Instacast 2.0 and the concept of "added value"

Instacast 2.0 and the concept of

Instacast 2.0 is a significant update to one of the most popular iPhone podcast clients. It changes the user interface and user experience while lowering the entry price and adding an in-app purchase for additional functionality. Both of those things have caused some controversy. Our own Seth Clifford, co-host of iPhone & iPad Live and Iterate is clearly on the "ticked off" side of this particular equation. And he's clearly got his Hulk pants on for this one.

Instacast released its 2.0 update yesterday to some Twitter fanfare. As a regular user of the app, I updated immediately. Now, to be clear, I don't love Instacast. In fact, I have lots of personal issues with it. But as a regular listener of podcasts, it sucked the least of all the apps I've tried, and I've tried many. I wish so much that Apple would add even the most basic subscription support for podcasts to iOS within the native music app, but they haven't, and it doesn't look like they will any time soon.

What I found after updating was an interface that remained just as abstruse as the initial one, with the "added value" of reduced functionality. Most notably, the default behavior for podcasts downloaded within the app was altered. The original behavior of the app was that when podcasts were downloaded, they would stack up in a list, from oldest at the top to newest at the bottom. Now that order is reversed, to list the newest at the top. Which fundamentally changes the only way I listen to shows.

Read the rest of it via the link below. To be fair, there are some people who seem to really like the Instacast update. I haven't spent any real time with it yet, but plan to. The previous version, as Seth states in his article, had significant usability problems (as do all the iOS podcast clients I've tried).

Source: Seth Clifford

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 18 comments. Add yours.

Inappropriate response says:

What do you think of downcast ? I listen to podcasts daily and love it. No problems with it for me.

T-Will says:

Pocket Casts user here. Updates are pushed out regularly and the developer is responsive.

KrispyKrink says:

That sort display order of new to old or old to new can be changed in the settings. Too bad Seth doesn't know what he's doing.

Al says:

And even if it didn't, doesn't newest to oldest make the most sense for a default behavior. How is it preferable to scroll through every episode in a podcast's library to get to the bottom for the newest one?

Seth Clifford says:

See, KrispyKrink, that's the thing. You can (in the current release of the app) only rearrange the order of the episodes in the individual subscription view under each show. When you're viewing your downloaded episodes within the "Downloaded" playlist, that change is not reflected there. It's not applicable to playlists at all. You need the in-app purchase for that. However, what you're describing is how it used to work. Which is why I was kind of bothered in the first place. So while I appreciate the assessment of my observational abilities, you're mistaken.

websyndicate says:

I like downcast much more and the UI as well. I use to use podcaster all the time even in the 1.0 iphone days. Podcaster has always crashed way too much and was just too buggy. Downcast is great and I like that is universal app.

Al says:

I use Instacast and actually like it but I agree that it is unnecessarily complex. (Longer description of this concise statement below)
I listen to most podcasts on my computer at work and so only occasionally listen to them on my iPhone. When I do, I use Instacast but may go as long as a couple of months between uses. I do find that I have to relearn the complicated controls each time that I come back to the app. I will also occasionally pick up my phone during use only to realize it has become incredibly hot. When this happens, it is because I've toggled wifi off and it's been trying to cache several podcasts without my consent in the background on the one bar of AT&T service (might as well be zero bars) I get in my apartment. It's a feature-rich app but certainly has usability and UX problems. I'm glad I saw these warnings before updating.

Mr. R says:

I also like Downcast out of all the podcast apps I've tried. I never had any issues with it and the dev always keeps it up to date.

ThisBrian says:

I use Podcaster but I'm probable no podcaster expert since it's the only one I have used. I have it to schedule downloads every morning but it sucks because I have to open the app for that schedule to start. But other than that it works pretty good, I have my podcast ready for my long drive to work.

cardfan says:

To be fair, the developer mentioned it's a niche app and he needs to be able to charge for upgrades.
I'm not sure i liked Seth's attitude that he won't support the dev or his app (even though he uses it and relies on it for podcasts). And if he really didn't care about the app, he'd not even waste time writing about it. Going further and saying how much it sucks is simply unbelievable especially since he's a developer as well.
Just saying the criticism could have come across in a much classier way.

Seth Clifford says:

I'll admit I laid into it a bit more than I probably ordinarily would, but I think I was perturbed by the changes even more because everyone else that wrote about it just raved and raved without acknowledging the fact that it's not even as strong a UI as it was before. My feelings about my own use case aside, I didn't read a lot that wasn't glowing, and a lot of this came out of conversations I've had with people lately too. I just happened to be the one to put it all down.
On supporting the dev: I bought this app (and their other iOS apps as well), so my personal feelings about the app are my own, and separate from my support, which I have delivered with my multiple purchases. I "wasted time" writing about it because I believe very strongly in interface design and this one struck a chord with me. I don't feel like adding more money to get back something I had before, and I can assure you I'm not alone in that sentiment. Saying it "sucks the least", while caustic, is out of frustration with the relative unavailability of what I consider "best in class" apps in the podcast category, whereas we have an embarrassment of riches with something like Twitter.
In short (too late for that, I know), this was a post on my personal blog, about something I feel very strongly about. It's a bit contrarian, but it's more honest than a lot of other things I read today, and I stand by it.

NicholasBK says:

I agree with Seth! It seems I am one of the few who doesn't like Downcast, and after being annoyed by the buggy Podcaster, I turned to Instacast because it was clean, even though I missed some more advanced features. Now I am even missing some of the features I used to have (after in-app purchase), like gesture for adding to favourites, or the fact that in the now called smartlists (unplayed, downloaded, favourites) I could also browse though subscriptions, and not only through podcasts.
I seriously consider going back to Podcaster...

Tim says:

I agree with a few of the comments above. After trying a number of podcast apps, Downcast shines above them all and offers the most flexibility.

Stuart B says:

I too agree with Seth. This "upgrade" feels like a backwards step to me.

James says:

I agree with Seth; the update is terrible. I paid for the app years ago now and I've probably gotten my money's worth out of it by now so I deleted it bought Downcast for $2.

bdegrande says:

I think Instacast is a good app, but for me Downcast is far and away the best iOS podcatcher. Universal, easy to use, gesture based controls, many variable speed playback options, ability to skip forward or back by intervals that you set up to 10 minutes. etc.

Alan says:

I was a long time user of Podcaster who started using Instacast as Podcaster became increasingly flaky for me.
I too am disappointed with the recent upgrade to 2.0. There are little things, like when you mark a podcast as "played" it shows the action in some other language than English (I think German), but when you mark a podcast as "unplayed" it says "unplayed".
My big complaint is that I used to be able to show just unplayed podcasts or all podcasts using icons on the bottom of the screen. Those icons are now gone and I see no other way of accomplishing this.
I checked the "user guide" that is part of the software on the phone, but it has not caught up with 2.0. It is still for version 1.x.
Like others I am giving Podcaster another try and will give Downcast a look as well.

Scott says:

I pretty much agreed with Seth's post. I loved Instacast, used it daily, and I'm really frustrated by the new version. Simply, it is not as good. Less intuitive, slower, more crash-prone and more confusing. I'm a little annoyed by the regression of features and in-app purchase requirement, but that wouldn't matter if the basic UI were as functional. But it's not. And where I think the developer really bungled was in failing to educate existing users as to the changes in the app. Most people, including myself, seem to have no idea whether "Archive" removes podcasts from your device or just hides them. I emailed and tweeted the developer and received an auto-reply that I should figure it out for myself.