Apple has probably empowered the medium of podcasting more than any other company. The Cupertino-based technology giant gave podcasting its first big boost when it added podcasts to the iTunes desktop application in 2005. Thanks to the popularity of Apple’s breakthrough portable media player, the iPod, iTunes had become a ubiquitous destination for consumers looking to easily acquire new audio. And when those users suddenly found a podcasting directory chock full of free content next to their favorite music store, they began consuming podcasts in droves.
Apple gave another healthy push to podcasting when it released the first iteration of its standalone Podcasts app in 2012. The app was ultimately developed to work alongside what would become Apple’s streaming music service (Apple Music). But there was some definite confusion when the app first showed up. Previously, users had been able to access podcasts thru their iOS devices’ iPod and Music apps. Apple would go on to include the new Podcasts app in its “core” collection of apps that couldn’t be deleted by users. This meant that iOS users had to deal with the app, if for no other reason than to stick it into an “unused apps” folder. And while it’s certain that many users did just that, many others opened the app and began listening to podcasts for the first time.
Apple’s Podcasts app is still a standard part of iOS. It shows up any time the operating system is freshly installed. But a big change came to the app with last month’s release of iOS 10. The app is no longer indestructible, and can now be removed by simply pressing and holding the app icon, and then tapping the X that pops up in the top left portion of the icon.
The change was likely made due to consumer demand, as many iOS users have wanted to be able to remove Apple’s core apps for years. It’s doubtful the app’s removable status will have any impact on podcast consumption overall. But it is kinda sad in a way that the app can be deleted now.
It seems like a given that the iTunes desktop application and/or Apple’s Podcasts app for iOS are the default programs most people use to listen to podcasts. And while that may be true, a number of third-party developers have come up thru the years to challenge Apple’s grip on the podcast consumption market. Many of these non-Apple apps are designed to work on one platform. For example, Overcast is only available on iOS. Downcast is a little better, being available on both iOS and MacOS. With the release of Pocket Casts 6, app developer Shifty Jelly is bringing your favorite shows to you, regardless of which device you’re currently using. And the app is also sporting some new features:
Redesigned user interface: Shifty Jelly describes the new Pocket Casts interface as, “Simple to understand, easy to use,” and “It looks good as well.” Adding, “Many things can now be accomplished faster than before and it just looks and works so much better.”
Trim Silence and Volume Boost: A special algorithm ensures that podcasts are played back at a loud (but still comfortable) volume, making it easier to hear the overall production. This feature also removes excessive amounts of silence between speaking passages, effectively cutting out unwanted dead air.
Picture-in-Picture and Split-Screen Support for iPad.
Up Next: This feature makes it easier to decide which podcasts to play after the current selection.
Dark Theme: An alternative look for the Pocket Casts app that makes it easier to use during nighttime hours.
We live in an ever-increasing world of “unlimited” services. But one place that utopian vision of “everything all the time forever” doesn’t really apply is podcast media hosting. That’s why it can be useful to know how big your media files will be before publishing them to the web. But the only method that’s usually available to determine file size is to simply encode a file and check its properties. That process works but it’s far from efficient.
Billed as “A bit rate and file size calculator for audio engineers,” a new mobile app called Bit Bandit can help you calculate file size before encoding:
Use it to quickly calculate the bit rate of a piece of audio based on its sample rate, bit depth and channel count. Display the results in units of your choice.
Bit Bandit can also calculate file size based on bit rate. Commonly used bit rates are included by default.
I downloaded Bit Bandit and did some testing. It has two sections. A Bit Rate section and a File Size section. The Bit Rate section is really more of a curiosity than anything else. But it might be fun to play around with if you’re a math nerd.
The File Size calculator found within Bit Bandit will definitely be of use to podcasters. In the example below, I told Bit Bandit to calculate the size of a file that’s 1 hour, 30 minutes long, and is encoded at 96kbps. The app told me that my file would be in the neighborhood of 63.3MB.
Bit Bandit is a free download for both iOS and Android. The app developer has suggested there will be a paid version of Bit Bandit with enhanced features in the future.
When Marco Arment released the first version of his podcast-consumption app, Overcast, it worked on a freemium model where users could pay a one-time fee of $4.99 to unlock all of the app’s features. Today, Arment announced the release of Overcast 2.0. This version will be completely free, with all features immediately available to all users.
Arment explained the reasons for this change on his website:
Overcast 1.0 locked the best features behind an in-app purchase, which about 20% of customers bought. This made enough money, but it had a huge downside:
80% of my customers were using an inferior app. The limited, locked version of Overcast without the purchase sure wasn’t the version I used, it wasn’t a great experience, and it wasn’t my best work.
With Overcast 2.0, I’ve changed that by unlocking everything, for everyone, for free. I’d rather have you using Overcast for free than not using it at all, and I want everyone to be using the good version of Overcast.
Arment is now asking Overcast users to instead sign up for a voluntary monthly subscription to help cover the costs of upkeep and development:
If you can pay, I’m trying to make up the revenue difference by offering a simple $1 monthly patronage. It’s completely optional, it doesn’t get you any additional features, and it doesn’t even auto-renew — it’s just a direct way to support Overcast’s ongoing development and hosting without having to make the app terrible for 80% of its users.
If only 5% of customers become monthly patrons, Overcast will match its previous revenue.
The Overcast developer may offer special incentives for subscribers in the future. For now, he’s seeing these voluntary subscriptions as a true “patronage model,” where users are paying for the app itself and its continued development.
This week, Apple unleashed iOS 9, the latest version of the operating system that runs all of the company’s iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, onto the general public. After applying the latest iOS update and rebooting their devices, many users came to find that Podcasts, Apple’s proprietary podcast app for iOS, was no longer working.
A thread started by user jplang56 on the Apple Support Communities forum about this problem has racked up 58 replies so far. Most of the responses are from other iOS users expressing their own frustrations with the now-broken Podcasts app.
I’ve tried the app on my iPhone 6 Plus as well as my iPad Mini Retina and it worked fine for me on both devices. But I don’t use Podcasts as my main podcast consumption app, so I don’t have very large podcast libraries inside the Podcasts app. Being subscribed to a lot of different shows may be a factor in this issue, as many users are reporting that they’re receiving an “Updating Library” message just before the app shuts down.
No one from Apple has yet to chime in on this problem. If you’ve been affected, try some of the solutions users have posted in the support thread linked above. Presumably, Apple will address this issue with the next iOS update.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the Podcasts app, I highly recommend Downcast. I’ve used it for a couple years on iOS and my iMac and it’s been a good experience so far. Downcast has also survived the transition to iOS 9 with no known issues.
This year’s CES has officially wrapped. But there’s still a lot of news to process from that massive event. One item that caught my attention was Shure’s release of three new microphones (and one audio interface) under its new MOTIV line, made to work with iOS devices. Here’s a rundown on all of the devices, with information quoted from the Shure website:
MV88 Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone: Designed to capture clear, high-quality stereo sound on the go, MV88 directly connects to any iOS device equipped with a Lightning® connector. The microphone element is mounted to a 90-degree hinge with built-in rotation that offers flexible positioning options, even in video applications. Access five built-in preset modes for voice and instruments using the ShurePlus™ MOTIV Mobile Recording App, which also offers real-time adjustments to gain, stereo width and EQ with 24-bit / 48 kHz recording.
MV51 Digital Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone: MV51 features a striking vintage design that includes a headphone output and an integrated kickstand compatible with any standard mic stand. A unique touch panel allows for quick access to gain, mute and headphone monitoring volume adjustments. With seamless 24-bit / 48 kHz digital recording that delivers unmatched audio results, MV51 features five onboard DSP preset modes (Speech, Singing, Flat, Acoustic Instrument, Loud). It includes both a Micro-B-to-USB cable for connection to a PC, Mac or Android device, and a Micro-B-to-LTG cable for connection to Apple iOS devices.
MV5 Digital Condenser Microphone: Ideal for music, podcasting and video chats, MV5 features three onboard DSP presets (Vocals, Flat, Instrument) that provide optimal settings for virtually any sound source with great results, every time. Available in two colors (regionally dependent), MV5 can either make a bold statement or blend seamlessly into any creative space. An integrated headphone output offers real-time monitoring. The low-profile design and detachable desktop stand ensure flexibility and portability. MV5 also includes a Micro-B-to-USB cable for connection to a PC, Mac or Android device, and is available with a Micro-B-to-LTG cable for connection to Apple mobile devices.
Tech website macmixing got the opportunity to do a hands-on comparison between Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay during the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. Android Auto and CarPlay are the two leading “connected car” technologies that promise to bring the functionality of smartphones to automobile dashboards. Many in the podcasting community believe that the connected car will be the next big growth area for the medium, as it’ll make it more convenient for commuters to consume podcasts while driving.
macmixing produced a video that demonstrates the functionality of both Android Auto and CarPlay:
Both systems support podcasting apps. But because Android has no native podcast support, Android Auto users will have to navigate to a page that contains third-party apps. With CarPlay, Apple’s native Podcasts app appears on screen as soon as CarPlay is selected on the in-dash touchscreen.
This is the first demonstration I’ve seen of these competing technologies and they both look promising for making it easier than ever to listen to podcasts on the road. But once again, Apple has put support for podcasts front and center, while Google still relinquishes podcasting support to third-party developers.
Rob Walch of podcast411 and LibSyn has said many times that, if you’re a podcaster, Google is not your friend. And when it comes to the connected car, that statement is proven correct once more.
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This offer is available starting today and runs thru December 12th. In order to take advantage of the offer and get your podcast apps into the Amazon, Google Play, and iOS stores, you’ll need to subscribe to LibSyn’s $20/month (or higher) hosting plan and you’ll need to have your own Apple and Google developer accounts. Once you have all of these requirements taken care of, you’ll need to fill out the “app destinations” form that will become active in your LibSyn dashboard.
For full instructions on how to set up your developer accounts and get your LibSyn-powered app created, follow the LibSyn offer link at the top of this blog entry. As the LibSyn offer points out, now is a great time to get your own app as there will be a surge of mobile devices entering the market during the holiday season and the owners of those devices may just be looking for your app!
There’s always been a noticeable lack of podcast production tools for Android users compared to iOS. But podcast hosting/live-streaming company Spreaker is working to change that with the release of its Spreaker Studio app for Android. From the Spreaker blog:
We’ve punched up our app to include everything you’ve wanted – the ability to add songs and sound effects while you go live, toggle the microphone, and more so that you can take over the entire production of your own podcast or radio show.
Push REC at the top and choose to go live or record and then publish later. Make sure to adjust the microphone and switch it to ON to keep it on the entire time your broadcast, or hold down Push to Talk to only record vocals when you need to. Want to play songs? Tap on Add New Song to start pulling songs from your device, and set them on the decks. Play as you go, or choose Auto DJ to let the playlist run on its own. And don’t forget to tap on any of the sound effects on the right to add extra flair to your content.
When going live, you’ll get a chance to set up your track’s info before you go on the air. When recording offline, your track will instead be placed in your Drafts collection as soon as you choose to publish it.