After a few years of dealing with shortcomings of various iOS podcasting apps, I can now finally say that I am happily living in the Instacast ecosystem.
(Fairly) Reliable Syncing
If iCloud has shown anything, it is that syncing is hard. After fighting with iCloud syncing for approximately a year, Instacast developer Vemido moved to its own syncing solution for Instacast 3 for iOS. This was a great move. The new sync is faster and more reliable than any other alternative I have seen, including iCloud. Though there are occasional hiccups in the sync, I rarely run into problems if I consistently use my various devices. Also, as an added major benefit, the new syncing solution does not result in the battery drain that I felt was prevalent among iCloud podcast syncing solutions.
Instacast for Mac
Though syncing across my iPhone and iPad was a huge feature, it was actually the release of Instacast for Mac that really made me love the Instacast ecosystem.
I admit, when I first downloaded the Instacast for Mac, I thought I would have little use for a podcast client on my Mac. I was completely wrong. I use Instacast for Mac all the time. Aside from Instacast for Mac’s ability to easily play all of my favorite podcasts, what really makes it such a major part of my podcast listening and managing experience is its excellent podcast and playlist management features. In Instacast for Mac, you can easily drag and drop individual podcast episodes from your podcast subscriptions into the various playlists that you have created. This is especially helpful for dealing with feeds like Grantland’s Pop Culture podcast, where I only listen to 1 out of the 3 or 4 shows that are put in the feed. Before Instacast for Mac, I would have to notice when the one show I actually like was added to the feed, and then manually add it to the playlist in the iOS app via a playlist’s “Add Episode” menu. Since the “Add Episode” menu is just a chronological list of all episodes in Instacast, it could be quite difficult to find the actual episode that I wanted to add if I did not get it within the first day or so of it being available. Now, I can just go to the specific subscription, drag and drop a particular episode to given playlist, and I’m done. This means that I can easily create small, custom playlists whenever I want, something that is especially useful when long car drives are coming up.
Adding episodes to playlists, however, is only one of the excellent podcast and playlist management features found in Instacast for Mac. Tasks such as re-ordering subscriptions and playlists, renaming playlists, and even subscribing to podcasts, seem much easier on Instacast for Mac than they ever were in the iOS version. Of course, what makes these features so important, is that the results are synced almost instantly to your iOS devices.
One (Minor) Remaining Issue – Feed Refresh
The one minor remaining issue that I have with the current Instacast ecosystem is feed refreshing in the various apps. Currently, the refresh mechanism takes approximately 20–40 seconds for my 73 podcast subscriptions. Though that refresh can be annoying when it forces me to wait for that new episode of a given podcast that I know is available, the bigger problem is that this refresh makes the Instacast iOS app unresponsive for about 10–15 seconds when it occurs. Now, iOS 7 will alleviate some of this hassle, with its new background downloading APIs, but I think that does not go far enough. Instead, I hope that Instacast implements a server-side refresh of feeds, similar to the one found in Shifty Jelly’s Pocketcasts. Obviously, if Vemedio had to implement this type of server side processing on its own, it could be a time consuming, labor intensive, and resouce-costly process. Thankfully, David Smith, creator of Feed Wrangler, mentioned in a recent interview on the 15 Minutes with… podcast that he felt Feed Wrangler could be easily integrated into podcasting clients for a feed refreshing back end. I think adding “Feed Wrangler feed refresh” as an option in Instacast could be a major performance and, possibly, usability improvement.
Ultimately, the combination of custom Instacast cloud syncing and the release of Instacast for Mac relieved almost all the issues I previously had with iOS podcasting apps. At this point, I feel that I listen to more podcasts then I ever have before, but I spend much less time managing them. Consequently, I had no problem signing up to become an Instacast member. I really enjoy Instacast’s podcast ecosystem and I want to do what I can to help support Instacast’s ongoing development.
If you are someone who enjoys listening to podcasts on your Mac or iOS device, I highly recommend giving Instacast a try. If you are already an Instacast user, then I suggest that you at least consider becoming an Instacast member to help support a great ecosystem of podcasting apps.