uPod 2.0 brings Chromecast Support

Written by sven. Posted in features, releases

The lat­est and hottest release brings two major changes: Sup­port for chrome­cast and the a new tri­al mod­el. Lets focus on Chrome­cast sup­port as I’ve already report­ed about the new tri­al mod­el a few days ago.

Chrome­cast is a top sell­er and ama­zon — a tiny lit­tle HDMI stick for just about 40 bucks which you plug into your TV’s or AV receiver’s HDMI input port. In con­junc­tion with uPod you can now bring your favorite pod­casts to the big screen or to your music sys­tem. Once con­nect­ed to a chrome­cast stick, you can start and con­trol play­back from with­in uPod. All the great fea­tures like stor­ing the play­back posi­tion still work. So you can start your favorite pod­cast show on your mobile dis­play in the train and con­tin­ue play­back on your TV at home.

uPod 2.0 also brings some addi­tion­al tiny nifty fea­tures:

  • Option to use »Add to playlist« action as pri­ma­ry action for not down­loaded episodes
  • Pre­view image in video play­back view
  • Bet­ter play­back error han­dling
  • Lots of bug fix­es (includ­ing huge fixed mem­o­ry leak)

New Trial Model

Written by sven. Posted in features

Start­ing with uPod 2 — which is about to come soon — uPod’s tri­al mod­el will change: You will then be able to check out all the great fea­tures with­out any restric­tions for sev­en days. After­wards you will need to pur­chase the license to con­tin­ue using uPod. Already have a license? Great, then noth­ing will change for you!

Dis­miss­ing the free usage mod­el wasn’t an easy deci­sion. But unfor­tu­nate­ly the cur­rent »freemi­um« mod­el, which looked like a great idea in the begin­ning, turned out to be a bad one. For a serv­er backed app like uPod each addi­tion­al user caus­es addi­tion­al serv­er costs and the bad thing is, that these costs occur on a month­ly basis. So I rely on the license pay­ments to get the servers paid which isn’t pos­si­ble with the cur­rent ratio of non-pay­ing users.

Thanks for your under­stand­ing, loy­al­ty and sup­port!

Version 1.7

Written by sven. Posted in features, releases

This release comes packed with pro­duc­tiv­i­ty fea­tures. But first things first: Thanks to Dmit­ry Kyrov uPod is now avail­able in Russ­ian lan­guage!

The next big thing are the new fil­ter sec­tions in the nav­i­ga­tion draw­er: You can now eas­i­ly browse unfin­ished down­loaded episodes, audio episodes and video episodes. Not inter­est­ed in one of them? No prob­lem: Sim­ply hide it in the user inter­face set­tings.

Anoth­er set of new user inter­face options allows you to spec­i­fy which pri­ma­ry episode actions you pre­fer. The pri­ma­ry action is the one shown as a but­ton on the right of an episode list item. Until now you need­ed to live with what we decid­ed for you, now you can choose your pre­ferred action (for exam­ple »Stream« instead of the »Down­load« but­ton or »Down­load« instead of »Add« for new episodes). All actions are still avail­able in the list item’s over­flow menu (the three dots).

And even the tiny addi­tion­al fea­tures will make your life eas­i­er:

  • con­fir­ma­tion dia­log for clear­ing playback/download list
  • adding mul­ti­ple select­ed episodes to playlist adds them ordered ascend­ing by pub­lished date

And final­ly here is a screen­shot show­ing the new fil­ter sec­tions and the stream but­ton as pri­ma­ry action for not-down­loaded episodes:
New uPod filter sections

Version 1.6: Immediate Download Queue

Written by sven. Posted in features, releases

Immediate upload queue

As a loy­al uPod user you already know uPod’s down­load queue: You can eas­i­ly add episodes to it and uPod will auto­mat­i­cal­ly down­load all episodes as soon as a Wi-FI con­nec­tion is avail­able. In most cas­es all this hap­pens auto­mat­i­cal­ly, so that you nev­er need to care about down­loads.

But some­times you may want to lis­ten to the newest episode of your favorite pod­cast even when on the road. In this case you already have the choice of imme­di­ate­ly down­load­ing this episode or direct­ly stream­ing it. This works fine for just one episode, but if you want to down­load mul­ti­ple episodes imme­di­ate­ly things are get­ting unhandy.

This is were the new release jumps in which brings the new imme­di­ate down­load queue: Now you can sim­ply tap the down­load but­ton for mul­ti­ple episodes and uPod will down­load them one after anoth­er. You can find all queued imme­di­ate down­loads at the top of the »Down­load queue« sec­tion. You can see that an episode is queued for imme­di­ate down­load due to it’s ani­mat­ed progress bar. For exam­ple this post’s screen­shot shows one episode down­load­ing and two sched­uled for imme­di­ate down­load. For the oth­er episodes in the screen­shot the well known down­load queue rules apply. Sim­ply try it out — it’s sim­ple and intu­itive!

Addi­tion­al­ly this release allows you to request a res­can of a pod­cast for new episodes. Nor­mal­ly this isn’t nec­es­sary as uPod rec­og­nizes new episodes auto­mat­i­cal­ly, but in some rare cas­es uPod miss­es those updates for exam­ple due to faulty RSS. Please only use the new action if you know that new are episodes avail­able for a pod­cast which are not show­ing up in uPod.

German Language Support

Written by sven. Posted in features

This morn­ing I’ve pub­lished a minor release which brings Ger­man lan­guage sup­port to the uPod UI. So if you’ve set­up Ger­man as your pri­ma­ry lan­guage in the Android set­tings, uPod will present you a Ger­man user inter­face. Many thanks to Philip Olbrich and the oth­er trans­la­tors for their great job.

Do you want to see uPod in your favorite lan­guage? Go to the uPod trans­la­tion page and start right now!
German uPod User Interface

Discover new Podcasts

Written by sven. Posted in features

Until now after instal­la­tion uPod was an emp­ty space. You need­ed to man­u­al­ly add pod­casts by URL or by import­ing OPMLs. This is a high bar­ri­er for users try­ing out pod­casts for the first time or even for those who know every­thing about pod­casts but just want to quick­ly try­out uPod as an alter­na­tive to their cur­rent pod­cast play­er.

Ver­sion 1.2 — which is cur­rent­ly in beta phase — fix­es this prob­lem by pro­vid­ing some new pod­cast dis­cov­ery fea­tures: You can now browse pop­u­lar pod­casts by cat­e­go­ry or search for pod­casts. Both fea­tures require you to select your pre­ferred pod­cast language(s), so that they can pro­vide rel­e­vant results for you.

The tablet screen­shot below shows the pop­u­lar pod­cast list. To nar­row the results you can pick a cat­e­go­ry by tap­ping the view’s title in the upper left.

The phone screen­shot shows the pod­cast search results. Sim­ply enter one or more search terms and they will be matched against the pod­cast titles, key­words, descrip­tions and authors. So if you know a part of the name of your favorite pod­cast sim­ply enter it and eas­i­ly sub­scribe to it. Or do you want to see a list of all pod­casts cre­at­ed by your favorite pod­cast­er? No prob­lem.

As men­tioned above this fea­ture was intend­ed for new users, but in the end I was sur­prised how many inter­est­ing new pod­casts I have found this way. So give it a try.

Podcast searchPopular podcasts

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.

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!

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