er episodes are delet­ed.
  • Auto down­load: If enabled, episodes of this pod­cast will be added to the down­load queue as soon as they are added to the library. This option is dis­abled if you already con­fig­ured uPod to auto­mat­i­cal­ly add all library episodes to your down­load queue.

As every­thing else in uPod these set­tings are stored in the cloud and will affect all of your devices.

As the »Max kept episodes« set­ting men­tioned above will auto­mat­i­cal­ly delete episodes from your library you need a way to tell uPod to keep inter­est­ing episodes. This is where the new star­ring fea­ture comes onto the scene (see sec­ond screen­shot below): Starred episodes will nev­er be auto­mat­i­cal­ly delet­ed by uPod. So star­ring is a sim­ple and great way for col­lect­ing inter­est­ing stuff and — guess what — the star­ring state is synced across all of your devices.
Subscription settingsStarred episode

Further configuration options for playback

Written by sven. Posted in features

Playback notification

Differ­ent peo­ple have dif­fer­ent pref­er­ences. That’s why I have added two con­fig­u­ra­tion options to uPod:

  1. On Android Jel­ly Bean and above you can now con­fig­ure which action but­tons you want to see in the play­back noti­fi­ca­tion. The default is »stop, play/pause, skip« and addi­tion­al options are »stop, play/pause, fast for­ward« and »rewind, play/pause, fast for­ward« (see screen­shot). You can find the relat­ed option in the play­back set­tings.
  2. Fur­ther on you can now con­fig­ure which num­bers to dis­play for the play­back progress. By default the cur­rent posi­tion and the dura­tion are shown but you can choose to dis­play the remain­ing time and the dura­tion or the cur­rent posi­tion and the remain­ing time. You can find the relat­ed option in the user inter­face set­tings or you sim­ply tap the posi­tion and/or dura­tion in the play­back view to tog­gle.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned!

Get more podcasts on your screen with new display options

Written by sven. Posted in preview

The cur­rent pod­cast grid dis­played by uPod wher­ev­er a list of pod­casts needs to be dis­played is quite styl­ish and works great on tablets. Unfor­tu­nate­ly on phone dis­plays it requires quite a lot of space, so that you end up with only four pod­casts being dis­played in por­trait mode and three in land­scape. That’s OK for a lot of users, but if you have a huge list of pod­casts you may want more.

That’s why I’ve intro­duced two new set­tings which allow you to con­fig­ure your pre­ferred pod­cast view inde­pen­dent for por­trait and land­scape view. You can choose among the fol­low­ing three options:

  1. clas­si­cal grid with cov­er­art and text (four items on phone in por­trait mode)
  2. list with cov­er­art and text (six items on phone in por­trait mode)
  3. tiny grid with cov­er­art only (12 items on phone in por­trait mode)

On my Nexus 10 I use option 1 and on my brand new Nexus 5 I pre­fer option 3.

Take a look at the screen­shots below to get an idea of how the new view modes look.
Podcast GridPodcast ListTiny Podcast Grid

First Beta Version available

Written by sven. Posted in releases

For all of you who are impa­tient­ly wait­ing to try out uPod and who are will­ing to take a risk, I have good news: The first beta ver­sion of uPod is avail­able right now. Before I tell you how to get it, here’s the oblig­a­tory dis­claimer:

  • The avail­able ver­sion is the first one used by some­one else but me. So you should expect it to be slow as hell, crash in every pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion and destroy your data.
  • This first beta ver­sion is avail­able for free, but uPod is a com­mer­cial app and so a paid license will be nec­es­sary in the near future, so please don’t be sur­prised.
  • If uPod crash­es on your device, please send a crash report.
  • If you encounter bugs, please report them using the sup­port site.
  • If you would like to see a spe­cial fea­ture please report it/vote for it using the sup­port site.
  • I devel­op uPod in my free time, so please don’t expect an imme­di­ate response to your prob­lems.

Here are the fea­tures avail­able in this first beta ver­sion:

  • audio pod­cast play­back
  • auto­mat­ic, resum­able down­loads
  • drag-and-drop playlist
  • cov­er­art cen­tric user inter­face
  • sync of sub­scrip­tions, playlist and play­back posi­tions between all devices
  • effec­tive inbox work­flow for assort­ing new episodes
  • sup­port for blue­tooth head­sets and head­set con­trols
  • man­ag­ing pod­cast sub­scrip­tions
  • import of sub­scrip­tion lists from OPML files
  • respon­sive lay­out (look­ing nice on phone and tablet in por­trait and land­scape mode)
  • holo design

Here is what’s miss­ing but planned for the (far) future:

  • video play­back
  • vari­able audio play­back speed
  • dis­cov­er new pod­casts
  • OPML export
  • dark theme
  • wid­get

If you are still inter­est­ed then fol­low these instruc­tions to access the beta ver­sion:

  1. become a mem­ber of the uPod Beta Testers Com­mu­ni­ty at Google+
  2. accept the community’s rules
  3. fol­low uPod’s Google play! link pro­vid­ed in the com­mu­ni­ty to install the beta ver­sion
  4. Have fun!

Painless syncing

Written by sven. Posted in features

How many apps do you know were you need to con­fig­ure a sync inter­val or man­u­al­ly start a sync. I know a lot of them — among them are all news read­ers and pod­cast play­ers I’ve used in the past. What’s the prob­lem with this approach? Well, there sim­ply isn’t a right val­ue for the sync inter­val! If you set the inter­val to short you will have more up-to-date data but on the oth­er hand you will drain your bat­tery and waste unnec­es­sary net­work traf­fic. If you set the inter­val too high you will save bat­tery and net­work traf­fic but your data will be out-dat­ed.

Now ask your­self: Have you ever cared about sync­ing in Google Mail or Cal­en­dar? I haven’t but my date is always up-to-date to the minute. The good news is: uPod uti­lizes the google way for sync­ing, mean­ing your data will always be updat­ed imme­di­ate­ly when some­thing changed and no bat­tery or net­work traf­fic is wast­ed. Well, regard­ing new episodes you should know that the uPod serv­er can­not rec­og­nize them imme­di­ate­ly as RSS and Atom do not pro­vide a mech­a­nism for this — uPod scans all feeds it knows in a fixed inter­val mul­ti­ple times an hour, but then it imme­di­ate­ly push­es the changes to your devices.

How does this work? The apps were you need to con­fig­ure the sync inter­val »poll« the serv­er for changes: When­ev­er the con­fig­ured inter­val elapsed the app con­tacts the serv­er to ask for changes. uPod works the oth­er way round: The /server/ informs your devices when there is new infor­ma­tion avail­able. So if there are no new episodes avail­able for you the whole day, then the uPod app wont con­tact the serv­er a sin­gle time. In the oth­er case if there are new episodes every 30 min­utes, then your device will fetch them. This mech­a­nism is most­ly impres­sive if you are using two (or more) devices: Make a change (e.g. add an episode to the library, change the play­back posi­tion) on your tablet and 30 sec­onds lat­er your phone will reflect the lat­est changes.

Listening the first episode

Written by sven. Posted in features

Today I have break­ing news for you: A few min­utes ago I’ve unin­stalled Pock­et Casts! The rea­son for this is that the audio play­back in uPod is ful­ly work­ing and so final­ly uPod has all the fea­tures I expect from an audio pod­cast play­er and a much bet­ter usabil­i­ty than all of the play­ers I know.

These are the play­back relat­ed fea­tures avail­able today:

  • A clean audio play­back view with large play­back con­trols care­ful­ly opti­mized for por­trait and land­scape view and dif­fer­ent screen sizes
  • Play­back con­trol using your wired or blue­tooth head­sets. Depend­ing on the avail­able con­trols on your head­set the fol­low­ing actions are avail­able: play, pause, rewind, fast for­ward, back (play cur­rent episode from begin­ning), skip (mark cur­rent episode as lis­tened and play next episode on playlist) and stop
  • Name of play­ing episode on your blue­tooth headset’s dis­play
  • Play­back con­trols on android lock screen
  • Play­back con­trols and progress in noti­fi­ca­tion (on Jel­ly Bean and above)
  • Play­back bar in every uPod view opti­mized for dif­fer­ent screen sizes (phone vs. tablet)
  • Playlist sortable via drag and drop
  • Play­ing down­loaded episodes or stream­ing episodes
  • Actions on each episode to stream, play, play next (adds to sec­ond posi­tion on playlist) or add to end of playlist

That’s a huge step towards a beta release. But before I need to smooth the rough edges. So enjoy the screen­shots and stay tuned…
PlaybackPlayback in landscape
Playback notificationLockscreen playback
PlaylistPlaylist on tablet

Downloading…

Written by sven. Posted in preview

Today I present you the episode down­load of uPod. In con­trast to oth­er pod­cast play­ers, uPod pro­vides a trans­par­ent mech­a­nism, which clear­ly shows you what will be down­loaded next: The down­load queue (see the first screen­shot at the bot­tom). Like the playlist the down­load queue is an episode list which you can reorder via drag and drop. The cur­rent­ly down­load­ing episode is pinned at the top. If a down­load fails the episode is marked with a red warn­ing sign and is moved to the end of the down­load queue.

But how are episodes added to the playlist? There are two pos­si­bil­i­ties:

  • man­u­al­ly by start­ing an imme­di­ate down­load or by adding it to the queue using the rel­e­vant menu entry or
  • auto­mat­i­cal­ly

For auto­mat­ic addi­tion there are two options in the down­load set­tings (sec­ond screen­shot):

  • Auto­mat­i­cal­ly add playlist episodes: All episodes you put on the playlist will also be added to the down­load queue.
  • Auto­mat­i­cal­ly add library episodes: All your library episodes will also be added to the down­load queue.

Down­load­ing the queue can also be either start­ed man­u­al­ly or auto­mat­i­cal­ly when­ev­er a net­work is avail­able. For the lat­ter case you can spec­i­fy in the set­tings whether only non-metered con­nec­tions (Wifi) should trig­ger an auto­mat­ic down­load. As soon as the con­fig­ured con­nec­tion isn’t avail­able any more the down­load will be sus­pend­ed. The auto­mat­ic down­load will also run when your device is in stand­by. Note: If you man­u­al­ly start a down­load it will always start imme­di­ate­ly — no mat­ter which con­nec­tion is avail­able. If you want the down­load only to hap­pen on your pre­ferred con­nec­tion you should add the episode to the down­load queue instead.

While a down­load is run­ning you will find an infor­ma­tive noti­fi­ca­tion in the sta­tus bar (third screen­shot) show­ing you the down­load progress and the esti­mat­ed remain­ing time. Fur­ther on the noti­fi­ca­tion con­tains a but­ton (on Jel­ly Bean and above) allow­ing you to sus­pend the down­load — it can be resumed lat­er on.

To sum up: If you use the stan­dard set­tings (auto­mat­i­cal­ly add all library episodes and auto­mat­i­cal­ly down­load on Wifi) you will nev­er need to care about your down­loads again — it will sim­ply hap­pen auto­mat­i­cal­ly in the back­ground.

That’s it for today. And here are the promised screen­shots:

Download queueDownload settingsDownload notification

Subscribing to Podcasts

Written by sven. Posted in preview

Until now uPod allowed you to add sub­scrip­tions by import­ing an OPML file. Now you can also flex­i­bly sub­scribe to new pod­casts sim­ply by using your web brows­er: Open your favorite podcast’s web­page, tap on the RSS link and android will pro­vide you the option to open the pod­cast in uPod.

This will bring up infor­ma­tion about the pod­cast and it’s lat­est episodes as shown in the screen­shot below. In this view you can sub­scribe to the pod­cast with one tap. For sub­scribed pod­casts the most recent ten episodes and all upcom­ing episodes are auto­mat­i­cal­ly deliv­ered to your uPod inbox. Or you can add sin­gle episodes to your library even with­out sub­scrib­ing to the pod­cast.

Fur­ther on uPod’s pod­cast view now also allows you to access old­er episodes of your exist­ing pod­casts.

In the next step I plan to imple­ment the down­load queue and the episode down­load.

A Podcast and it's Episodes

Still alive…

Written by sven. Posted in preview

I just want­ed to let you know, that I am still alive. In August I was on vaca­tion for two weeks and guess what: I’ve left the lap­top at home :-) But in the mean­while I am back at work. I’ve imple­ment­ed the episode’s show notes view, the drag and drop sort­ing for the playlist (thanks to Carl Bauer for his great work) and this week­end I’ve fin­ished the push sync which syn­chro­nizes changes you’ve made on your phone back to the serv­er, so that they are pop­u­lat­ed to your oth­er devices.

The uPod Workflow

Written by sven. Posted in preview

Inbox vs. Library

All pod­cast play­ers can play pod­casts. Where it comes to dif­fer­ences is how good they sup­port you in han­dling your episodes. This is some­thing where most of the tools I have used in the past are poor. Today I will tell you a lit­tle bit about how uPod sup­ports you here.

I have two kinds of pod­cast sub­scrip­tions: Pod­casts where I lis­ten to (near­ly) each episode they pub­lish and pod­casts where I selec­tive­ly pick only a few episodes. The for­mer one is sup­port­ed well by all play­ers, but the lat­ter case is where it gets tricky. Most of the play­ers are sim­ply mix­ing up episodes I’ve already tak­en a look at and new episodes and there­fore make it near­ly impos­si­ble to judge new episodes and decide whether I plan to lis­ten to them or not.

As shown in the screen­shot on the right, uPod sup­ports you by track­ing two sep­a­rate areas:

  • your inbox and
  • your library.

The library is the place where all the episodes are kept which you plan to lis­ten to. For the pod­casts you love most you can con­fig­ure uPod to put all new episodes direct­ly into the library. All oth­er podcast’s new episodes will go to the inbox first. So it is easy for you to scan through the new episodes and add them selec­tive­ly to the library or to dis­miss them. So to sum­ma­rize: The uPod library only con­tains episodes you plan to lis­ten to. This brings anoth­er inter­est­ing side effect: You do not need to selec­tive­ly down­load episodes — instead you sim­ply can con­fig­ure uPod to ensure that your whole library is always avail­able offline for lis­ten­ing.

Also keep in mind, that the inbox/library stuff isn’t an issue local to your device — instead this sep­a­ra­tion already exists on the uPod serv­er. This allows you to com­fort­ably scan through your new episodes on your tablet when lying on the couch in the evening. And when you pick up your mobile in the morn­ing it is ready to serve you all the great new stuff you’ve select­ed.

For the clos­ing of this arti­cle lets take a look at how easy and com­fort­able it is to scan through your inbox and cat­e­go­rize the episodes. The screen­shot below shows you, that the actions for adding an inbox episode to the library and for dis­miss­ing unin­ter­est­ing episodes (and some oth­er enhanced options like live stream­ing, adding to the playlist and so on) are avail­able in three places:

  1. each episode entry in the inbox list pro­vides actions affect­ing only this episode
  2. the action bar at the top pro­vides the same actions affect­ing all list­ed episodes
  3. you can select one or more episodes by tap­ping their pod­cast image (or tap­ping and hold­ing them) and per­form the actions on all of the select­ed episodes.

This brings you enough flex­i­bil­i­ty to do the stuff the way you want and I hope you like it.
Inbox Actions

Want to stay informed? Follow me.