Less than a month since our HUGE 6.0 update to Pocket Casts, we’re proud to bring you our first feature update. The headline addition is quite impressive:
That’s right, Pocket Casts now supports CarPlay. If you have a compatible stereo you can now browse through your podcasts, filters and downloaded episodes without ever having to touch your phone. You can also access all the playback controls too, skip those pesky boring bits or pause the podcast so the teenager at the drive through window won’t judge your taste in podcasts. If you don’t have a compatible stereo, well you know what you need to do.
There are also iPad enhancements like being able to sort your podcast collection as well as show unread badges in the corner if you’re into that sort of thing. We have of course squashed a lot of small niggling bugs as well, and we thank you for reporting those to us.
You’d think after this it would be time to take the rest of the year off and plan our vacations, but we’re straight on to working on Pocket Casts 6.2, in which we’ll be focussing on iOS 10 and all the great new features it will bring to your phone and more importantly the apps that run on it. So head on over to the app store, grab the update and take it for a spin…sorry, I had to get one pun in there.
On the 27th of January 2011 we introduced Pocket Casts to the world. Being huge podcast fans ourselves our aim was to build the best possible app to listen to them. Our goals back then were simple: insanely fast refresh speeds, push notifications for new episodes, offline downloads and a streamlined player that let you do things like quickly skip over boring parts. Fast forward 5 years and here we are at version 6. Our basic goals remain the same, we’ve just become more ambitious over time and added more features to our must haves. Cross device syncing. Variable speed playback. Episode filtering. Tablet support. Podcast chapter support. Silence Removal. We also added an Android version, a web version and so much more.
But back to the iOS version. It was the original incarnation of Pocket Casts and it’s served us well over the years. That said, it was built in a time when the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 were the devices of choice. When a lot of the modern frameworks and languages that Apple provide to developers weren’t available. This led us to an interesting question: how much longer do we see Pocket Casts being a product we support and maintain on iOS? The answer was a simple “for a long time to come, since we all use it and love it”. This meant we had to make some hard decisions. If this was going to be a platform we could build on for the future it would have to be modernised, and parts of it completely re-written. So in mid-2015 that’s what we set out to do. To bring our iOS version into the modern era both at a technological and a feature level. All the things we’ve done since then could fill many more blog posts, but allow us to give you some of the highlights:
Swifter than Swift
The majority of the app has been re-written in Apple’s modern programming language, Swift. This gives us amazing performance and stability improvements over the old code base. Re-writing most of the app also allowed us to rethink decisions we made over 5 years ago with the knowledge that we’ve gained since then. Long story short the entire app is now faster, more reliable and built for quick iterations and future updates.
Redesigned User Interface
We’ve always been proud of the Pocket Casts User Interface. It’s simple to understand, easy to use and it doesn’t hurt that it looks good as well. Instead of throwing that all out and starting again we’ve refined every part of it. Many things can now be accomplished faster than before and it just looks and works so much better.
Trim Silence And Volume Boost
First pioneered by RSS Radio, we’ve heard from a lot of our users that they really wanted a way to make voices sound louder and to remove silences in conversations. Version 6 of Pocket Casts for iOS brings both of these features. We’ve been refining this algorithm for well over a year now to get it just right and we’re so excited to finally share it with you.
Ever since adding iPad support to our app we’ve been watching closely to make sure it’s always a first class citizen on that platform. This release is no exception, it brings both Picture in Picture and Multitasking (split screen) support. So whether you want to watch a video podcast while using something else on your iPad or browsing our Discover section while also surfing the web, we have you covered.
We originally added Up Next as an easy way to see and decide on what to play next. The idea was simple: you’d start a podcast, then pick one or two to follow it. It’s always felt like a far simpler approach than most other apps that make you manage lists, priorities and so many other confusing features. This release we make it even easier, just swipe the mini player over in any episode filter, and add episodes to up next with a simple tap. Long press to re-arrange or remove episodes straight from the mini player as well. Finally the addition of an option to automatically add downloaded episodes to Up Next is yet another way to make sure there’s always a few things queued up for you ready to go. You can see a quick video demo of the feature here.
We know a lot of you love to listen to podcasts at night, and that a lot of you are sensitive to bright, vivid whites scarring your retinas for life. Well the new Dark Theme is definitely for you. At a touch of a button the entire app turns dark and wonderfully pastel.
And Much Much More
The features in version 6 are far deeper than what we’ve outlined above. There’s improvements to auto download, including a new waiting for WiFi state. There’s 3D Touch shortcuts for those of you with fancy new phones. There’s MP3 chapter support (including images) for all your favourite podcasts that are starting to support those. There’s a new filter option which lets you see only episodes that have come out in the last 24 hours, or a different time of your choosing. A new dedicated download area lets you see all your downloaded podcasts in the order you downloaded them and gives you options to quickly clean these up as well. A new stats area gives you insight into how long you’ve spent listening to podcasts and just how much time various features of our app have saved you in doing so. There’s a brand new Discover section to make finding new podcasts even more enjoyable and quicker than ever. In short there are a lot of things to explore and enjoy in our new hand crafted update.
That’s a quick summary of what’s new in this update. We look forward to many more years of updates. Our plan is to make these far smaller and more incremental going forward. We’ve heard your feedback loud and clear that it would have been nicer to get the feature list above in a steady stream of incremental updates instead of a yearly ‘big bang’ style release. This time around because of the sheer amount of things that had to change this wasn’t possible, but part of this redesign was to make sure that in the future it is. So while we work on version 6.1 and 6.2, please take the time to enjoy 6.0 and let us know what you think. We’re excited about being able to finally share it with you and we’re also excited for all the great feedback you’ll continue to give us going forward.
So what are you waiting for? Grab the update or if you’re new to Pocket Casts come join us as our journey continues!
Hi there, nice to meet you! Let us introduce ourselves: we’re Shifty Jelly, an Adelaide based mobile and web development company. We currently have four staff who make and support neat products like Pocket Casts and Pocket Weather. We’ve been mentioned in parliamentary speeches on innovation, received a Google design award, and we write really silly product release notes (sorry (not sorry)).
Our products are growing faster than we can code, which is why we need a new server-side developer who has experience in both Java and Ruby on Rails.
It’s a full-time permanent role.
You’ll be working with our whole team in our (soon to be) renovated Adelaide office and you’ll maintain our web products, including the server back ends for both Pocket Casts and Pocket Weather, as well as some front ends like our Pocket Casts web player.
We have a couple of requirements, and we’re pretty bullish on these so please only apply if you meet all of them:
- You must reside in South Australia and be able to commute to Adelaide daily (we’ll let you have the weekend off).
If this sounds like you, then by all means, read on. If it doesn’t, then know that we still love you, but this isn’t the role for you.
We’d like you to also have experience in Linux servers, VPS hosting and setup and scaling web servers and databases to cope with millions of requests per day.
Why you want to work here
Shifty Jelly is a unique kind of app developer, one of only a handful in Australia, in that we develop our own products rather than doing client work. This means that we choose our own destiny, we spend time improving our products, and they reach millions of people around the globe. We like to think that we’re also a pretty fun and happy team, but we’ll let you decide that for yourself.
How to apply
Send us an email explaining why you want to work at Shifty Jelly, and attach a resume that shows us what you can do. You can address that to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you sound like a good fit, we’ll call you for an interview. Please don’t stress about a fancy suit, we’re not that kind of company.
Cast your mind back to April of 2015. What exactly where you doing? I’m guessing most of you have no idea, but I know exactly what I was doing. I was deep into planning Pocket Casts 6.0 and Pocket Weather 5.0 updates for our iOS apps with my Co-Founder Philip. We spent many long days (and plenty of nights) meticulously planning what would go into each one, and when we could expect them to ship. After the planning was finished we realised one really obvious thing: if we wanted to ship either of these apps before the year was out, we’d have to hire another developer. We heard rumours of some things that were coming to iOS 9 in a few months time and we knew that Swift was maturing. We also knew that both of these iOS apps (one which started in 2008, the other in 2010) were in need of a low level overhaul.
Let me back up a little bit. At the time we were a company of 4 people. A designer, Chris. A support and administration officer, Monica and two developers, myself and Philip. I was responsible for all of our iOS apps, as well as occasionally doing some of the lower components in our Android apps. Philip is our Android developer and he also works on all our server infrastructure.
So back to April of 2015: it was clear that to overhaul both Pocket Weather and Pocket Casts would take at least 2 developers, not only that but we’d need talented ones. Jokes about me aside, we began searching for the right developer to join us. As luck would have it, it turned out that Jeff Tan-Ang was available so we convinced him to come and join us. Our plan was simple, but ambitious. Jeff would work on Pocket Weather, pressing the reset button and building it 100% in Apple’s new programming language Swift, iOS 9 and using all the latest frameworks at our disposal. We’d incorporate a Today Widget, Watch app & complication, iPhone 6 and 6Plus screen size support and biggest of all iPad split-screen multi-tasking. For the non-developers out there, that’s a lot of work, but we felt confident Jeff could finish it in 4 or so months.
Meanwhile, and in parallel, I’d be building out Pocket Casts 6.0. In this case it was a matter of refining the existing code base rather than rebuilding it from scratch. I also decided to build all the new functionality in Swift to give us a bit more future proofing. We wanted both of these products to go for another 3-4 years based on these changes we were making, so getting everything in order was our priority.
When I returned from WWDC in June of 2015, the work began in earnest. Jeff began working full time on Pocket Weather and I had already met with some Apple Core Audio Engineers to refine our Android volume boost and silence removal features and bring them to iOS. The core of our new playback engine was coming together nicely, so I began putting in place the groundwork for all the other Pocket Casts changes I needed to make. It’s an obvious thing in hindsight, but in both cases we under-estimated just how much there would be to do, and also how long it takes to get things working to a level that we’re happy with and proud of. Anyone can ship an app the second a piece of functionality is added, but we have higher standards than that. We want everything to work, and work seamlessly. So during the next few months we’d build prototypes of new things, refine them, then add them to the app. We’d build and rebuild so many different bits of each app as we deployed them to phones and tested them out.
Fast forward to September and things seemed to be tracking well. Both Pocket Weather and Pocket Casts were cruising along, and we felt fairly confident in our estimates. So we did what any tech company does in this case, we published a blog post. In it we (foolishly, in hindsight) said we’d ship both Pocket Casts and Pocket Weather before 2015 was done. There was a real buzz at Shifty Jelly, this was going to be an awesome set of releases!
Then, the inevitable happened. Pocket Weather development was slowing down as we were realising just how many things the old app did that the new one didn’t yet do. There was also the matter of taking an app that really was a completely different iPhone and iPad interface and trying to meld those into something coherent. In hindsight leaving iPad development until this point was a huge mistake. We had to rework so many things to get split screen multi-tasking to work, and it introduced so many new and crazy bugs. We now had a decision to make: we promised both of these apps before the year was out, it was clear that we couldn’t get both of them out the door. It was a hard decision to make, but in the end we decided that Pocket Weather was the app that was most in need of an update, so I joined Jeff and began working full time on that. Obviously at this time Pocket Casts development ground to a halt.
By November of 2015 Pocket Weather was really shaping up. There were still bugs left, and bits of functionality we hadn’t added yet but the huge array of things we had (Today Widget, Watch App, Watch Glance, Watch Complication, iPad Multitasking, Bigger iPhone support, day/night themes) were coming together nicely. We still had a problem though. Even with Jeff and I working full time on the app, we realised that it was still possible that we might miss the mid-December cut off for submitting apps to the Apple App Store. Now we had to make another decision: to remove some things from the app, or to delay it even further. We were feeling the heat from our customer base, who were all extremely eager to get their hands on the app. Rightly so as well, we’d told them it was coming in an official post. So we decided to remove a few features and try to ship the app before our self-imposed deadline. The dedicated iPad interface was dropped (in favour of the iPhone one scaling up and down based on how you used multi-tasking) and other features like the night theme where also removed.
By December of 2015 we had an app that we were really proud of. It looked and worked so much better than the old one, and we’d at least met one deadline. We had a dedicated group of around 50 beta testers that weren’t reporting as many issues with it as they were in previous builds so we had a high degree of confidence that it was stable and ready to go. If we’re being honest we still had some concerns about it not being in beta testing for long enough, but as the end of the year loomed large we submitted the app. We were ecstatic, to work so long and so hard on something, and to finally see it ship is a great feeling. It was approved by Apple days later and it went live in the store.
As the feedback started pouring in though, we realised we’d made a huge mistake. The app had shipped with bugs that neither we nor our beta testers had found. Our customers were furious about the lack of a dedicated iPad interface. To make matters worse, Jeff had been offered a job at Apple. Now Jeff is an amazing guy, he told us he was applying for that job before he came to work for us, and even asked for our permission to do so. We of course told him to follow his dreams and see where they lead. So this is in no way his fault, but we’d now lost him as a future resource for bug fixes. Jeff had, however, graciously agreed to give us more of his time than we’d originally planned, so that we could fix the bugs and get out a more stable build. So 5.0.1 and 5.1 where born. Meanwhile, our Pocket Casts customers were naturally curious about where the update was, so we decided to give them something, a sign up form for the beta which we’d start in the new year. It wasn’t the update we’d promised, but it was something at least.
After the holiday period, we regrouped in January. Jeff would spend as much time as he could give us working on version 5.2, which added a dedicated full screen iPad interface, and I went back to work on Pocket Casts. We started inviting the first few hundred beta testers into the Pocket Casts beta and that app started to tick along once again. In February we waved goodbye to Jeff as he flew to America, and I spent a few weeks finishing and testing Pocket Weather in anticipation of a 5.2 release in March. All the while though, I lost a lot of sleep knowing that Pocket Casts while it was still moving, must look to the outside world as if we’d abandoned it completely. We wrestled with how much or how little to share with our customers, knowing that we’d already made the mistake of telling them a ship date, then missing that date. So we made the difficult decision of taking Pocket Weather 5.2 down to 1 day a week, with Pocket Casts taking up the other 4. Happily it worked, a full day on Pocket Weather saw 5.2 come together and ship in April, to the delight of so many of our customers. Our rating went from an average of 1.5 stars, to a 4.5 average overnight. It was a huge relief to see that turn around. We’re not done with the app yet of course, but most of you are probably here to find out when Pocket Casts is due!
Well, the beta is looking great, I’ve been running it now for at least 3 months, adding features and cleaning things up as they are reported and we find things that need tweaking. We’ve had some amazing feedback from our beta testers (we’re full, please don’t ask to join, sorry) that has helped shape some things that we’d normally ship, then refine, to being able to refine before we ship. I’m working on it full time now, 5 days a week. When will it be out? When it’s ready. That answer may sound arrogant or aloof, but all we’re promising from here on out is that we’ll work on it until we’re happy with it. Then we’ll spend a long time testing it and once it’s damn near perfect, that’s when it will ship. I know some of you want to hear that it’s out today, I’m sorry. It is however being worked on today, and tomorrow, and every day after that until it’s ready. It’s our core focus, our singular mission. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to coding. See you on the other side!
Welcome to the Pocket Weather Autumn update!
We know a lot of you have been eagerly awaiting this update to see where we took it and how we could take your feedback on board. We’d also like to thank all those people that joined our Beta Program and have provided us with bug reports and improvement ideas over the last few months.
But let’s talk about some of the big improvements, first on the iPad:
We’ve been hard at work on a brand new interface that utilises the space available on your iPad so that you can get to all your data without having to drill down into it. At the top you’ll find the timeline card which now shows you full weather information at a glance. Below it all the observational data you could ever need. Below those the full graph, radar and tidal information for your location. You can also turn any of these cards on or off, or even re-arrange them to suit your needs. Split screen support is still there, and the interface will intelligently adapt to whatever size you choose.
And of course there’s the iPhone as well. Here we’ve redesigned the header to make information more easily accessible and easier to read. We’ve improved the speed at which the app opens and the speed it refreshes at. We’ve fixed bugs like the Today Widget not updating sometimes. We’ve gone through all the automated crash reports we receive and fixed those issues one by one as well.
Overall it’s a smoother, nicer weather experience that you can enjoy as the temperatures start to dip in our great southern land. Once again to our Beta testers we say thanks for helping us get this release ready. To our loyal customers we say thanks for your constructive feedback and for holding us to the high standard we’ve always set for ourselves. And more importantly to you all, go enjoy some of the nice weather headed our way.
This update means that we are now able to turn our full attention to the long awaited Pocket Casts iOS update, with small, incremental updates to Pocket Weather going forward. Everybody wins! 🎉
The first update for Pocket Casts Android is out. Version 5.3 brings a host of fixes and even a few features to make the app even better.
The full change log:
- You can now filter episodes by time. In the filter settings page there is a new option called “Released in the last” which you can set to 24 hours, 3 days, 1 week etc. We have changed the episode filters new users will have and this update will also add them to your list of filters.
- Marshmallow Auto Backup feature added so if you have app backups turned on (System Settings app -> Backup & reset) it will backup your Pocket Casts settings and database so after restoring a phone your app should look a lot more like it did.
- Switched to Marshmallow permissions. We now only have one permission that requires user approval, the storage permission. The app will only ask for permission for this if you change your storage location to a custom folder.
- Stats page data is now included in your sync account so if you reinstall they aren’t lost. The stats page is now a summary of stats across all your devices.
- Improved switching to a custom location so it picks up any existing episode files in the new location.
- Improved the search for podcast interface.
- Improved voice control. Give these a try after you have said “OK Google”
“Listen to PODCAST NAME in Pocket Casts”
“Listen to PLAYLIST NAME in Pocket Casts”
“Listen to Up Next in Pocket Casts”
- New discover Nearby animation.
- Added a message for the podcast grid if you don’t have any podcasts.
- Faster podcast unsubscribe.
- Fixed issues with video player in landscape.
- Fixed mailto linking in show notes so it opens your mail client with all the fields populated.
- Fixed sync issue with very old starred episodes.
- Fixed the episode time left not updating in the list when returning to the app
- Emojis are now supporting in the show notes and episode titles.
- Lots of little fixes
Fresh from Shifty Jelly HQ to you, Pocket Weather 5 arrives on Android.
Some of the highlights include:
- Design refresh which brings our app into the colourful and amazing world of Material Design.
- Dark Theme! Almost anyone you bump into with an Android phone will tell you the amazing virtues of dark themes on OLED screens. By default it will auto switch to being dark after sunset, but you can also change it manually as well.
- 2016 tides, because fishing, diving, boating and general water activities shouldn’t be left in 2015.
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow support, mmmm, so good, roasted on the bonnet of my Mitsubishi wagon…
- Lots of other small tweaks and improvements, my personal favourite being the new week overview graph. Hint: When the dots go red, it’s time to huddle in your air-conditioned homes and offices.
Thanks for all your feedback to date, we’ve been reading it all and making improvements to the app based on it. This update is mainly a bug fix and minor update release, but rest assured that there are bigger updates to come. The iPad interface in particular is something we intend to focus on. We intend to roll those out slowly and deliberately with lots of testing rather than rushing them out before the holiday break.
Some highlights for this release:
- Added ‘Graph Feels Like’ option in settings for those that are into that
- Added current temperature reading to the location list
- Current temperature on the main screen now has 1 decimal point
- Fixed an issue where turning on bold text would cause some temps to not be displayed. You can now turn Bold back on in your accessibility settings if you’ve turned it off to get them to appear.
- Fixed issues with the warning icon and accessibility settings
- Fixed app icon badge not updated properly when you close the app
- Fixed crashes related to re-ordering locations
- Fixed an issue where the warning icon would wander off down the page. No idea why but it really didn’t want to be in the top right. Rebels are like that sometimes.
- Fixed performance issues with older iOS devices
- Tweaked the order of the layers on the radar card so that important things are still visible when it’s raining
- Warnings can now be opened directly from a notification, also fixed issues with loading of warnings
- Drastically reduced memory usage of the app
- Tide height now updates as you scroll the tide graph
- Lots of other small performance fixes and improvements
We hope you enjoy 5.1, and your holiday break. We’ll see you all in the new year!
It doesn’t feel like that long ago but in mid September we published this in a blog post:
Timing wise it will also ship this year, but we’re keeping the date a secret until just before launch.
Since then a lot of you have been sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for this release, and we know the clock is ticking. So today we have some news for you all!
As you’ve guessed, we haven’t been able to finish the app in time to make the end of year cut-off. Delays to our other app that we shipped last week, Pocket Weather, spilled over into delays for Pocket Casts. This is, alas, how software development often goes.
That said we don’t intend to leave you empty handed. You’ve all waited too long, and hassled us (in the nicest possible ways) too much. So we’re going to let 100 lucky people into our TestFlight beta that we’re prepping. The beta will be available next week. You can register here http://play.pocketcasts.com/ios/beta. We’ll notify you if you get accepted and you get to be part of shaping the future of our iOS app. No pressure.
We live life in the fast lane. Not just us, you too Fred, and you, Sally. When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses, or made time to connect with someone? Introducing, Nearby for Pocket Casts Android.
You can now open up the Nearby tab in Discover to find nearby Android Pocket Casts users (get them to do the same), and see what they’re listening to, easily subscribe and share your own subscriptions. It’s never been easier to discover great new podcasts and spread the word.
Of course, we’re all about freedom of choice, so while we share this cool new Android feature with you, we’re also working on a massive update to Pocket Casts on iOS. We’re not quite ready to share it with you, but with the overwhelming support we’ve received in response to our 5.0 update to Android, we know what you want in the next generation of Pocket Casts on iOS, and we’re working hard to bring it to you soon.
In the meantime, head over to Google Play to update Pocket Casts Android (also includes a bunch of fixes) and remember: stay cool.