Instacast is simply my favorite podcast player on iOS, and I’m delighted to say that Instacast has now reached version 1.3 and is available for download in the App Store. Instacast 1.3 brings lots of new features to the fold, including improvements for clearing out cached tunes, a download waiting list, chapter lists (super useful for podcasts like the Mac Geek Gab), video airplay for those Revision3 podcasts, and “group sorting” in the All Episodes list that bundles together similar episodes. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s dive right in.
If you drift to sleep during a talk show, you may want more control over automatically managing cached episodes. While it’s easy to ingest new audio or video episodes over WiFi for offline listening, clearing that cache should be a pretty simple affair right? Not exactly. Played episodes clear the cache off your iPhone or iPod touch — have you ever drifted asleep or wanted to listen to a segment again, and found your podcast automatically cleared out? It could be problematic, especially while traveling (why are you bringing your iPhone camping again?). Ultimately you’d turn these options off, but then you’re left clearing out each episode’s cache individually. To help alleviate those woes, Instacast has an additional setting that only clears and episode’s cache when new episodes are loaded. With most shows airing in the afternoon or evening, you don’t have to wake up having missed an important chapter you slept through, or risk having your podcasts accidentally cleared if you’re traveling to locations with little or no Internet.
Let’s say you’re at home downloading a bunch of episodes, and you need to run out of the office for an emergency meeting. Of course, you snatch your iPhone out of its dock and head out the door, leaving your wireless network. AT&T only offers meager data plans, so you’ve gotten yourself into some trouble with 3G-caching disabled. In another situation, perhaps you have to flip your phone into Airplane Mode. Podcasts in the middle of downloading would normally be lost, but Instacast now pauses the download and will pick up where it left off (provided you press the resume button). Instacast will send you an alert to remind you that you have unfinished downloads as you re-enter a WiFi network. You can also manually cancel a download half-way through, and pick up where you left off later if you need to free up some bandwidth on your local network. Episodes marked as cached now show a larger green arrow akin to the favorite label.
Chapter lists are by far one of my favorite features of the new Instacast, and it’s so convenient to use when you actually listen to a podcast that uses them. The Mac Geek Gab is the first example that comes to mind — every topic change or show segment has its own individual chapter. On a technical podcast such as this, where I may only be interested in finding a solution on a specific topic, Instacast’s implementation is far more convenient than iTunes. Chapter lists mimic the inline song browser style in Apple’s music/iPod app for iOS. Now, if only every podcast had chapter lists…
(Editors note: I promise I don’t skip through your shows Dave and John!)
If you’re lucky enough to have an Apple TV or have another AirPlay enabled device on the network, you can now pipe video from Instacast to the big screen. Your favorite video podcasts can be streamed with just a few taps: double tap to bring up the volume slider, tap airplay, then tap your Apple TV to start piping video across your wireless network. Easy!
To round out the new features, there’s an option to sort episodes in your All Episodes list by group. What this means is that similar podcasts will be grouped together: episodes of Buzz Out Loud will be grouped, followed by episodes of The 404, etc. Instead of listing new episodes from top-to-bottom, this feature gives an option to keep things nice an tidy. Personally, I would rather this feature didn’t include already-played podcasts, but the developer encourages feedback as to this and other sort options you’d like to see included.
Update: rmp135 in the comments below says if you turn Unseen Only on, you can hide played episodes in the All Episodes list, without affecting individual episode lists. This is new to me, and really awesome. Thanks RMP!
Some of you guys really hate this feature, but personally I love it. When you pause an episode in Instacast, and pick up where you left off, Instacast will rewind ten or so seconds to help you remember where the conversation last left off. I think it’s really useful, but others feel they don’t need to relive that segment or hear it again. Okay you never-hear-againers! There’s now an option to turn this particular preference off.
There’s also a new feature called continuous playback — when a podcast ends, Instacast will wait momentarily before playing the next episode in the list. I’m not sure how I feel about this feature just yet considering I jump around a lot, and as far as I know there isn’t an option to turn it off in the settings.
Update: There is an option to turn it off in the settings under the Playback section. Missed this one. Also courtesy of rmp135.
Instacast is dropping iOS 3 support, and recommends that you don’t download the latest update if you want to keep the app running on your older iOS devices. Many developers are going to be dropping iOS 3 support in the near future as maintaining backwards compatibility between three different versions of iOS will be difficult. The system player in Instacast has also been axed, leaving only Instacast’s audio player in the fray.
I can’t help but agree that this is one of Instacast’s best updates yet. You’ll probably disagree with me if you’re running iOS 3.x, and that’s understandable. If you’re on iOS 4.x, check your update queue in the App Store to download the latest version, and if you don’t yet have Instacast, it’s only $1.99 in the App Store.