Falling asleep with uPod…

Written by sven. Posted in features, releases

Are you falling asleep while lis­ten­ing to your pod­casts? Regard­ing the fact, that the sleep timer was on rank four of the most request­ed fea­tures on uPod’s sup­port site this seems to be a com­mon prob­lem among pod­cast lis­ten­ers. If this is the case for you, I sug­gest that you think about whether you are lis­ten­ing to the right pod­casts. If you are sure this is already the case, then you might be hap­py to read that uPod 5.1 Pre­mi­um final­ly brings a sleep timer.

But a sleep timer not only helps you to avoid miss­ing too much con­tent when falling asleep. It also gives you a pos­si­bil­i­ty to auto­mat­i­cal­ly let you know when your work­out or your lunch break is over and it gives you an easy option to fin­ish play­back at the next sens­ful break posi­tion (end of chap­ter or episode).

To acti­vate the sleep timer sim­ply bring up uPod’s play­back screen eighter by tap­ping the play­back bar inside uPod or the play­back noti­fi­ca­tion from Android’s sta­tus bar. If you are a user of the pre­mi­um ver­sion, you will find a new sleep timer icon in the low­er right of the play­back screen while a play­back is run­ning. Sim­ply tap it and pick one of the three options from the menu (see screen­shot above):

  1. Stop at end of chap­ter
  2. Stop at end of episode
  3. Sleep timer

After­wards the sleep timer icon will be shown »active« and a text besides it indi­cates the cur­rent mode: »Chap­ter«, »Episode« or the remain­ing time of the timer (see screen­shot below).

I am always try­ing to pro­vide an out­stand­ing usabil­i­ty in uPod. Input of the desired timer val­ue is one such cas­es: Oth­er play­ers let you scroll through huge lists of dura­tions with an accu­ra­cy of five min­utes or more. Due to an effec­tive timer input con­trol (sim­i­lar to the one of Lollipop’s stock timer app) you can quick­ly enter any timer val­ue you want in uPod with an accu­ra­cy of a sin­gle sec­ond with just a few taps. For those devel­op­er who want to raise the usabil­i­ty of their app to the same lev­el, I’ve open sourced the timer dura­tion pick­er on GitHub.

Hap­py sleep­ing!

uPod 5.0: A new Chapter in Playback

Written by sven. Posted in features, releases

Man what a head­line! I should have become a mar­ket­ing guy! But now back to my unglamarous devel­op­er live: I am real­ly proud to present chap­ter sup­port in uPod! Espe­cial­ly in the Ger­man pod­cast scene chap­ter marks are a wide­ly used fea­ture. They pro­vide you the pos­si­bil­i­ty to skip chap­ters not rel­e­vant to you or to relis­ten spe­cif­ic top­cis lat­er. Fur­ther on they may pro­vide furhter infor­ma­tion like images or web links. uPod 5 imple­ments all of these fea­tures.

So con­tact the pub­lish­ers of your favorite pod­casts and con­vince them to include chap­ter marks in the future. I already use them in my pod­casts and it is real­ly quite easy if you set the chap­ter marks imme­di­ate­ly dur­ing record­ing. The only thing the pub­lish­er has to do then is to name the chap­ters in the post pro­duc­tion and to embed them in the final media files which is easy with Auphon­ic. (And using Auphon­ic is any­way a good idea as it nor­mal­izes the lev­els of all record­ing tracks. Would all pub­lish­ers use it, I could remove the gain but­ton in uPod…). The auphon­ic blog con­tains a help­ful post regard­ing chap­ter marks for pro­duc­ers.

How do Chapters work?

uPod sup­ports chap­ter marks in MP3 and M4A/AAC/MP4 files. This is some­thing I am espe­cial­ly proud of: As there are no ready to use Java libraries avail­able to extract chap­ter infor­ma­tion from these files (except things like FFMPEG or MP4Box which would blow up the APK’s size to more than 50MBs) I’ve imple­ment­ed my own parsers. This was easy for MP3 but a bit more tricky for M4A. I hope I’ll find the time to upload the stuff to GitHub some day.

As the chap­ter infor­ma­tion is extract­ed from the media file, the file needs to be down­loaded to make chap­ter infor­ma­tion avail­able. Then you can access it in two places:

  1. The epsiode details screen (the one you get when you tap an episode in a list of episodes)
  2. The play­back screen

In the episode details screen the chap­ter list is for infor­ma­tion­al pur­pose only. More inter­est­ing is the play­back screen: Here you get a chap­ter bar at the bot­tom. It con­tains infor­ma­tion about the chap­ter at the cur­rent play­back posi­tion includ­ing

  • the title,
  • a pos­si­ble link (tap it to open it in the brows­er) and
  • the play­back posi­tion with­in the chap­ter itself.

Fur­ther on it pro­vides but­tons to jump to the next chap­ter or to the begin­ning of the chap­ter or the pre­vi­ous chap­ter (when pressed with­in the first three sec­onds of the chap­ter).

Addi­tion­al­ly, if the chap­ter has a chap­ter image, it will be shown in the play­back area.

You can drag up the bar to unveil the full chap­ter list. For each chap­ter you get its start posi­tion, title, image and/or link indi­ca­tor and dura­tion. Here you can:
  • tap a chap­ter to direct­ly jump to it while paused or play­ing
  • tap an image or link indi­ca­tor to open the image or link

Headset Controls

If your head­set pro­vides but­tons to skip and go back, then you can use these to nav­i­gate bete­ween chap­ters: If the episode con­tains chap­ters you will nav­i­gate between them. Oth­er­wise the con­trols behave like before and will skip the full episode. This fea­tures is enabled by default in uPod. You can dis­able it in the play­back set­tings.

Who will get it?

Access­ing infor­ma­tion for the chap­ter cur­rent­ly play­ing includ­ing image and link is avail­able to all users. Access­ing the full chap­ter list and nav­i­gat­ing between chap­ters is avail­able to users of the pre­mi­um ver­sion only.

This is my com­pro­mise to help broad­en the usage of chap­ters on the one hand and to mak­ing the pre­mi­um ver­sion more inter­est­ing on the oth­er hand.

Full change log

Here is the full change log of uPod 5:

  • Chap­ter sup­port as described above
  • More intel­li­gent col­or extrac­tion from pod­cast cov­er­arts (now also the accent col­or may be extract­ed from the cov­er­art if there is a vibrant col­or with enough con­trast to the back­ground)
  • Fling scrolling is final­ly pos­si­ble in the episode details now
  • Playlist but­ton in play­back view
  • Replaced the mate­r­i­al share icon with the old, but bet­ter known one
  • Fixed dou­ble dia­log bor­der on pre-Android 5 devices
  • Sev­er­al bug fix­es

Extensive Podcast Catalog

Written by sven. Posted in features

Did you also already had the sit­u­a­tion that you searched for a pod­cast in uPod didn’t find it? Though uPod also pro­vides sim­ple ways to add pod­casts for exam­ple from your mobile brows­er (sim­ply share the URL with uPod), this always needs a switch to anoth­er app. These days are gone now: I’ve just pub­lished a new release which brings a new, exten­sive pod­cast cat­a­log. Browse the most pop­u­lar pod­casts for your coun­try by cat­e­go­ry or search for titles and key­words in more than 250,000 pod­casts. I’m sure you will always find some­thing to fill your playlist with!

Google Cast for audio

Written by sven. Posted in features

Google Cast for Audio

In Jan­u­ary Google announced Google Cast for audio. Togeth­er with uPod this audio spe­cif­ic ver­sion of Google Cast, which is also the tech­nol­o­gy behind Chrome­cast, lets you cast your favorite pod­casts from your mobile device to your speak­ers. Take a peek at the Google Cast for audio home­page to learn about devices sup­port­ing this new tech­nol­o­gy.

For all Sonos users like me I hope, that Sonos will also soon sup­port Google Cast for audio, so that I can hear my pod­casts eas­i­ly at home with­out need­ing to buy new equip­ment.

Lollipod

Written by sven. Posted in features

Lollipod

Today I am real­ly proud to present you the new uPod design. I’ve ful­ly con­vert­ed the user inter­face to Lollipop’s mate­r­i­al design. This includes new icons all over the place, vibrant col­ors, float­ing action but­tons, par­al­lax scrolling, adjust­ed typog­ra­phy, adjust­ed nav­i­ga­tion and a lot more. In con­junc­tion with the pod­cast col­or extrac­tion men­tioned before this brings the use expe­ri­ence to a new lev­el. And all of the non-Lol­lipop users among you might be hap­py to hear, that the new design is also avail­able on Android 4.x. It’s real­ly sur­pris­ing how old fash­ioned uPod’s pre­vi­ous holo design looks once you’ve got used to the new one.

Exclu­sive to Lol­lipop are the new play­back noti­fi­ca­tions which not only apply the pod­cast col­ors but also pro­vide the jump back/forward and pause/play actions even when col­lapsed. In expand­ed mode (swipe down on a col­lapsed noti­fi­ca­tion to expand it) it pro­vides all five avail­able play­back actions.

As always images are worth more than a thou­sand words. So enjoy the fol­low­ing screen­shots or sim­ply go ahead and update to the lat­est ver­sion at Google play to see it live on your device.

And please don’t for­get to rate uPod if you like the new design.

Navigation Drawer Podcast List
Play List Podcast Details Playback Notification Playback Notification Show Notes

Android Lollipop

Written by sven. Posted in features

Now it’s offi­cial: Yes­ter­day Google unveiled that »Android L« becomes »Android Lol­lipop« aka »Android 5«. I am already look­ing for­ward to it arriv­ing on my Nexus 5 and (hope­ful­ly) Nexus 10. Prob­a­bly the biggest visu­al change of Lol­lipop is the new mate­r­i­al design which looks real­ly awe­some.

As most of you know I am already work­ing on mate­r­i­al design sup­port in uPod and I am con­fi­dent to release it until the end of this year. Most of the design changes will also be avail­able on Android 4.x — but this’ll depend on Google’s com­pat­i­bil­i­ty sup­port. I will know more about this tomor­row when Google releas­es the new soft­ward devel­op­ment kit (SDK).

Stay tuned!

Podcast Colors

Written by sven. Posted in features

Podcast Colors

Since Google announced mate­r­i­al design on Google IO 2014 which — as the suc­ces­sor of the Holo design — will be the new default style on Android L, I am work­ing on mov­ing uPod towards this great new design lan­guage. One aspect of the new design are vibrant col­ors. One impor­tant step to employ mate­r­i­al design in uPod has now been tak­en: uPod extracts a key col­or for a pod­cast from it’s cov­er­art and applies this col­or in the user inter­face where ever it is use­ful. This doesn’t only look stun­ning as you can see from the screen­shot above, but it also helps you to quick­ly gath­er the pod­cast con­text you’re in. The screen­shot above shows you only one usage of the pod­cast col­ors, but you will find them in dif­fer­ent places in the user inter­face once the new ver­sion is released.

For pod­casts which do not bring a cov­er­art, uPod gen­er­ates a unique one which is con­stant across all devices and con­sists of a vibrant col­or and the most impor­tant char­ac­ters from the podcast’s title. This makes it much more eas­i­er to quick­ly rec­og­nize pod­casts in con­trast to the sim­ple grey place­hold­er image used today in uPod.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly you still need to be a lit­tle bit patient before you can see this great new fea­ture on your device, but I will keep you updat­ed of the progress of uPod’s adap­tion of mate­r­i­al design.

Translations

Written by sven. Posted in features

Start­ing with the next release (which is com­ing very soon) uPod will only sup­port Eng­lish and Ger­man lan­guage — the two trans­la­tions I can main­tain on my own. It wasn’t an easy desci­sion to dis­miss the Pol­ish and Rus­sion trans­la­tion espe­cial­ly because the two main­tain­ers of these lan­guages have invest­ed quite some time and have done a great job, but from my point of view it was nec­es­sary. These are the rea­sons:

  1. The sev­er­al lan­guages made me slow as I need­ed to wait for the trans­la­tions to be fin­ished before being able to pub­lish a new release. Both trans­la­tors were quite fast, but this still meant one to five days delay.
  2. Pro­vid­ing sup­port for Russ­ian and Pol­ish users wasn’t always easy, as they used the Russ­ian and Pol­ish action names in their requests which I couldn’t map to any­thing I know.
  3. The trans­la­tion ser­vice I’ve used (Crowdin) is too expen­sive for such small projects like uPod and has recent­ly fur­ther increased it’s price. I need­ed to sell a lot of licens­es each month just to get this ser­vice paid. And then I need to sell much more to get the serv­er bills paid. At the moment uPod costs me quite some mon­ey and I want­ed to reduce the costs.

I am real­ly sor­ry for those of you how invest­ed time into the trans­la­tions and for those of you who got used to them. But I am hap­py to be more agile again :-)

Android Wear

Written by sven. Posted in android, features

Android Wear

Announced on this years Google I/O, Android wear is Google’s lat­est clou. Two already avail­able smart watch­es from LG and Sam­sung are bring­ing Android to your wrist and the announced Moto 360 will be the first round Android wear device and looks real­ly hot.

If you are an ear­ly adapter you will be hap­py to hear that uPod ful­ly sup­ports Android wear: The cur­rent­ly play­ing episode is dis­played with cov­er­art on your watch. You can eas­i­ly tog­gle between play and pause right from your wrist. Swip­ing to the left pro­vides you a big skip but­ton. So hap­py lis­ten­ing is guar­an­teed even if your smart­phone is stuck in the depths of your pock­et.

Share your thoughts about Android wear and the uPod sup­port on Google+ or Twit­ter.

Better Media Control from your Bluetooth Headset

Written by sven. Posted in features, releases

Most blue­tooth head­sets pro­vide a pause/play but­ton and a skip and a back but­ton to move between music tracks. Often hold­ing down these but­tons per­forms a fast forward/rewind. For pod­casts jump­ing back and forth a defined time peri­od (e.g. 30 sec­onds) with­in the cur­rent episode is the most impor­tant use case using the head­set con­trols (besides tog­gling play and pause). This is why uPod pro­vides since its first ver­sion an option to swap the mean­ing of head­set con­trol but­tons, so that the skip and back but­tons do a fixed time back/forth jump with­in the episode. You can con­fig­ure this in uPod’s play­back set­tings.

In old­er ver­sions of android it was then pos­si­ble to tap and hold your headset’s skip but­ton to skip the episode in uPod. Unfor­tu­nate­ly this isn’t work­ing in new­er ver­sions any­more (don’t have clue why — if you find out please let me know). So the pos­si­bil­i­ty to skip to the next episode was effec­tive­ly lost.

That’s why the new uPod ver­sion 2.1 brings a new play­back set­ting: If you con­fig­ured your skip but­ton to do a fast for­ward instead and you enable the new dou­ble click option, then dou­ble click­ing your headset’s skip but­ton will bring you to the next episode on the playlist. Unfor­tu­nate­ly even this isn’t com­plete­ly flaw­less: If you make the dou­ble click to fast the sec­ond but­ton event will be fil­tered out by android or the head­set. Try it out and let me know whether you like it.