Apple broke podcasting when they released iOS 5. On the iPhone smart playlists were broken and and my podcasts wouldn’t sort correctly when syncing. Fine in iTunes, a jumbled mess on the iPhone. As for podcasts on the iPad – a nightmare. I dealt with the iPhone issues and gave up listening to podcasts on the iPad. Yesterday at lunch I finally decided to install and use Instacast. There are several well regarded podcast apps but Instacast was a name I remembered and apparently I had bought it awhile back. Not sure why I didn’t use it.
I fired it up at lunch yesterday and have been using it since. It’s far from perfect but it may be good enough to keep me from trying out anything else.
It has the features I require:
- Sort all podcasts from oldest to newest so I can play the oldest first
- Syncing between devices
- Podcasts can be downloaded to the device
- Keeps track of unplayed episodes
- Handles password protected podcast feeds
- Can play podcast at double speed
Features I like but are just nice to have:
- Can stream without downloading
- Mixes video podcast in the same list and in the “all unplayed” list
Things I miss:
- No playlists (but since playlists are broken in iTunes this isn’t a real loss)
- Sleep timer. My alarm clock app integrates with the Music app to work as a sleep timer. I lose that with Instacast.
- The app is buggy, at least on the iPhone (haven’t used the iPad app enough to know)
- I didn’t find the UI very intuitive. But the built in help is pretty clear. The iPhone UI is better than the iPad UI. I admit this is subjective.
The Initial Experience
I was able to import my list of podcasts directly from the Music app on my iPhone which made it easy to get going. Only audio podcasts on the phone were imported. When I got home I exported all my subscriptions from iTunes and imported them into Instacast. The online help had clear directions.
I enabled iCloud to do syncing in anticipation of also using my iPad. Dropbox is also supported but that seems like a manual process. While working through the various settings to see how they worked I had a few program crashes which wasn’t encouraging but things seemed to settle down once I stopped changing the settings around.
The other annoying problem I had was the app would frequently go offline (4 times in the 24 hours I’ve used it), saying it had no connection to the internet. I could resolve it by killing and restarting the app, or by cycling wi-fi off and then on. All other apps had no problem getting an internet connection when Instacast was offline. The wireless off/on worked even when I was only on 3G and wasn’t even on wireless.
My final problem was just a few hours ago. A podcast was playing and when I went in to stop it, the interface was frozen just displaying the album art for the podcast. There wasn’t any UI although the podcast was playing fine. I had to kill the app to stop it. When I went back in it picked up right where I killed it and seemed fine, (Although I’ve yet to finish that podcast.)
It has more to do with my wireless service, but streaming was problem free even when driving to work.
The iPhone app is 2 bucks, the iPad app is 5 bucks. I ended up buying the iPad app once I got used to the iPhone app. The iPad app is different which could be a good thing since it is a different form factor. But I find the UI even more cumbersome. Touch points all over the screen and lots of swiping to get to a podcast. I’m sure I’ll get used to it and it’s light years better than the way the iPad natively handles iPads.
The syncing via icloud has been fine so far. My subscriptions showed up quickly and play podcasts update nearly instantly.
There’s been enough bugs that I may still look at other podcast apps, but other than the bugs Instacast seems to meet my needs quit well. Even if I don’t find something else, it’s enough to get my podcasts out of iTunes. Looks like I’ll have one less reason to sync with iTunes.