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.