Friday, June 19, 2015

Instacast Discontinued

Benjamin Mayo (via Dan Counsell):

Popular podcasting app Instacast for iOS and Mac is shutting down as the founders can no longer fund it or any of Vemedio’s other projects.

Daniel Broad:

Today one of my long time competitors whose product I’ve admired and respected has called it quits. […] I’m very sorry to hear this but the fact is that it’s tough to make money on the App Store. Customers (rightly) demand high quality software which takes time to create, test and support and this requires a business to reach a sustainable income.

Michael Simon:

One of the first podcast clients on the iPhone, the pioneering player helped propel the medium from its humble roots into a global phenomenon spanning the gamut of genres and subjects. But with the podcast app’s popularity came a catch–along with a hoard of new users, a slew of competing players popped up too, all vying to chip away at Instacast’s sizable audience. Over the course of its lengthy version history, it from paid to free with in-app-purchases and even offered two levels of subscription memberships, but modern clients kept the pressure on until the company announced earlier this week that it had run out of money and was shutting down for good.

I prefer Overcast, but it’s scary that such a popular app would not be profitable.

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I really loved Instacast — its UI was amazingly elegant and overall its developer was willing to try something UI-wise, realize it didn't work, and try something else until it did. Some earlier versions were insanely unreliable with basic functions like the 'play' button failing to work, so I wonder if that is some part of the lack of financial success Vemedio has seen, but some may also be that the developer was just so massively overextended. The current/final version has some intermittent glitches (losing track of media files and failing to update the table views with the remaining time in an episode), but is overall reliable, powerful and a joy to use.

So far I've tried out Overcast, Downcast, Pocket Casts and am tentatively going with Castro; it's relatively feature-poor compared with the others but the features it has, I like better. (Some features I miss include multi-selection/sorting in lists and chapter support). Castro's UI is a bit gimmicky for my tastes, but not enough that it's bothersome.

Sad to hear about Instacast. Since only it and Downcast offered Mac versions, maybe some developer will look into buying and continuing to develop it. (Although from what I've seen maintaining the Mac version was costly and time-consuming - especially properly managing syncing betweeen iOS and OSX).

I like some features of Overcast (like Smart Speed) but it's still less polished than Downcast and has fewer features. Downcast handles chapter markers, and Marco says he'll never add it to Overcast. Downcast handles video, and Marco says Overcast will never have it. Downcast lets me set start/end times for individual podcasts (useful when a podcast has a standard intro or endtro). And Downcast has much more sophisticated playlist and smart playlist options.

For me, the one thing that makes Overcast impossible to use is that it insists on downloading all new podcasts one is subscribed to. I am interested in over 100 podcasts but I only listen to a small fraction of them; I am able to configure Downcast to *tell me* when new podcasts are available, and then I look at the topics/guests and only then decide if I want to download a given podcast. (And I can have it auto-download specific podcasts if I want as well.)

Ultimately, if you listen to more than a handful of podcasts (especially if you watch even a single video podcast) you should take a look at Downcast. I have playlists for Mac, Cooking, News, Science, SciFi and a couple more and I also have playlists that sort by newness and by audio length. These are options available in some podcast apps but no other one I know of does it all.

That said, I bought then deleted the $10 Mac version of Downcast because using it badly screwed up the syncing of my podcasts. A web version like Overcast has is a better idea. So is the Google-Reader-like feed that Overcast has (Pocket Casts too), which makes updating podcasts *much* faster than having Downcast visit the RSS feed of each podcast in my list. Still, there's nothing that matches the sophistication of the iOS version of Downcast, and if you're a big podcast listener (or watcher) I don't think there's anything better.

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