There’s no secret that we love Pocket Casts at Ausdroid; in fact we very nearly fired one of our writers for not using it recently! In true Shifty fashion, they’ve outdone themselves on the re-release of their flagship app, Pocket Casts. Pocket Casts 4.0 features a new user interface for Android, true tablet support (Nexus focus of course!), cross device syncing, remote backup, smart and dynamic playlists, variable speed playback, automated download control for playlists and a totally redesigned menu layout which Shifty Jelly released some of the details of what is new in a recent blog post.
So what’s new in Pocket Casts 4?
- Completely redesigned, completely awesome, modern Android user interface.
- Tablet support. We’ve targeted Nexus 7 and 10, and it looks great on others too.
- Cross-device syncing of your subscriptions, playlists and play states on every Android device you own. We *love* this feature.
- Remote backup. You can now drop your phone in a toilet and not lose your podcasts. Buying a new phone and setting it up has never been easier.
- Actual smart dynamic playlists. 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 here as well for the super picky among you.
The embargo has lifted on the beta testers so I can now tell you and show you what you’ll get in a matter of a few hours if you’ve already purchased the app. If you haven’t, go buy it!
The interface is completely different to what we’re used to not only graphically but the way in which you interact with the device has changed totally. The look is more modern, sleek and feels more intuitive than previous versions using more natural fluid movements and swipes than ever before rather than tapping and touch navigation. For example, you swipe from left to right to reveal the new menu.
Tablet support has been missing from podcast players since Android’s ventures into the tablet market began: they either didn’t work, scaled badly or were just plain ugly on tablets, particularly at the 10″ scale that the majority were at until the Nexus 7 came crashing through the market. Not only does the new Pocket Casts look great on the Nexus 7, it works great and has an interface specifically for it! It’s designed perfectly to fit the screen instead of just being expanded to fill the screen.
The cross-device sync is something I know I requested some time ago and a feature that is requested on a regular basis. In the latest incarnation of Pocket Casts we get it! Register an email address, setup a password and log in on every Android device you want to sync: simple as that. In my testing I never expected the completion of an episode to relay within seconds to a secondary device, but it does. While happily sitting and listening to podcasts that had been downloaded on my phone overnight, I looked at my Nexus 7 as one finished wondering when the recently played and finished podcast would disappear from my Nexus 7 list, to my excitement it was already gone and I was impressed.
The OPML backup is not exactly new, and now with the cross-device sync I’m not convinced that it’s a necessity either. The only time I’ve used it was when I changed devices (before sync in Pocket Casts) or when I sent a full list of my podcasts to a friend to check if he liked any of them. The function remains available and useful for some, but I’ll be sticking with the cross-device sync because it’s sexy and I like it!
Playlists have been totally rethought, redesigned and reinvigorated for those who like to use them. Unfortunately, not all the functions that people are used to and want are there at this point, such as the ability to sort playlists manually. There’s more work to come and no doubt a number of updates post-release due to the nature of Android development (you can’t test every device). No more do you need to manually add downloaded podcasts to a playlist, nor do you need to tell Pocket Casts to download the list of outstanding podcasts. You can setup a list of specific podcasts and your preferred way to automatically download them :
- When on Wifi
- When plugged in
More functions you say?
OK, how about built in (not reliant on external codec) speed multiplier for playback?
Not enough? How about making it smart enough to know what speed you played a specific podcast at for the last episode? DONE!
Why would you do this? I listen to many podcasts, technical and otherwise, some such as our friends at Android Central being all men talk at a fairly consistent rate that allows me to listen to playback at 2 x normal speed. Where TWiT network podcasts with Sarah Lane (this isn’t a personal attack, merely stating a fact) who speaks at a naturally faster rate than the guys at AC, is impossible to listen to at that speed so I listen at 1.5 x normal speed.
Despite having been playing with this for some time, I’m still astounded by the functionality that has been written into the new version. I honestly take my hat off to the gents over at Shifty Jelly for another outstanding job on re-thinking and re-designing the way we listen to podcasts. If you’ve yet to buy it, you’ve only got a couple of hours to buy before the release of the new version and a likely price increase. Well worth the money, even if you only listen to a few podcasts a week.
The only notable absence in my opinion is the widget for controlling playback on your homescreen, though Shifty Jelly has assured us that this functionality is coming. To be honest, now I’ve started using the lockscreen controls more and using the smart playlists I’m not actually missing it that much.
Pocket Casts 4 will be available through Google Play today, the app was submitted to Google Play overnight. Pocket Cast is available for devices running Gingerbread(Android 2.3) and upwards.
As always with access to beta testing, Ausdroid would like to thank Shifty Jelly for allowing us the privilege of seeing the early versions of their hard work and the opportunity to help shape it’s development through the beta program. A lot of time and effort goes into apps like this, without dedicated developers like the guys at Shifty the smartphone world would be a really dull place and we’d all be chained to iTunes *shudder*. Thanks guys!