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Posts from the ‘Apple’ Category

4
Dec

Nice Weather We’ve Been Having

It doesn’t seem that long ago, but back in 2008 we shipped version 1.0 of Pocket Weather. It was a different time for Shifty Jelly, just two guys working from their respective couches at night on a fun app. Fast forward to 2015 and the anticipation has been building. The iPhone 6 Plus is out with its giant new screen. Apple Watch is out, a brand new way to get data on the go. The iPad now supports split-screen so you can work better than ever before. You, our beloved customers have been asking us for a while now if we intend to support all these new shiny devices you’ve been buying. Well we have a very clear answer for you today: HECK YEAH! Introducing Pocket Weather 5.

pocketweather5@2x

Free Update
The first and most important point: this is a free update to all existing customers. We know you’ve been patiently waiting for it and we don’t intend to add insult to injury by asking you to pay again.

 

Completely Rebuilt
This app has been completely rebuilt from the ground up using the latest technologies from Apple. That’s not the quickest way to do things, but we believe it makes for the best app experience. If you want to build an app that stands the test of time you need to move with the times. That’s why Pocket Weather Australia 5 is iOS 9 only, and written almost entirely in Apple’s new language, Swift.

 

Simpler Than Ever
We’ve refined every part of the interface to try and surface all the information you need in ways that the previous version just can’t match. Our core focus was showing you today’s details and the week ahead when you open the app, without you having to perform a single tap.
Simulator Screen Shot 26 Nov 2015, 11.26.52 AM
Of course all the detail you’ve come to expect from Pocket Weather is still there. Swipe up or down to see various bits of information and tap into any card you want to see more detail on. We’ve worked hard on our visualisations as well, meaning getting a glimpse of what the weather is going to be like for that all important weekend is easier to see than ever.
Simulator Screen Shot 26 Nov 2015, 11.30.44 AM
We’ve even sweated the small details. In the previous version you had to pull up your location list to see other weather locations, now they are all just a swipe away.

 

Watch This Space
The second we put Apple watches on our wrists, we realised we wanted weather on there. You want to wake up in the morning and decide what to wear. Glance at it during the day before heading out to lunch and take a quick peek as you’re having dinner to figure out how cold it’s going to be overnight. Thanks to Watch OS 2 you can now do all that. We have a complication which shows you todays temperature up until 5pm, when it will switch to telling you the overnight low and tomorrow’s high. One tap of the complication takes you into the Pocket Weather app on your watch. Here you can see today’s details as well as glance at a graph that shows you what it’s going to be like for the rest of the week. We’ve found that having all this on your wrist at a moment’s notice is incredibly handy.
Simulator Screen Shot 26 Nov 2015, 2.54.41 PM Simulator Screen Shot 26 Nov 2015, 2.55.13 PM Simulator Screen Shot 26 Nov 2015, 2.52.24 PM

iPad Split Screen
With iOS 9 and Split Screen support you’ve come to expect that you can do more things with your iPad. Now that Pocket Weather works in with that, you can open the weather for a holiday you’re going to on one side, and open your mail client on the other. Relax flustered family, it’s going to be sunny and warm where we are going.

 

We’re Not Done Yet
In the past we’ve tended to favour huge, big-bang releases for Pocket Weather. While it’s exciting to get new things all at once, we’ve heard your feedback that it can sometimes be frustrating to wait many months to get even the smallest of changes. So from now on we’re going to be putting out quicker and smaller releases so we can make changes based on your feedback quicker than ever before. Version 5.1 is already in development and we look forward to hearing from you on ways we can make the app even better.

So whether you’re an existing customer, or someone who’s curious about what all the hype is about, now is the time to go grab the app.

17
Sep

Shifty Jelly Apple Update

Today, Apple released iOS 9 and will shortly release Watch OS 2 to the world. We know that our iOS customers are really excited about all the possibilities these two new releases bring. We also know that we’ve been very quiet recently about what our intentions for Pocket Weather Australia and Pocket Casts are. Today we’d like to give you an update on where we are now, and what’s coming in the near future.

comingsoon

 

Pocket Weather Australia

Earlier this year we realised that we didn’t have the resources to give Pocket Weather the love it so deserved. So we hunted low and high until we finally found the perfect person for the job: Jeff Tan-Ang of OzTV fame. We pitched the idea of a brand new Pocket Weather to Jeff. Re-written from the ground up using Swift 2.0 and using all the latest iOS 9 and Watch OS 2 technologies. Jeff was naturally excited, and joined the Shifty Jelly team back in June of this year. He’s been working on it full time ever since. The new version is looking nothing short of amazing. It will support both iPad and iPhone, as well as the Apple Watch. It’s a free update to all our customers who have the current version of Pocket Weather. We’re really excited to bring this to you and we’ll have more details on it closer to release. In terms of timing expect it later this year, before the temperatures swell and Australians hit the beach.

 

Pocket Casts

At the same time that we were planning the next Pocket Weather release, we were of course working on Pocket Casts as well. It too will be iOS 9 and Watch OS 2 compatible and bring with it some amazingly cool features that we hope to talk about very soon. Thanks to the addition of Jeff, Russell has been able to work on this release full time and it’s shaping up to be our biggest one yet. It will be a free update to all our existing customers. We’ve all been using the new version here internally for a while now and we can’t tell you how excited we are to be able to share more details with you soon. Timing wise it will also ship this year, but we’re keeping the date a secret until just before launch.

So a new Pocket Weather and Pocket Casts before the end of the year, both with some amazing new iOS 9 and Watch OS 2 features. The entire team (Jeff, Russell, Chris, Monica and Philip) have been working tirelessly to bring you these two new releases and there’s a definite buzz in the office as we lead up to release day. If you’re one of our iOS customers: we think 2015 is going to be one of the most exciting years we’ve ever been able to give you. More details soon, but in the meantime we have code to write, designs to tweak and tests to test. See you on the other side!

8
Oct

How Do We Use Pocket Casts?

Here at Team Shifty Jelly we’re die hard podcast lovers. My personal fanatical crush on Tom Merritt aside, we all have slightly different listening habits so we thought it would be cool to share some of those with the world. I listen to podcasts almost exclusively while driving to and from work. What I need from the app is to have all the podcasts I want ready to go in the morning so that I can pick which ones I want to listen to. I’ve got 32 podcasts in my collection most of which release weekly or daily episodes. I’m never able to listen to all of them, so I’ve created an Episode Filter of my favourite ones called ‘Top Casts’. I set this one to show me all the Unplayed and In Progress episodes from the podcasts I listen to the most:

Top Casts Filter

I have auto-download configured for my favourite podcasts, so when I woke up Monday morning I had the following downloaded and ready to go:

IMG_0050

My drive to work varies from 30 minutes to an hour, so clearly I’m not going to be able to listen to every single one of these. Pocket Casts makes marking episodes as played super fast, just swipe your finger from right to left over it:

mark_played

Today I’m in the mood for the Vergecast, so I’ll tap play on that first. After that if there’s time I’d like to listen to something more Australian, so I pick the Reckoner, followed by The Talk Show. Adding these to the up next list is easy, tap on one, tap the ‘+’ and choose ‘Play Next’:

IMG_0053

So now my ‘Up Next’ list has 3 episodes ready to go, with the first one currently playing:

IMG_0054

Now I’m driving along, occasionally tapping the skip button. I have my app configured to skip 45 seconds forward each time I press the skip button, so it’s easy to breeze past any boring bits. About halfway through the Vergecast I’m done with listening to Josh interrupt people constantly, so I long press on the skip button, and BAM, I’m transported to listening to Reckoner instead:

IMG_0056

At the 35 minute mark, I make it to work and turn off my car. Pocket Casts automatically stops playing, and off I go. Before leaving work, I queue up another podcast or two for the trip home depending on what has come out during the day. Any ones I feel I might not get to, I quickly swipe away. Pocket Casts is configured to automatically delete downloaded files for any episode I mark as played, so I never have to worry about manually trying to manage storage.

30
Sep

Pocket Casts Launches Into The Exosphere

I’m not sure if you noticed, but last week Apple launched iOS 7. It was a big deal. We launched Pocket Casts 4 at the same time, it was also a big deal. Today we launched version 4.1 which includes all the features that didn’t quite make it into 4.0, as well as updates based on your feedback and of course the usual raft of bug fixes. We’re very excited about the future of Pocket Casts and we have some big plans for the future. Today though we’d like to recap how the launch went.

After waking up at 2.30am in Australia to push the release button, we were pleasantly surprised by Apple having picked our app to feature in quite a number of spots.

iTunes Feature banner

First and foremost a massive banner in the news category, and also in the ‘Designed for iOS 7’ section:

Designed for iOS 7

When we threw out all our old version 3 code, and started a new Xcode project at the beginning of 2013 we spent a lot of time on design and workflow. When Apple announced iOS 7 at WWDC in June, we changed course again. Our aim was always to build a podcast listening app that was easy to use, fitted in perfectly with iOS and looked amazing. Clearly Apple feels we nailed it and we couldn’t think of better approval than that.

Next up the reviews started to roll in, here’s a few quotes we’ve picked out:

“I’ve thoroughly been enjoying Pocket Casts 4, and it’s booted Instacast off of my home screen. I’m in love with the natural iOS 7 design, subtle custom colors, transparencies, and intuitive interface. Plus, the syncing is easy and fast. This is what an iOS 7 podcast client should be, and I’m glad Shifty Jelly made it.”

Christine Chan, App Advice

“I’ve been trying out Pocket Casts 4 for a while now, and it does a great job providing robust, power user features in a way that stays incredibly clean and clear”

Rene Ritchie, iMore

“This isn’t just a reskinning of an old app. It is an app that truly understands and lives on iOS 7. Everything in the app has been redone to look pixel perfect on your iPhone or iPad…”

Mikhail Madnani, Beautiful Pixels

“I’ve switched to Pocket Casts 4 as my podcast client of choice…Besides design choices and animations, the app’s navigation, sync, automatic downloads, and filters work better for me and for the way I like to listen to podcasts.”

Federico Viticci, MacStories

“Pocket Casts 4 represents what iOS 7 is all about. If you love podcasts, this is a must download”

Clay Russell, iPhone Addict Reviews

“This app really looks native to iOS 7 without just being derivative of what Apple is doing”

Ryan Witwam, PC Mag

“I find Pocket Casts 4 the be the best overall podcast management app for iOS, and a perfect way to usher in the dawn of a revisioned iOS.”

Jesse Virgil, App Storm

We also rated a mention on The Verge and even a shout out on Reddit, for a dialogue I wrote at 2am. In short thanks to your amazing support, we had our best app launch in the history of Shifty Jelly. We made it into the Top 50 paid apps in the US, and were at #2 in our category as well. As small independent developers with little to no marketing budget, we can’t tell you how great that feels.

For those of you that have followed us for a while though, you’ll know that we’re not going to retire on our amazing launch and take the rest of the year off. We’re already planning future updates for the app as well as some new and innovative things in the world of podcasting that no one else has done before. We’re not ready to talk about that today, but rest assured we still have more things in the pipeline that should blow your collective minds. So strap yourselves in, and enjoy the Shifty Jelly Experience (Patent Pending). Also if you got all the way way here and haven’t bought the app yet, shame on you, go buy it right now on the App Store.

13
Aug

Pocket Casts 4 Sneak Peek

pc4_screenshot

Over the past few months, we’ve been working hard on the biggest update to Pocket Casts for iOS that we’ve ever done. We’re excited to finally be able to announce that Pocket Casts version 4 is almost done, and will be available soon!

Some big features of Pocket Casts 4:

  • Stunning, redesigned user interface based on iOS 7’s styling.
  • iPad support, because your iPad needs podcast lovin’ too.
  • Your subscriptions, playlists and play states can be synced between every iOS & Android device you own. We *love* this feature. And you heard us right, iOS and Android, living together in syncing harmony. That’s syncsess right there!
  • Smart dynamic episode filters. Want a list of every unplayed, downloaded podcast? Right here. How about a list of video episodes that you haven’t downloaded yet? Easy. Manual playlists are obviously still available for the super picky among you.
  • Automatic downloads. When a new episode of your favourite show comes out, Pocket Casts can download it automatically for you, without you having to open the app.

There’s a lot more to Pocket Casts 4, but we have to keep some surprises for when it launches ;)

Many of these new features rely on the cool new technologies built into iOS 7. This is why Pocket Casts 4 will be available as a free update for iOS 7 only and will be released to coincide with the launch of iOS 7. If your device can’t run iOS 7, v3 of Pocket Casts will continue to work just fine, and when you do update to a shiny new device, you’ll be able to upgrade your app for free!

We think Pocket Casts is the best way to listen to podcasts. We know you’ll love it and we can’t wait to get it into your hands so you can enjoy it too!

7
Jan

Carrier logo: Shifty edition

Look at all the carrier logos I give!
In the top-left corner of every iOS device there is a space for service providers to proudly showcase their branding. Pop a sim into your iDevice and once connected, you’ll notice the name of your service provider appear between your reception bars and network type (•, 3G, LTE, wifi). Once you’ve gotten past the informative value of such branding, the novelty wears off rather quickly. It isn’t uncommon for a carrier to make a mess of their name (YES OPTUS, VodaAU), which can severely uglify your phone -forever-. A fair question to ask is: have you ever forgotten which service provider you’re subscribed to? No, neither have we.

That’s why we were a little bit excited to find out a relatively simple way to modify the carrier logo using a clever app called CarrierEditor. What’s exciting about it?

  • No jailbreak required
  • CarrierEditor comes with a bunch of pre-made replacement logos, including BATMAN.
  • It’s FREE (but you should send a big thanks tweet to @uhelios on twitter)

We liked this so much, that we had our Shifty Labs™ team draw up some Jelly-eyed logo replacements.

To get the Shifty Jelly carrier logo, DOWNLOAD IT FROM HERE.

17
Aug

Paid Upgrades on iOS – The Greedy Developer Guide

So you’re a full-time independent developer, and you’ve had an app in the store for four years, for which you’ve released regular free updates. Revenue for the app has dried up, because everyone who has ever bought a copy can’t buy it again. You have ongoing costs; servers to run, mouths to feed. You decide it’s time to be ‘greedy’ and ask your customers for more money. This is exactly where we at Shifty Jelly found ourselves with our flagship product ‘Pocket Weather AU’. First released in 2008, it’s been the lifeblood of our company, oustripping the earnings of all our other apps by a large amount. It’s basically keeping the lights on here at the 3 man Shifty Jelly Office.

At this point you have two choices: release new features via an in-app purchase, or create an entirely new app to sell. To us, an in-app purchase was not really feasible because we wanted to start again on the application, hooking it up to a brand new server, use brand new code, write brand new controls and frameworks for it. Offering this update as an in-app purchase would mean trying to ship the old code and old image assets along side the new code and new images. If you’re not a developer, you’ll have to trust us when we tell you this is nigh-on impossible.

So we were left with only one choice: release a paid update, as a brand new app. The problem is Apple don’t give you a way to do this, and if I’m being cynical I’d say they don’t want you to do this. Their goal is to sell iPhones, and I think that deep down they know that if people feel apps are free or cheap and updated forever, Apple will sell more iPhones.

So what do you do? Well here’s what we did, hopefully you can learn from it.

Initial Transition:

  • We created our new application and submitted that to Apple for approval, setting the release date to the future so it wouldn’t go live in the store until we were ready.
  • Once it was approved we removed our old app from sale and left things for a few hours. This is because the App Store takes a while for changes like that to propagate.
  • When we were ready to release the new one, we set the release date to now. Again we didn’t promote it straight away giving it a few hours to propagate through the store. Even when you see it in the store, you still might not be able to download it, we’d recommend 4 hours minimum here. Even after 4 hours a small amount of people still couldn’t download the app, but eventually that sorted itself out.

Now we had to figure out phase 2 of our master plan, how to tell people beyond those who read our blog and follow us on Twitter? In the past it appears like you may have been able to update apps that are not for sale in any country (see this blog post, which has since been updated after the author and I chatted on twitter). Unfortunately this is no longer the case. So let me explain how we found this out, and what other tests we did. In our case we had 2 existing free versions (one for iPad and iPhone) that we could play with (both removed from sale about a week before our new app went live), so here’s what we did:

  • Created an update for these apps, linking to the new paid version and also telling our customers there was an update.
  • Released the update to Apple which they approved.
  • We waited 2 days to see if it became available as an update to people’s phones. 2 days later it still hadn’t.
  • Then we tried putting the free Apps back in the store (by ticking the countries in iTunes Connect) and bam, an hour later they became available as updates.
  • To test another theory, we un-ticked the countries again the next day, and an hour later the update once again disappeared.

The simple conclusion: The ONLY way to update apps not for sale in the App Store, is to put them back into the App Store until everyone that wants to update to them has. The one minor exception to this is that when a customer tries to re-download an app from their ‘Purchased’ section, they will get the most up to date version, regardless of whether you’ve put it back in the store or not. It should be noted that the ‘Purchased’ section of the App Store is horribly broken. The search feature in it simply doesn’t work. If you’ve bought 500 apps like I have, scrolling through it while it lags, jitters, and keeps jumping back to the top will make you want to poke your eyes out.

Update: A helpful developer on Twitter pointed out that you can actually still link to apps in the purchased section, like this (this confused us at first, because it only works on the device, not on a desktop):

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftwareRedownload?id=APP_ID_GOES_HERE&mt=8

So yes, paid updates are possible, but you’ll have to work hard to get it to happen, and there’s no such thing as a perfect transition. As a developer I can’t tell you how much I’d like Apple to support this, because if they did it would be better for us and users alike. Imagine having your favourite app release a massive update, offer you an upgrade price, and you having the option to accept or decline. Imagine if you decline still getting bug fixes for your current app, and one day rewarding the developer by buying the app.

So finally to show that I’m young and hip, here is my TL;DR:

  • There’s no way to release a paid update on the iOS App Store, you have to release a new app.
  • You can’t pull the old app from the store, and provide future updates for it. If you want to update it, the old version must also be in the store, and remain in the store.
  • Apple will probably never support this, and it’s time as developers we stopped this crazy ‘race to the bottom free updates for ever’ mentality, and start restoring the notion that developers also need to get paid, and there’s no inherent weirdness or shame in that.
2
Aug

Announcing the new Pocket Weather Australia

Pocket Weather Au, our very first serious app in the Apple App Store was released in September of 2008. Since then it’s been an amazing journey for us and we’re really glad that you came along for the ride. We went straight to the #1 spot in the store, and stayed there for well over 3 weeks. The thank you and suggestions have flooded our inbox ever since. Overall we couldn’t be more proud of what we built back then, and the many, many updates we’ve issued for it since (25 updates, over 4 years: view graphical history).

It’s an old image, sepia doesn’t lie.

The astute among you will note that in January of this year the updates stopped. That was when we decided, after 4 years and so much hard work that poor old Pocket Weather Au was starting to look a bit tired. We have learnt an amazing amount since 2008, about development, weather and had so many great suggestions from you, our fans and customers.

So today we present to you, Pocket Weather Australia, version 3.0!

Now we know some of you well, and instead of reading the rest you’re just looking for the buy link, HERE YOU GO!

Ok, now that 95% of you have disappeared, the rest of you can read all about the new version here, on our website. There’s also a handy review by the fine people of MacTalk here.

Finally, we’d like to answer a few common questions that our current customers will no doubt have:

Is this a free update?

No, it’s a brand new app that costs $1.99 and runs on your iPhone and iPad. We’ve released 4 years worth of free updates to the previous version, and when making such a drastic change we decided to build a brand new application. One of the main reasons for this was to not force an entirely new app onto people who might not want it.

I’ve been waiting for ages to give you guys more money, why only $1.99?

We get offers all the time from people wanting to donate to us, or get us to charge more for our applications. We feel that for now $1.99 is fair price for an app you use everyday, and we don’t take additional donations. If you really feel strongly about giving us more money, convince a friend or family member to buy our application instead :)

I like the current version, do I have to update?

No. We intend to keep the weather servers that these are connected to running for at least another year, probably much longer. We have no way to update the app itself though, so should it break in future versions of iOS then there’s not a lot we can do about that.

I bought your app just recently…

We removed our old app for sale before posting this one, so there should be very, very few of you that fall into this category. If however you did buy our app within the last few weeks, and feel like you’ve been wronged, please email us, we’ll look after you :)

I have an Android phone, don’t you guys love us?

Of course we do, Pocket Weather Australia 3 is also available from Google Play here.

We are very proud and excited here in the office today, and we hope you are too. Our goal (we always set one of these before releasing a new app) is to reach the #1 spot in the App Store. We’re not bothered by whether that’s for 2 seconds or 2 years…we just want to show Apple, Australia and everyone that apps still matter, and it’s not all about games! So come on Australia, get into the Olympic spirit, and let’s get Pocket Weather Australia to that #1 gold medal winning position!

24
Jul

EvoCrop – Farming for the 21st Century

People often ask us “Do you do client work? I have this great idea!”. We literally get that several times a week. The answer is yes, but we are not interested in your idea. We are looking for people who don’t just have an idea, they have a business plan, they have their budget sorted and they have the passion required to transform an idea (the first 1% of the work required) into a product (the other 99%). People we can form a partnership with to bring something truly innovative and useful to the market.

So we’re proud to announce our first such collaboration for this year, with just such a client: Rebecca from Rustic Evolutions (www.rusticevolutions.com.au). In September of 2011, we received this email in our inbox:

I am interested in having an iPad app developed for use by farmers as an in-paddock record keeping tool.  I would like to work with a South Australian based company to develop this and found your website from a google search. Can you please let me know what information you would require to provide a quote and timeframe for developing an app?

The best thing about this email? Rebecca didn’t ask us to sign an NDA before uttering a word about her idea, but instead gave us a really high level explanation about what she wanted. People who believe that ideas are incredibly valuable, and can be stolen in seconds are a topic for another day (hint: they are not and they can not). So long story short Rebecca came in, we talked about her idea, and then laid out a roadmap for how to bring her idea to the store. It was clear from the beginning that Rebecca had already put a lot of thought into her app, and the business around it. She had mockups of screens, notes about ideas, and questions all ready to go.

The result? A smashingly handsome, and functional app called EvoCrop. Now available in the App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/evocrop/id540246364?ls=1&mt=8

The takeaway? If you want to bring an app to market, you have to be prepared to put in the hard work. To research, to think things through, to organise the finances required. Then you have to find yourself a team of developers that you’re comfortable working with, that want to see you succeed and that, most importantly, you trust. You also have to be a bit flexible, the more Non-Disclosure Agreements and restrictive contracts you sign, the worse the outcome is going to be.

The clients thoughts on the project?

I just want to say thank you so so much for all your enthusiasm, hard work and assistance in getting this app into the market.  Whenever I tell people I’m getting an app made they always ask how the hell do you do that.  My answer is always the same – I googled app developers and very wisely chose the coolest and most skilled boys in the business.  Finding you was a dream come true and the whole process has been stress free and an absolute pleasure, something that is very rare for a start-up independent business I’m sure you will agree.

So Rebecca: we really do wish you all the best with your app and hope that you get the success you most definitely deserve. Working with you was a pleasure, and we’re really proud of what we have built together. If anyone out there knows of any farmers that would be interested in what Rebecca and her company have to offer, be sure to point them to her Rustic Evolutions home page, and her brand spanking new EvoCrop app.

And finally, we can’t help but leave you with the picture Rebecca sent us of herself and her husband, trialling the app in the field:

27
Jun

iOS Podcasts App vs Pocket Casts

Today Apple released their own podcasting application for iOS. This was widely rumoured, though it still seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise. Naturally a lot of people have asked us about how we feel about being ‘sherlocked’ (a fun term dating back to an app called ‘Watson’ which Apple copied, and bundled into Max OS X as ‘Sherlock’). Our reaction to the rumours was of course trepidation and fear, since Apple can play ‘dirty’ and do all sorts of things with iOS apps that we as third-party developers are not allowed to do. The app that they released today though, made us very happy.

Apple’s app is quite pretty to look at, and it does a nice job of separating podcasts out of iTunes so in that sense they’ve done the podcasting community a great service. Once you play with their app for more than 5 minutes though, you realise it’s little more than that. It’s literally the features they once had inside the Music and iTunes applications bundled into iOS, moved into their own application. As the maker of a podcasting app, we realise this sounds dis-ingenious, so please, allow us to elaborate.

Let’s pretend that I’m a podcast fan (which I am, so that part is easy) and I’m out to find a podcasting application. Logically (for me at least) I’d try the free Apple one first. Here are some of the things that are immediately annoying about it:

  • There’s a 50MB limit on downloads over 3G. Case in point Macbreak Weekly came out today, it was 50.3MB. Can I download it?

No downloads for you

  • When I play a podcast, I like to be able to see where I’m up to. The now playing screen Apple has is pretty, but doesn’t tell me that. You can tap the artwork to get a progress bar but even that doesn’t have times on it, you actually have to start scrubbing to get them. Once you do the times stay, but they don’t update at all…which seems a bit silly.

Where am I up to? How long is this podcast?

  • I like to be able to skip adverts really quickly. Apple has a skip back 10 seconds, skip forward 30 seconds. That part would keep me reasonably happy, except the buttons are too close together, and I’d struggle to hit them accurately in my car, which is where I listen to podcasts for over an hour a day.

cramped

  • I also listen to podcasts that don’t come out on a regular basis, and I’d like the app to send me updates when a new episode comes out, the Apple app can’t do that, I have to open it to get it to refresh.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “You’re purposely focussing on all the things you’re app does well, because you want to point out how great it is. That’s not fair”. You’re right, and you’re wrong. We built our app because we’re avid podcasts fans. We spent a long time agonising over all the little details that we wanted in an application to make our podcast experience pleasurable, rather than painful. So yes, the Apple app is missing things our app has, and yes I’ve pointed out some of them, but for good reason: these are all features we wanted, nay, demanded.

So why would you buy our app over the Apple one? Do you even need to? If you’re a person who listens to only a few podcasts every now and again, you can probably get by with the Apple app just fine. It’s very capable, it’s nicely designed, it’s clean, it’s minimal. But if you want more, here’s the things you’d get with our app:

  • Push notifications when new episodes comes out, handy if like me you can’t keep track of when new shows are meant to come out:

  • Giant skip buttons (hidden by default, come up when you tap them) for easy skipping in the car. Also handy is the amount back and forward is configurable. Personally I prefer 45 seconds forward, 10 back. Two taps when Tech News Today starts gets me straight to the content every time :)

  • Server side podcast parsing. Now this is something as a user I wouldn’t think I’d need, but being able to update all 30 of my podcasts in 1 second, vs 1 minute for Apple’s app saves me bandwidth and time. We’re also the only app in iOS to do this.
  • Being able to play a video podcast, as audio. All to often I download a video podcast, but then want to play it while doing something else on my phone. The Apple app stops the video the second you back out of it or press your home button. Pocket Casts automatically switches to playing the audio from the video file, allowing you to keep listening.
  • Being able to play a podcast while it’s downloading is also very handy, it means you get the best of streaming and downloading. So this morning I was dropping my son off at school, and a new Macbreak Weekly came out. I was out on 3G, so I just tapped download before I hopped back in the car, about 20 seconds later it’s ready to play, and I get to keep the file afterwards so I don’t need a network connection next time I go to play it. Update: I’m told Apple’s app actually supports a slight hybrid of this mode. Where it will stream and download at the same time, then switch to the downloaded version when the download is done. I can’t confirm this, but you’d still be out of luck if it’s over 50MB and you’re on 3G, just like I was in the example below.

I could literally go on all day, but here’s a few more of my favourite features of our app:

  • Variable playback speeds (1x, 1.2x, 1.5x, 2x) – Apple has just slow, normal and fast.
  • Playlist, choose the order in which you want to play your episodes. Handy when you’re on a plane. Queue up some episodes in the order you want, put your headphones in and your phone never needs to leave your pocket.
  • Show notes, one of the most crucial parts of listening to any podcast, and yet as far as I can tell Apple has left them out completely.
  • Handy Settings: want to delete a podcast automatically when you’re done. No sweat. Want to configure how your headphones should work with the app, Pocket Casts can do that too. Apple’s app is locked into triple tap to jump back 10 seconds, double tap to skip to the next podcast. In Pocket Casts we have the more sane default of having double-tap skip forward, which is a lifesaver for skipping adverts when you’re phone is in your pocket and should you choose you can have the headphones skip whole episodes instead.
  • Manually add shows: every now and again you’ll come across a podcast that isn’t in iTunes. In Apple’s app your out of luck but in ours you can paste in the feed URL and be on your way.
When we started building Pocket Casts well over 2 years ago, we were very confident that Apple would make their own app one day. We were also very confident that they would keep it clean, minimal and give it a feature set that would only appeal to casual podcast listeners. In our eyes that’s exactly what they released today, it’s a great application but it’s really not what we as podcast fans wanted. We made many design and implementation decisions (like server-side podcasting parsing) in the early days for this very reason, to stand out head and shoulders above what Apple would release.
So to the question “Are you worried that Apple has killed off your app” we honestly answer: “Not really, if anything we hope this drives more people to using podcasts exclusively from their phone, and then once they get frustrated prompts them to look around for better applications”. Only time will tell, but today alone our sales are 2x higher than this time last week, so it could well be that a rising tide lifts all boats. If you’re serious about podcasting, I’d take our app over Apple’s any day of the week…but why take our word for it, grab the free version or the paid one and try it out for yourself.
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