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Posts tagged with "overcast"

Overcast Refines Podcast Listening with AirPlay 2 Support and a New Version of Voice Boost

Overcast, Marco Arment’s iOS podcast player, received its first update of 2020 today, which enhances the listening experience with improvements focused on playback and audio quality.

Today’s update adds support for AirPlay 2, which means much faster switching between devices like an iPhone or iPad and a HomePod or another AirPlay 2 speaker or device. AirPlay 2 also buffers more audio than Apple’s original AirPlay technology. As a result, Overcast can continue playing a podcast episode even if you are temporarily out of range of the AirPlay 2 receiver.

I’m delighted that Overcast supports AirPlay 2 now. I often listen to podcasts as I’m doing things around my house. When I move to a room with one of my HomePods, the process of switching to the HomePod from my iPhone’s built-in speaker is much faster and smoother now, whether I use Control Center or tap my phone on the top of the HomePod. The delay with the original version of AirPlay wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was a constant small annoyance that kept me from using AirPlay with Overcast most of the time. With AirPlay 2 baked into the app, I’m using my HomePods to listen to podcasts far more than ever before.

There's a lot going on under the hood with Voice Boost 2, but you don't need to understand the details to enjoy it.

There’s a lot going on under the hood with Voice Boost 2, but you don’t need to understand the details to enjoy it.

The latest version of Overcast also adds Voice Boost 2. The feature has been rebuilt from the ground up, and the results are subtle but noticeable. The first time I played a podcast using Voice Boost 2 over my iPhone’s speaker in a noisy environment, I immediately sensed the difference. Where in the past, I would have to turn the volume up all the way to hear a podcast over constant, loud background noise like running water, now I can turn the volume down and still listen to what was said and with less distortion.

Over the weeks I’ve been testing the update to Overcast, Voice Boost 2’s volume and clarity improvements have become the ‘new normal,’ making the difference feel less pronounced than they were at first. However, that’s also why the update to the feature is so good. The change is so natural that you don’t notice it except side-by-side with the old version of the feature or another podcast player.

Under the hood, Voice Boost 2 has been entirely re-written and draws on Arment’s experience editing hundreds of podcast episodes. As he describes it in a post on Marco.org:

Voice Boost 2 is a mastering-quality audio-processing pipeline that applies broadcast-standard loudness normalization, light compression and EQ, and a true-peak lookahead limiter to your podcasts, in real time, without sacrificing quality or battery life.

You don’t need to understand what that means to appreciate Voice Boost 2, but Overcast is applying sophisticated, professional-grade audio processing techniques on the fly to generate audio that sounds more natural and is less jarring in contrast to system audio like Siri. Moreover, Overcast accomplishes this while using hardly any CPU resources (1% on an iPhone SE according to Arment), which means you get the benefits of Voice Boost 2 without paying a high price in battery drain. Voice Boost 2 is a remarkable technical accomplishment with practical, real-world benefits that make listening to podcasts more enjoyable.

According to Arment, Smart Speed has been updated to handle background noise better, too. The feature works the same way as it always has, but now it relies on dynamically changing based on Voice Boost’s loudness analysis. I haven’t noticed a difference here, but shows I listen to regularly don’t have a lot of background noise.

Overcast has added the ability to skip a show's intro and outro from its settings.

Overcast has added the ability to skip a show’s intro and outro from its settings.

Overcast also includes a couple of other smaller features in this release too. First, you can set a number of seconds to skip at the beginning and end of an episode on a per-podcast basis, which allows you to skip a show’s intro and outro. The period can be set in five-second increments and is a nice addition for shows with long intros and outros that you’ve heard over and over and would prefer to skip, though it’s not a feature I expect to use personally.

Second, clip sharing and starring episodes are now available for private podcast feeds. I haven’t tried this feature because I don’t subscribe to any private feeds, but it’s good to see those features added to private feeds too.

The most significant changes to Overcast in this update are completely invisible to the user but have a considerable impact on how podcasts are enjoyed. With Voice Boost 2 and AirPlay 2 support, Overcast makes your favorite shows sound better, and they are easier to enjoy on more devices, which is a significant improvement for anyone who listens to podcasts in a lot of different environments and contexts.

Overcast 2020.1 is available on the App Store as a free update.



Overcast Adds Simple Podcast Video Clip Sharing

Today, Marco Arment released an update to Overcast with a new podcast clip sharing feature. Arment explains why he created the new feature on Marco.org:

Podcast sharing has been limited to audio and links, but today’s social networks are more reliant on images and video, especially Instagram. Podcasts need video clips to be shared more easily today.

I’ve seen some video clips from tools specific to certain podcast networks or hosts, but they were never available to everyone, or for every show. So people mostly just haven’t shared podcast clips, understandably, because it has been too hard.

He’s right. I created a Final Cut Pro template project for making sharable video clips for AppStories, the show I do with Federico. I’ve shared those clips on Instagram and Twitter in the past, but even with a template, the process was more cumbersome and time-consuming than it was worth, so I’ve never shared them as consistently as I’d like.

With its new share feature, Overcast has dramatically simplified the process. When you find a clip you want to share, tap the share button and choose ‘Share Clip…’ – Overcast takes you to a new Share Clip screen that allows you to define the beginning and end of your clip with drag handles. One terrific touch is that as you drag the play head across the start or end of the clip, the double vertical lines that define the termination points of the clip animate, so you know precisely when you’ve lined up the play head properly for previewing your clip’s audio.

Video clips can be shared in portrait, landscape, or square formats.

Video clips can be shared in portrait, landscape, or square formats.

Clips can be shared as portrait, landscape, or square videos and include no badging, Overcast badging, or Overcast and Apple Podcasts badging. Tapping ‘Next’ takes you to a preview of your video where you can see what it looks like before sharing it. When you’re satisfied with your creation, you’ve got two options. First, you can tap the share button and share the video clip to social networks or any other app that will accept an m4v video file. Second, you can tap the link button to share a URL to an overcast.fm page queued to the beginning of your clip, which is a feature that Overcast has had for quite a while.

Overcast's updated clip landing pages include links to Apple Podcasts, Castro, Pocket Casts, and the show's RSS feed.

Overcast’s updated clip landing pages include links to Apple Podcasts, Castro, Pocket Casts, and the show’s RSS feed.

Although the link sharing feature of Overcast isn’t new, Arment has refreshed the landing pages for the links to include badges for Apple Podcasts, Castro, Pocket Casts, and the show’s RSS feed, so users can access the linked show from any of these other popular podcast players or the show’s RSS feed.

Expanding clip sharing to add video support is an excellent addition to Overcast. Whether you’re promoting your own show or want to share a snippet of your favorite show with friends, Overcast has made the process so simple that I expect we’ll begin seeing many more of these clips on Twitter, Instagram, and on other social networks very soon.

Overcast is available on the App Store as a free download.


Overcast 5.0.2 Adds New Series 4 Complications, More Siri Shortcuts

Following a major update that introduced a redesigned Now Playing screen, extensive shortcut support, and standalone Watch playback, Marco Arment has brought a variety of enhancements and fixes to version 5.0.2 of Overcast, released earlier today.

Overcast 5.0.2 has added new round complications for the Infograph faces on the new Apple Watch; these act as launchers that simply open the Overcast app on the Watch, which I find convenient enough. Furthermore, you can reduce the amount of haptics used by the app to communicate certain actions (I love haptic feedback in Overcast, so this option isn’t for me), and there are new options for configuring how the ‘Send to Watch’ feature works.

New shortcuts in Overcast 5.0.2.

New shortcuts in Overcast 5.0.2.

Most of all though, I’m interested in the new Siri shortcuts supported by Overcast. The app now offers shortcuts to activate or cancel the sleep timer, as well as two shortcuts to copy the current episode’s standard or timestamped link to the clipboard. The ability to quickly generate an Overcast link for the episode you’re listening to is a perfect use case for shortcuts: it removes repetitive interactions with the app and, with the tap of a button or Siri phrase, it gives you a link you can instantly share with others.

For the occasion, I’ve turned my original Overcast Chapters widget shortcut into Overcast Controls, an enhanced widget that, besides chapter navigation, now uses the app’s new shortcuts to let you copy episode links too. You can download it below.

Overcast Controls

Navigate chapters or copy links for the Overcast episode you’re currently listening to. Best used as a widget.

Get the shortcut here.


Overcast 5: Redesigned Now Playing Screen, Search, Siri Media Shortcuts, and More

Overcast, Marco Arment’s popular podcast client for iPhone and iPad, received a major update today to version 5. While I’ve long praised Apple’s work on their built-in Podcasts app for iOS – particularly since getting three HomePods and leveraging Podcasts’ support for AirPlay 2 – I also recognize the appeal of Overcast’s advanced features and powerful audio effects. Sprinkled throughout Overcast’s release history are design details and enhancements big and small that make it a sophisticated, versatile client for podcast aficionados who don’t want to settle for a stock app. From this standpoint, despite welcome improvements to Podcasts in iOS 12, changes in Overcast 5 make it an even more attractive option that has caused me second-guess my decision to embrace Apple’s native app.

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Overcast Adds Smart Resume, New Auto-Deletion Option, and Support for Password-Protected Podcasts

Overcast 4.1 is out with a handful of new, notable features and bug fixes.

My favorite addition is what Marco Arment calls Smart Resume, which does two things. First, when resuming playback, Overcast skips back a few seconds to remind you of where you left off in a paused episode. Second, Overcast resumes playback in the dead space between words where possible.

The effect is understated but perceptible. During the beta of 4.1, I had a sense that something more than simple skipping back was going on with Smart Resume, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I dug into Arment’s release notes. Smart Resume reminds me of what happens when an in-person conversation is interrupted. If you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant with a friend and the waiter interrupts one of you mid-sentence, you don’t pick up where you left off mid-word. You back up and start over.

Smart Resume is similar. I hadn’t realized it, but when resuming a podcast, I’d gotten into the habit of skipping back 30 seconds when I lost track of where I was in an episode. That was more time than necessary to recall where I had left off, but it worked. With Smart Resume, I’ve found I rarely do that anymore. Instead of the extra fiddling with the app’s buttons, Overcast skips back just far enough to jog my memory but not so far that I feel like I’m re-listening to too much of an episode. Moreover, dropping the seek point in between words makes the feature feel natural. Smart Resume can be turned off in Settings, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Overcast 4.1 also adds a new auto-deletion setting. Previously, you could choose between auto-deleting episodes immediately after finishing them or leave them on your iOS device for manual deletion. Overcast now has a third choice, which is automatic deletion after 24 hours. Premium members’ uploads to Overcast are no longer subject to auto-deletion either.

Password-protected podcasts are now officially supported in Overcast too. In the Add URL screen, there is an option to ‘Use Password,’ which reveals username and password fields when tapped. Podcasts that require a password do not show up in Overcast’s search results or show recommendations.

Smart Resume is an excellent example of what I like most about Overcast. The feature highlights the app’s overall attention to detail when it comes to the listening experience, which makes it a pleasure to use.

Overcast is available on the App Store.


Overcast 4.0 Brings UI Optimizations for iOS 11 and iPhone X, Drag and Drop, and New Advanced Settings

The combination of iOS 11 and iPhone X is pushing developers to reconsider many of their interaction paradigms and interface affordances that predated the Super Retina display and drag and drop. In a span of two months, iOS 11 made custom implementations of multiple item selection and reordering effectively obsolete, while the iPhone X now requires apps to embrace its display and novel status bar design.

Overcast 4.0 is a good example of how Apple’s biggest releases of the year impacted apps that needed a lot of work to be updated for the iPhone X and iOS 11. Released today on the App Store, Overcast 4.0 bears no groundbreaking additions to the experience; instead, developer Marco Arment focused on design refinements and simplifying the app’s navigation, modernizing Overcast’s appearance and flow while bringing smaller enhancements to the listening and browsing experience.

There are some notable changes in this version – drag and drop is present, albeit in a limited fashion – but Overcast 4.0 is primarily aimed at foundational improvements and laying the groundwork for the future. Despite this “Snow Leopard approach”, however, heavy Overcast users should still find the many optimizations as well as the “by popular demand” tweaks more than welcome.

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Overcast 3.0: iOS 10 Features, UI Changes, Easy Queuing, and an Interview with Marco Arment

Overcast, Marco Arment’s popular podcast app for iOS, is defined by an interesting dualism: its essence has remained remarkably consistent with the original version released three years ago; at the same time, Arment has periodically revisited Overcast’s design, features, and business model to build a superior listening environment for a larger audience.

The same judicious iteration permeates Overcast 3.0, launching today on the App Store. With improvements to episode management, visual changes aimed at modernizing the interface, and an evolution of the existing subscription-based model, Overcast 3.0 is another thoughtful combination of new ideas and old tropes, which converge in a refreshed yet instinctively familiar listening experience.

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