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

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