Video playback

Written by sven. Posted in features

Aaaand Action! Now uPod also provides support for video podcasts. It brings a carefully designed portrait and landscape video view. In landscape orientation uPod uses every single pixel of your screen to provide you the best watching experience — on devices with on screen navigation buttons (home, back, etc.) even those are hidden. If you want you can also only listen to your video podcast — simply leave the playback view or turn off the screen and the audio will continue to play.

In this context I’ve also redesigned the audio playback views to look more modern and better utilize the available screen space. I am still not happy with the views on 10″ tablets as there is a lot of free space, but I like them very much on the phone.

Here are some screenshots:
Video playback in portrait orientationVideo playback in landscape orientation
Audio playback in portrait orientationAudio playback in landscape orientation

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!

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