Latest update - v2.9.32

This release is mostly a performance + bug fix release. The iOS app should be noticeably more stable now. I was able to identify and fix a few really difficult to debug issues that would lead to random crashes, especially in the background. There are some general performance improvements as well as a couple changes to reduce memory consumption.

Several issues with the download queue were also fixed. That includes an issue where deleting downloads wouldn't update the episode counts for the corresponding podcast, a row duplication issue when rearranging downloads, and a queue order issue when queueing multiple episodes for download at once. All very annoying issues, all fixed.

I'm still working on the sync replacement, among other things, which is still going well and I hope to be done with that very soon. Hang in there, changes are on the way.

Also, a surprising number of you ask how to provide additional financial support. How nice! Downcast has had a tip jar for quite a while now to let you do just that! I haven't really promoted it because that's annoying, but I get enough inquiries that I feel it needs to be mentioned from time to time. You can find it in the app here: More tabSupport Downcast.


watchOS 4 Update

Version 2.9.30 is now available in the iOS & macOS App Stores.

The macOS update is minor and contains a few bug fixes related to continuous play and iCloud Syncing.

The iOS update is notable since it contains a major technical upgrade for the watchOS app and several bug fixes. The watchOS app is now finally built against the watchOS 4 SDK, which means complication support. Since most of the code in the watchOS app was related to the disappointing inter-app communication methods available in the watchOS 1 SDK, it is essentially a complete rewrite. The result is a much snappier app with a much smaller codebase that requires far less processing on your iPhone. It still requires your iPhone to function, but stand-alone playback is something planned for later this year, assuming Apple makes some reasonable improvements to the audio playback APIs in watchOS 5 (or a watchOS 4.x update, but that's doubtful). The primary UI change you'll notice is the removal of section headers in the Podcasts & Playlists views as well as a couple of new icons to indicate whether something will be streamed and whether it is unconsumed (non-local).

Aside from the watchOS app, the iOS app also received a number of bug fixes and improvements. Fixes include the playlist episode reordering issue, random pausing on HomePod or other Airplay devices, and a sync related issue. It also gained a performance bump due to changing how the watchOS app communicates with it, improves the VoiceOver 'Jump to Time' feature.

One other minor change to the iOS app is that when resuming from an interruption, the player will now skip back by ~1s. I do plan to make this a configurable interval in a future update.


Up next is the new sync system. CloudKit wins. It's better than anything I could come up with, fast, secure, scales forever, doesn't significantly increase my overhead, and keeps your data out of my hands. Plus, I just can't bring myself to make you sign up for yet another account, that's like starting an at bat with one strike. No thanks.

This is in progress and moving along nicely.

Fair warning, iOS 9 support will most likely be dropped prior to the sync system replacement. To support it means using deprecated CloudKit APIs and risking the experience for the overwhelming majority of users in order to support a very small, and rapidly decreasing, number of old devices.


On the way

Not going to bother apologizing for the long delay in blog posts, apologies get old for everyone. Just gonna say what's imminent, whats coming, and what's coming a bit later.

Imminent

Updated watch app - The watch app has finally been updated to support watchOS 2, 3, and 4. Support for watchOS 1 has been dropped. This is mainly just a technical transition, don't expect huge changes. You'll still need your phone to use the app. Stand alone features will come later. That said, the new watch app has complication support, should be snappier and more reliable, and should provide the iOS app with a performance boost since it no longer needs to do nearly as much work to keep the watch app up to date. This should be in beta later this week.

Help article update - I've used Desk.com for support tickets and support articles for years, and if you don't have anything nice to say. A few months ago I switched to Front for support tickets, what a relief. Today I've switched the support articles over to Helpdocs.io, another relief. There's still a lot of work to do on the articles, but they've all had a once over, some old ones thrown on the burn pile, and now they look like they were created this century.

Maintenance - Continued maintenance on the v2.9.x version of Downcast. A lot of problems have been corrected recently in the v2.9.x version and will continue until v3 is released.

Coming soon

Server side feed aggregation - Refreshing feeds is a huge resource hog. It burns CPU, RAM, and battery life. Moving this process server-side will save your battery, make Downcast snappier in general, and prevent a lot of sporadic crashes that are a result of memory pressure. Downcast will still refresh password protected and private feeds on your device, so the functionality won't disappear entirely, it'll just have much less of a presence. This is far along in development. At this point I'm just ironing out some performance issues, trying not to spend too much on servers.

Push notifications - Server side aggregation makes this possible, and required. It's been a long missing feature of Downcast and I can't wait to get this done.

Sync system replacement - This is another resource hog right now due to the type of iCloud syncing we're currently using. The replacement will be far more reliable and far less resource consuming. Between moving feed refreshing to the server and replacing the sync system, you should notice a significant improvement in both performance and battery life.

Coming a bit later

V3 - If Duke Nukem Forever™ was a podcast app. As much as I want to just wrap this up, server side aggregation and replacing the sync system have to come first. Refreshing on the device and the current sync system are the two biggest sources of problems and customer support for Downcast. I don't want Downcast to inherit any of the problems v2.x has by not addressing these two things first.

Apple TV app & Web presence - Hope to round things out with these two. Again, server side aggregation and a new sync system make these much easier.


v2.9.18 Update ⟶

v2.9.18 (iOS & macOS) has been submitted to the App Store for review. Assuming no arbitrary roadblocks are thrown in it's way, it should be available within the next two days. [more]

v2.x update, iPhone X, v3 screenshots ⟶

I never said I was fast. I really did intend to post updates more frequently, and I still do! It's been another crazy couple of months for me, but I'm still hard at work on v3 and still shooting for around the end of the year for releasing it. [more]

Localization ⟶

Just a quick note, as of today I'm officially full-time on Downcast. That means things will actually get done in a reasonable amount of time! That will include more frequent status updates, and hopefully a couple of minor bug fix updates for v2.9.x soon. [more]

JSON Feed ⟶

Parsing feeds has always been one of the more unpleasant parts of Downcast's codebase. Much of that is to blame on the fact that podcast feeds, RSS & Atom, are XML based. XML is incredibly powerful, but nearly all of that power is lost on simple podcast feeds. They could easily be expressed using JSON. [more]

Time ⟶

Time is a frustrating thing. There's never enough of it, it passes too quickly, too slowly, we have to waste it sleeping, there's daylight saving time, no one uses decimal time, etc. The last few years have been incredibly frustrating for me because of the lack of time I've had to devote to Downcast. I've been supplementing my income with contract work, then spending whatever time was left over, which hasn't been much, to work on Downcast. I also don't work well when I'm torn between multiple unrelated tasks, so the time I have had for Downcast has been distracted time at best. That's been frustrating, depressing, stressful, you name it. [more]

Still Here ⟶

First things first, I want to apologize for the lack of updates, responsiveness, and general silence for the last several months. It has been a struggle recently trying to find the necessary time to devote to Downcast and its users. That said, I'm still working on finishing V3, and Downcast is not dead. [more]

Mac Media Keys ⟶

As of version 2.9.17, Downcast for Mac can finally be controlled using an Apple keyboard's media keys. Since Apple still doesn't permit sandboxed apps to control the media keys, we have to do this with the help of a free 3rd party app called BeardedSpice. This app acts as a system wide controller for your media keys, passing media key press events to the appropriate application whether it's Downcast, Spotify, iTunes or some other app. [more]

Upcoming changes ⟶

Sorry for the long break, I've been busy working on the next major version of Downcast, v3.0. For the initial release of v3.0 my focus is modernizing the UI and underlying codebase changes that will reduce bugs, improve performance, and make adding features and making changes a far less time consuming process. Downcast has been playing catchup with iOS and macOS releases for a while now and v3.0 should help to break that cycle. After the initial release, the plan is to push out some other significant improvements as quickly as possible. [more]

iCloud Syncing Changes ⟶

A number of syncing improvements are being introduced in v2.9.13. Performance and reliability are the focus. Both the iOS and Mac apps are receiving the same treatment. [more]

Publishers and user-agents ⟶

When an application makes a request for a web resource, it includes a user-agent string in that request to identify itself to the server. The server may use this for any number of reasons like serving up mobile vs desktop versions of websites, analytics, etc. [more]

CarPlay ⟶

Downcast's CarPlay support is currently awaiting review now available in the App Store! This is an exciting addition for Downcast. You've been asking for this for a long time and it's finally here. [more]

A few notes on App Store reviews ⟶

App Store reviews affect sales, no doubt. That's why so many apps have a nag screen begging for ratings. Downcast won't do that in the app since it's annoying, but it doesn't mean I don't want your positive review or 5-star rating! [more]

Tips - A Way to Support Downcast ⟶

Downcast has always been one of the most inexpensive podcast clients available despite its long list of features. I’d like to keep it that way but it needs to generate more revenue in order to continue adding the features podcast listeners want and expand to other platforms. [more]

Downcast in 2016... ⟶

Downcast had its ups and downs in 2015. I took over development & support at the beginning of 2015 and it has been a learning experience. An Apple Watch app was introduced and our iOS player UI was overhauled. The player UI change brought with it some painful bugs but now that the worst of them are resolved, Downcast is in a much better position to be improved going forward. [more]