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