I am happy to announce that Instacast 2.0 is now available in the App Store. We have been working on this update for the last 4 months. It is a major upgrade with lots of changes under the hood, but also with a lot of new features.
Before I tell you about all the great new stuff, I first need to get something out of the way. The pricing structure for Instacast has changed. All versions prior to 2.0 have been priced at $2. While this was a great price it is not enough to sustain the development of a niche product over a long period of time. You may have read about the missing update model in the App Store everywhere on the internet during the last months. Many developers are struggling to get their apps funded for a second, third and whatever round. Instacast is not a mass product, it has found its niche among podcast lovers, but the majority of users is still using iTunes and I assume that this will remain so for the foreseeable future. There is a lot of stuff to be invented and developed in the realm of podcasts and I would like to play my part, but since Instacast is taking so much of my time, I need the funding to sustain it. I thought a lot about this issue and decided to change the pricing model. The first thing I will do is to lower the initial price from $1.99 to $0.99. I hope this will convince more people to try out the app. Second, I added an in-app purchase for features that novice users won't need most likely, but power-users will appreciate when using the app on a day-to-day basis. It's called Instacast Pro and it's for sale at $1.99. For now it includes the ability to manage playlists, add your own bookmarks, configure settings on a podcast-by-podcast basis and receive push notifications for new episodes. Every other new feature is going to be delivered to previous owners for free. This way everybody has the opportunity to stay up-to-date on the latest architectural advances, but opt-in for new features.
So what are these architectural advances I am speaking about? Over the passing months I was heavily involved in a project called Podlove.org. Brought to life by Tim Pritlove, blogger and podcaster based in Berlin, Germany, the project tries to improve technology around podcasts, from the production process over publishing platforms right up to podcast clients and I am playing my part solving the chicken and egg problem by adding new features to Instacast that podcasters can use to improve the overall user experience. As such, I added support for Flattr, Atom feeds, Multi-Format Feeds, Podcast Deep Linking and MP3 Chapters. There is much more in the pipeline. If you are a podcaster and want to take advantage of these new features, make sure you check out the Podcast Publisher FAQ.
So what else is new in Instacast? The first thing you'll notice is that the navigational hierarchy has been changed and optimized. The application now provides three main tabs for Subscriptions, Playlists and Bookmarks. The old Reeder-style navigation on the bottom is gone. Instead a handy summary of the content above is now being given.
The next thing you should check out is the player. Try to swipe the controller up and reveal the new playback options. From left to right, you get an AirPlay button, a button to change Playback Speed, a Sleep Timer, a button to enable forward and backward Continuous Playback and a button with new inline Sharing Options. The AirPlay button is pretty much the same as every other AirPlay button in iOS. The playback speed can be changed to 1.5x, 2x, 1/2x and to normal speed. Tap the sleep timer button multiple times to switch between 5, 10, 15, 60 min. Once the timer elapses, playback is being paused. You can now enable or disable Continuous Playback and set it to advance forward or backward in the current playlist. If a podcast provides chapter information, you can now navigate between chapters easily without going to the chapter list. Speaking of chapter list, behind the podcast image/video in the player, we also added 2 new tabs, one being Links and the other being Bookmarks. The list of links is an easy way to follow all links that have been provided with the show notes. The Bookmarks tab lists all bookmarks you added for the current episode and let you create new ones.
Another big new thing are the new sharing features. For the written word there are a lot of places on the internet where you can state an opinion or comment about a blog article. However for podcasts there is nothing. Partly because up until now their has been no technique to deep link to certain parts of audio or video content. Instacast is doing the first steps to improve on this situation. For that we added a sharing web service that Instacast can talk to. Right now there are mainly two sharing options. One being making a bookmark / deep link on a particular time of a podcast episode. This bookmark can be linked to via a short URL and can be posted on Twitter, Facebook or wherever you like. Behind that link is an HTML5 compatible audio/video player that plays directly from the time you gave it. The other option being the integrated Twitter discussion. It takes the deep linking technique a bit further and integrates directly with Twitter. You can tweet a comment right out of the app which adds a sharing link automatically. This link points to a dedicated discussion website (example) where other Twitter users can add their own comments. The website aggregates all comments behind the scenes and publishes the whole thread. It's a great new way to add user interaction and participation to the podcast universe.
Finally coming back to the Instacast Pro option I mentioned earlier. With Instacast Pro you can add playlists and smart playlists, manage bookmarks, configure automatic behaviors on a podcast-by-podcast basis and receive push notifications when new episodes are available. With smart playlists you can choose between Unplayed, Favorites, Downloaded, Partially Downloaded, Recently Played, and Most Recent episodes. You can change the sorting of a smart playlist and opt-in for sorting episodes based on the podcast order. With playlists you can add or remove arbitrary episodes and change their order. You can also configure a podcast subscription to automatically add new episodes to a particular playlist e.g adding 'The Talk Show' and 'Hypercritical' to a playlist called '5by5'.
Instacast 2.0 is now also fully compatible with VoiceOver, improves import and export options and is available in English and German. I am sure there will be a lot of questions. I will post more info and FAQs in the coming weeks. As always you can leave your comment on Twitter and get the app from the App Store.
May 7th, 2012 • Permalink
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