The Multiplatform Podcasting / Podcatching Bible (updated!)
09-16-08 05:52 PM
- Listening to or watching podcasts is great fun. If you think they are boring, meaningless or can’t entertain you during, say, a long fight, you’re wrong. For example, watching all the clips of X-Play, played back on my VGA HP iPAQ 214 (thanks to Smartphone & PPCMag / iPhone Life’s Hal Goldstein for the gift!) could entertain me for long-long hours. (Sure, I’m not of a big 3D FPS gamer on desktop PC’s – I only play text adventures like those of Legend Entertainment and RTS games like Starcraft –; still, I did enjoy witty episodes like Cheating Unleashed: Darth Vader Tryst or Final Fantasy Date).
And, if you’re more of a traditional news viewer / consumer, you’ll definitely prefer automated podcast downloading to hunting for the same video / audio clips on the web. Just a real-world example: Before finding out the Tagesschau (the German news program we usually watch at home in addition to the Finnish YLE programs) podcast feeds, I always had to navigate to HERE (preferably after 9PM and before midnight each day so that I can catch the main evening news program at 8PM) and click the 20:00 link to initiate playback. Then, still two clicks: to start the streaming and to maximize the player screen after the video playback has started. All in all, a lot of clicks and waiting in between – not to take into account you can’t access the programs of the previous day(s).
Diametrically opposed to the awkwardness of all the above, just subscribing to the Tagesschau podcast feed (with downloading the video podcasts (files), the so-called “enclosures“, to the local PC or Windows Mobile, Symbian or BlackBerry handset / smartphone) makes sure you’ll always have access to the main, longest (the one at 20:00) programs – and instantly. That is, you don’t have to (slowly) traverse Web pages, wait some seconds for the video streaming to start to be able to make the player fullscreen – if you are always in a podcaster program (on either a desktop PC or any of the smartphone operating systems), in general, (at least in a well-designed podcaster app like NewsBreak) a single screen tap starts the instant playback.
The same stands for, for example, the MoDaCo (Windows Mobile), All About Symbian (Symbian) or CrackBerry (BlackBerry) podcasts. If you don’t use automatized podcatcher apps to gather these podcasts and make them available offline on your handset (for mobile access; of course, you can also store it on your desktop PC, but the major focus in this article is on fully-mobile podcast/catching), then, you end up, on your desktop PC, having to do a lot of hunting, right-clicking, saving to your hard disk and manual transferring to the storage cards. There, you’ll still need to make sure your mobile media player is able to play these podcasts; this may also require a lot of additional work like starting a library refresh (see dedicated bible HERE) and waiting for it to complete. In cases, this may turn out to be just too slow and time-consuming.
Side note: Difference between podcasters and podcatchers
What’s the difference between podcaster and podcatcher applications, you may ask. The much simpler podcaster apps can only stream (play back) podcasts, but can’t save them to the file system and, consequently, don’t have any kind of scheduling, cleanup or storage usage restriction capabilities. They, nevertheless, allow for subscribing to feeds, which makes it possible to avoid having to enter their Internet address every time.
More advanced ones (in our case, Pocket Player, as opposed to the, as of the current, 1.2.5 version, simpler CorePlayer) even allow for marking podcasts that have already been listened to “read” so that the user won’t listen to them again by mistake as he or she already sees the given podcast has already been consumed. In this regard (too), they provide a far sleeker interface to podcast feeds than traditional Web browsers on mobile platforms, which are much harder to use. With the latter, it takes much more clicks to get to the next podcast; in most cases, Web browsers require podcasts to be saved to the file system first and only let them to be played by a multimedia player later, while podcatching-capable apps are capable of instant streaming etc. Nevertheless, on the BlackBerry platform, still a lot of people prefer downloading podcasts manually (linked to from HERE), via, say, Opera Mini .
The much more advanced podcatcher applications, on the other hand, in addition to being able to play back the podcasts (in several cases, with the help of an external player), are also able to store them in the local file system and can also work in scheduled mode, making it possible to run even lengthy download / synchronization processes when you surely won’t need the handset – for example, during the night.
If you, on the other hand, run a podcatcher application on your handset every night, connecting to the Internet via a Wi-Fi access point of an unlimited Internet connection to download the latest podcasts and to store them on/in your storage (card), you won’t have to waste time on anything explained above. When you wake up in the morning, the latest podcasts will already be available on your handset and you simply don’t have to be afraid of anything else.
Running direct podcatcher applications on your handset – if you do plan to listen to / watch these podcasts right on the phone – is definitely more preferable to doing the same on the desktop and manually synchronizing / copying the files to the handset:
- You don’t have to do any synchronization between your desktop and handset (or memory card swapping if you plan to make a non-high speed transfer faster)
- You don’t even need to switch on your desktop computer for the new podcasts to be downloaded (let alone having to sync it with your handset or, even worse, manually hunt for, select and transfer the new podcasts to it). This results in, among other things, a lot of saved electricity
- You don’t even need to have a desktop computer at all – all you need to get the latest podcasts is your handset itself with an unlimited Internet (or Wi-Fi) connection.
Still, if you do want to know what desktop podcatcher applications there are, you’ll want to read either Smartphone & Pocket PC Mag‘s or Engadget’s tutorials (the former being far more thorough). They both discuss Doppler (probably the best desktop client; another also very popular one is Juice) on the desktop – and synchronizing the clients to your handset. More advanced users / hackers may also want to take a look at the MortScript-based PC -> Windows Mobile syncing solution HERE.
(Doppler on the desktop; by default, it downloads to c: \Documents and Settings\<username>\My Documents\My Music\My Podcasts\<feed name>).
Note that not even popular desktop browsers like Opera support automatic podcast downloading (that is, podcatching). Three screenshots showing this:
(podcasts shown in Opera)
(another rendering example– as you can see, Opera doesn’t download content)
(There isn’t anything you can do in Feeds / Manager Feeds / Edit (Properties) either, except for setting the interval of the auto-retrieve)
There are even fewer write-ups on the handset-based podcaster applications. The most important of them is Podcasts on a PDA..., which discusses three mobile OS'es and only few podcaster apps: WM (Egress), Palm (Quick News), Symbian (Nokia Podcasting) - as you can see, BlackBerries are not discussed.09-16-08 05:43 PM
- Note that this roundup is a separate entity from my forthcoming RSS / Syndication Bible (to be published early September). I found it necessary to separate the two roundups from each other as, while, basically, they’re all RSS readers, their aim is different. In addition, some of the podcaster apps are just not recommended as an RSS reader and vice versa: some well-known RSS reader titles like Spb Insight (as of the current, 1.5.1 version) aren’t enclosure-capable at all.
Also note that because there are several high-quality and recommended podcast/catcher apps, I don’t have a definite choice. (If you really want one, I recommend NewsBreak if you are ready to pay for your podcaster and BeyondPod or HubDog if you aren’t.) Therefore, I don’t provide you a full tutorial of any of these apps either. However, in the chart, I do give you a lot of tips and tricks and describe how / where a specific feature can be found. This is why I provide the full menu path of all the, say, feature en/disabling checkboxes in the chart. I also provide several screenshots showing all this.
That is, while I don’t provide a full, 100% tutorial to any of these apps, as with all my chart-based articles, bibles and full roundups, I do provide you with hundreds (!) of tips and tricks in the chart. If you really don’t understand how you can configure a given podcaster, feel free to post a public (no private messages please) note and I answer your questions. I don’t think, however, that you wouldn’t understand them. They’re all (except for FeederReader, which does require a LOT of learning) fairly easy to learn. Just keep playing with your choice for some hours and you’ll start to know it like the palm of your hand. Then, all the puzzles will also fall into their places.
Now, let’s take a quick look at the podcast/catcher applications available for the three mobile platforms. Note that this section is in no way a full discussion and introduction of all the apps. The sole reason for this is the main chart’s having all the information you’ll ever need. That is, don’t expect this humble section to contain as much information as available in the 60 kbyte-long (!) and tabular (which eliminates the need for repeating the same info again and again) chart. Also note that all the apps are podcatchers, unless otherwise noted (with the case of CorePlayer and Pocket Player).
Let’s start with Windows Mobile, with remarks to the BlackBerry version of AudioBay and, finally, the Symbian-based Nokia Podcasting.
BeetzStream SmartRss V4.3157 - RC1
This app requires .Net CF 3.5 SP1 (while the other Compact Framework-based titles don’t need more than CF2) and MS SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5 SP1. The trial version is pretty useless: it limits you to 5 items per channel and will not save any setting changes, as opposed to the, in general, fully functional, 30-day test version of the other apps.
In a nutshell, I don’t really recommend this title - there're far better alternatives.
As of version 5.0.60, this recently-released player has excellent (streamed) podcasting features (but not podcatching at all).
It allows for directly entering RSS URL's in the main menu. It’s quite a bit buried under the different menus: it’s available at Settings / Player / Open URL:
The latest update (see THIS) has also introduced auto-pasting features (manual pasting doesn't work as the app uses nonstandard text input fields / areas).
While it doesn't allow for direct OPML input (that is, you can’t explicitly browse the file system to find the given file), if you just put the OPML file in the file system somewhere, it'll find the contents and list it under "My Media Files / Playlists" as in the following screenshot:
Note that if the OPML file also contains subfolders, they’ll be correctly rendered and the OPML file’s original name will be used as the playlist name. An example of this is (the highlighted) “BeyondPodFeeds” item in the above list.
Note that while it streams stuff, it, of course, needs to download multimedia content that it can’t play back streamed. Examples of this are the Tagesschau videos
As of version 1.4.2, this, because of it being free and open-source, pretty popular generic RSS client has some limited podcatching capabilities. In no way as sophisticated as those of some of the other clients as, unfortunately, it in no way can be forced to automatically download enclosures (again, unlike most other podcatcher clients). In the top-level "Channels" view, Menu / Offline / Cache Unread Items only downloads all the articles, along with their images, and not the enclosures themselves.
Unfortunately, there's no way to initiate anything like "play all" from inside the app either. Fortunately, as pRSSreader stores the individual podcasts using their original name in feed-specific subdirectories (the subdirs having been named after the URL of the09-16-08 05:44 PM
- It also has a cache manager (accessible via Menu / Cache Manager); unfortunately, it doesn't allow mass playback either (only mass deletion):
Initiating the in-app download of an enclosure involves several taps: after entering the article (two subsequent taps in the article title list), Menu / Enclosure / Download:
If, on the other hand, you want Internet Explorer Mobile to open the file, you can just click the name of the enclosure at the bottom (which has the same effect as Menu / Enclosure / Open).
This is a multiplatform application: has Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and generic (also Symbian-compliant) Java MIDlet ports.
Even the most advanced Windows Mobile version is way less powerful than any of the other podcatchers. In addition, the BlackBerry version, as of current (3.0.224, released on Sept. 12) version has absolutely no podcast support (also see THIS for more info) and neither does the generic Java MIDlet version. Podcatching support is only promised for later. However, as I seriously doubt the podcatching support of it will be any better than the current (very weak) podcatching support of the Windows Mobile version, I wouldn’t be holding my breath either – it’s just too weak, even if you take into account the currently only real podcatcher on the BlackBerry, AudioBay, isn’t top-notch either.
Some WM screenshots:
(podcast list view with menu)09-16-08 05:45 PM
(Properties of a feed – as can be seen, except for providing a login/password, absolutely nothing can be set)
(the player. Note that it couldn’t play back m4a (AAC) files; this is just a demo of how it looks like)
(the only setting capabilities Viigo has – see why I don’t recommend it?)
(Main: the feed list. No upper-level menus!)09-16-08 05:46 PM
(the menu in the feed list)
(the above two screenshots (an individual article view and the menu in there) show there aren’t even links for download using the built-in BB browser, Web)
CorePlayer 1.2.5 (also applies to Symbian / Palm OS / iPhone & other, supported OS’es!)
This is a strictly podcasting-capable application you should already have if you’re seriously(!) into multimedia. While it’s no doubt the best all-in-one player for Windows Mobile, Symbian and Palm OS, its podcasting capabilities are pretty limited. Hope this changes with the imminent release of the 1.3 platform with its downloading capabilities.
Incidentally, speaking of the iPhone, the situation seems to be otherwise pretty dire. This will, on the other hand, surely change in the future.09-16-08 05:46 PM
- Conduits Pocket Player 3.7
It’s another strictly podcasting-capable application with somewhat better podcasting capabilities & compliance than those of CorePlayer. That is, if you also need podcatching capabilities, you’ll still end up having to get a separate podcatcher app.
A quick intro to accessing feeds: you can add a feed in Browse / Podcasts / Add Podcast Feed:
Double-click the new podcast to see the available enclosures:
Note that this screenshot has been taken with the MoDaCo feed, which Pocket Player has severe problems with. As can be seen, they’re in no way descriptive – unlike with other podcast downloading-capable apps compatible with the MoDaCo feed (that is, not for example CorePlayer). It’s only when actually starting to stream them by, for example, a left-right swipe that more info becomes available on a given MoDaCo podcast:
Note that I haven’t encountered similar problems with the other, tested (and working) feeds.09-16-08 05:47 PM
- Hubdog 2.0
This podcatcher client is very famous for its Web & community capabilities. They aside, it’s still a very capable an decent client, albeit, in my opinion, can’t really match the speed and the easiness and intuitiveness of NewsBreak.
This free app is probably the most featureful catcher of all. Highly recommended unless the speed problem introduced by its slow rendering engine really annoys you.
This is another featureful podcatcher with some really unique capabilities.
Too bad using it is like rocket science. You’ll want to start with the manual and also make you read the tutorials: THIS, THIS and THIS, in this order.
AudioBay 4.0/e0 (Windows Mobile) and 3.4/e0 (BlackBerry 8800);
Note that it also used to have a Symbian S60 version but has been discontinued in the meantime because of Nokia’s Podcasting. The Windows Mobile and the BlackBerry versions, on the other hand, are still developed.
The former (the Windows Mobile) version is pretty much average: not among the best titles but not the worst ones either. The BlackBerry version, on the other hand, is THE way to go. Note that, however,
1. AudioBay has no trial version (this should be fixed by the developer!)
2. Some people have found it to be unreliable, particularly on Verizon
(BB)09-16-08 05:47 PM
- NewsBreak 2.1
While this certainly isn’t the most featureful application, it’s by far the easiest to use. It has large, nice download icons associated with each podcast easily pressable. As soon as the download is over (which is the fastest of the bunch), the icon (which, after queuing the podcast for download, changes to a “Cancel” icon) changes to a “Play” icon. All this makes it possible to really easily queue, possibly cancel and, then, play back a given podcast. In this regard, NewsBreak is clearly the best of the bunch.
Top-level feed view
Egress is another very strong title. iPhone(-alike) fans may prefer it to the other apps because of its iPhone-like interface. In my opinion, NewsBreak is better mostly because it takes fewer taps to queue something and is generally faster / easier to use. However, Egress is still a recommended title.
NewsGator Go! for Mobiles (current version as of late August 2008; internal filedates: 03/28/2008)
NewsGator, which has recently made been free, has a very strong Web-based interface. If you look for something like Opera’s Opera Link but with a generic subscription & already-read-flag synchronization, this should be the podcatcher to check out. Otherwise, I would stay away from it: it’s certainly lacking in features and, what is worst, is very-very slow in everyday use – even for normal (podcast-less) RSS use.
Skookum is an abdandoned, free podcaster app. It has nothing to write home about; albeit, it’s certainly not the worst one either.
The developer is no longer in business (see for example THIS and THIS for more info). Sites like PocketGear only seem to have the commercial, initial and, therefore, in no way recommended, 1.0 version
Note that you will need to use CF1SP3 (or, of course, CF2+) to run it; it crashed on me, along with throwing a FileNotFoundException, right at the beginning with an older version.
Note that, while some of the errors (see see THIS and THIS for additional info) may show you you need to manually install System_SR_enu.cab (linked from HERE) , you won’t need to do this.
Much as the developer’s long been out of business, I haven’t disqualified the app as it’s free.09-16-08 05:48 PM
With AudioBay’s Symbian S60 version discontinued (because of Nokia’s app’s release), Nokia Podcasting has become THE podcasting app for all S60 v3 phones. It’s generally very well done, fast at downloading and only lacking in some advanced features like channel image view.
It offers pretty nice, pre-configured choices, parallel downloading (of course, it allows for multiple selection with the Key button + the up/down arrow):
, automatic scheduling. However, it isn’t capable of parsing generic URL’s like that of MoDaCo for feeds. In these cases, you must enter the URL directly in Podcasts / Options / Go to Podcasting / Podcasts / Options / New Podcast:
Don’t forget to set your storage card as the download target at Podcasts / Options / Go to Podcasting / Options / Settings / Download:
As with most of my generic bible / roundup articles, the focal point of this bible is the feature chart, which makes it possible to pack in as much information in an article as possible, also allowing for direct, easy comparison between the different solutions. As usual, you’ll want to maximize it and, on smaller-resolution screens, zoom out to avoid (excess) scrolling. Sorry for the size: as usual, I wanted to present a full roundup; hence the gigantic size. The chart is here.
Today / home plug-in showing the number of new podcasts etc. (NOT just a start / stop / pause control, with the song title, of the currently playing track!): some podcatchers also display the number / title(s) of newly downloaded podcasts (or simple articles).
Does it allow for user-def’d podcast categories?: more advanced catchers allow for organizing podcast feeds into user-defined categories. If you have more than a handful of feeds, this capability can prove VERY useful.
Feed login/password?: there are some private feeds requiring a login/password pair to only allow authenticated users to access their content. Almost all podcast/catchers support this.
Terminology used: particularly if you test more than one app, you may run into terminology inconsistency problems. For example, feeds are referred to as “Channels” by many. Feed contents are generally referred to as “items”, “headlines” or “episodes”. In this row, I’ve collected the terminology used by all apps so that you can avoid any confusion.
Support for non-supported (in general, non-MM) stuff?: here, I’ve listed non-multimedia stuff. Some feeds (for example, the C&L feed) not only have multimedia audio / video content, but also other stuff like YouTube links, Flash (.swf) and Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files etc. In this group, I’ve tested whether these kinds of files can be (manually – automatic download, in general, won’t work, except for very few titles like FeederReader) downloaded.
Download benchmarks (~20M mixed content over 512 kbps ADSL): in this test, I’ve tested how fast the app downloads to a 8GB Class 4 Sandisk card over a lower-end (512 kbps) ADSL connection. High-speed connections, of course, may have resulted in a much more pronounced difference. Just an example: over a very fast connection, NewsBreak is flying, while Viigo remains abysmal, certainly showing its file buffering / flushing algorithm is very weak.
Auto download / fetching: Supported? Refresh intervals / timestamp to execute?: Automatic podcast download / fetching is very important. In this row, I elaborate on which (or both) of the two updating timing is used: interval-based or a given, pre-set time of the day. I’ve also elaborated on the freedom of settings these parameters – that is, the granularity of the timestamp / interval setting. (Can you configure it to refresh the contents every, say, 5 minutes? Or, are you only allowed to do an update, say, at most once an hour?)
Download restrictions settable separately for each feed, as opposed to one, global setting?: Especially with sizable podcasts, it may be very important to be able to set completely different for example auto-deletion / retention parameters for individual feeds.
The storage requirements of different feeds can vary a lot. For example, there can be a feed with podcasts only taking up some 2-3 Mbytes at most (an example of these is Heart of Space, which only offers 30-second-long podcasts taking up only some hundreds of kilobytes), while other podcast episodes can easily be 50-100 Mbyte long (an example is X-Play’s lengthier movies). This means if you have little storage space but would like to keep as many podcasts as possible on your handset, you may opt for only letting for the retention of, say, 1-2 episodes of feeds generally having huge files, while not having so strict restrictions on feeds with small podcasts. In these cases, feed-level configurability (as opposed to one, global setting) can really pay off.
Distinction between allowed / blocked connection types to avoid using (expensive) cellular data?: some podcatchers allow for restricting the type of connection for downloading to avoid high data bills. The majority offering this capability has the ActiveSync vs. cellular distinction.
Can you define whether to force to open a connection if it isn’t available: some (unfortunately, VERY few) apps allow for very advanced functionality like enabling Wi-Fi / BT / the cellular radio (if any) before starting the update (and, when needed, disabling them after the update). In this row, I explained this (and similar) capabilities.
Storage usage restrictable / automatic deletion of listened-to / expired enclosures?: in percentage of free / remaining storage?: this subgroup has detailed information on whether you can fine-tune the storage usage by not letting the podcatcher download stuff that would result in the storage fill up. This is a basic setting and should be supported by all podcatching applications.
Permanent storage in the file system: can the home directory be set?: better apps, in addition to storing the podcasts on a storage card (or a, size-wise, comparable entity), may also allow for setting their home directory to anything, not just a wired-in directory name like \Podcasts.
Settable maximal number of enclosures kept?: Better catchers striving for efficient storage usage may employ a deletion strategy stating the following: whenever the pre-set maximal number of enclosures becomes too small to download the newest podcast(s), the oldest one (or an already-consumed one) is deleted.
Auto-deletion of podcasts older than X days?: storage saving may also be enhanced by allowing for (unconditional – that is, not depending on whether it has been consumed or not; see on this the next row) automatic deletion of podcasts older than X days.
Flags: Already listened to? What functionalities (not listing, deletion etc.) are based on this flag?: A decent podcaster application should at least flag already-consumed media as “read”. Based on this flag (and the visual presentation), the user would have the chance of not listening to the same podcast twice.
Podcasters behave differently when it comes to the read flag. For example, NewsBreak makes sure articles already read are put at the of the headlines, should you still need them. That is, at the beginning of the headlines list, you will only see unread articles. Some other casters “only” unbold read articles. Also, some of them have the “Hide read articles” functionality.
Better podcaster applications also have even more advanced functionality based on the “read” flag. The most important of this is (mass) auto-deletion of such articles. Too bad this really basic functionality is missing from most of them.
Not listened to, but old enough to be deleted (expired)?: in addition to the pretty basic “read” flag, some casters also employ other flags like “expired”, which, in a decent caster, would allow for deleting old, but not (necessarily) listened-to podcasts.
Note that some apps do support this functionality by just offering the “Delete all podcasts older than X days” functionality.09-16-08 05:49 PM
- Downloads: Multiple downloading threads at the same time to make performance better?:
This row shows whether enqueued podcasts can be downloaded in parallel. The point in parallel downloading is as follows:
- Some servers serve podcasts considerably slower than your local Internet connection. Say you have a 2 Mbps connection, while the server you’re currently downloading podcasts is only capable of serving a podcast at 500 kbps. This means 1.5 Mbps of your Internet connection remains unused.
- You may want to quickly download something while another download is in progress. For example, let’s assume you’re downloading a huge podcast when you notice there’s another, interesting one you’d like to listen to as soon as possible. In a single-threaded (simple) app, you would either need to cancel the current download(s) to quickly queue the new clip as the first one to download. In a more advanced multithreaded app, you just start the download and it downloads (albeit a bit slower because the bandwidth available may be divided up between the current downloads), without further ado.
Progress bar (or any way to see what has already been downloaded): better apps have some kind of a visual feedback showing how many bytes (and/or percent) of a given podcast (and, preferably, all the queued podcasts) have already been downloaded.
Streaming (playback without downloading the entire enclosure (first)) Supported? : better players allow for streaming – that is, playback without downloading the entire enclosure first. Note that the built-in WMP doesn’t support this; CorePlayer does.
If streamed, random positioning supported?: there are two approaches to streaming – one that allows for quickly fast forwarding into still not downloaded parts of the podcast (that is, allows for really free random access, independent of what has already been downloaded) and the simpler one that doesn’t. Naturally, the former is preferred.
Here, n/a, naturally, shows the given app isn’t at all able to stream.
Feed input (in addition to direct address entering, which is supported by all): OPML import / sync?: There are several ways of making podcast/catcher apps aware of the feeds you’d like to subscribe to. In addition to by directly entering their URL’s, one-by-one, the most important way of importing them is via OPML files.
Note that several of the apps also support exporting into OPML files of your current subscriptions, which makes it easier to transfer your current subscriptions to another (OPML import-capable) podcatcher/caster.
M3U / PLS support?: some apps also allow for mass-importing feed URL’s via the well-known M3U and/or PLS playlist files. (See for example THIS for more info on these formats.)
Pre-defined, built-in library?: many of these apps have some kind of access to predefined, online libraries already offering feeds you can subscribe to.
Online search?: there are several services allowing for feed lookup based on their names. Some of the handset apps have interfaces to directly access these services.
Generic HTML page parsing if unsure about the exact feed URL?: (very) few apps allow for parsing generic HTML pages to find feed URL’s in them. (This is how most desktop browsers and Opera Mini work when they display a “This page has RSS feeds in it” type of message.)
Online, web-based, synchronizable and/or readable account?: one of the best capabilities some of these apps offer is an online account allowing for either account management (importing / deleting etc. feeds, sharing them with your friends, the community etc.) or on-line article reading via any Web browser – or both.
The former greatly simplifies subscribing to feeds (and deploying the same set of feeds to other, OPML importing-capable podcasters later).
Built-in player (if any): AVRCP: while the majority of these apps rely on external players to play even the most basic and widely used podcasting file formats like MP3, some of them have a built-in player to play them back. It’s the limitations, capabilities, CPU (and, consequently, battery) usage of these built-in players that this group is all about.
The first test in this group, AVRCP, discusses whether Bluetooth remote control, AVRCP, is supported by the player (if any). Naturally, as with most of the entries in this group, n/a means there’s no built-in player in the app at all.
CPU usage?: The CPU usage of multimedia players is of extreme importance when it comes to maximizing battery life. This is why I’ve made some extensive tests to find out how these apps behave in this regard. Please also see THIS for more info on the well-established players.
Remembers last position (resume-capable)? And, even better, auto bookmark-capable?: with sometimes lengthy podcasts, it’s essential for a player to be able to resume playback after restarting (simple resume) or even switching to another and, then, returning to the same podcast (more advanced bookmarking capability; now, storing a “last playback position” associated with each podcast file, not just globally for the last played one).
Positioning (with already-local playback); + stands for external players with podcatcher apps without a built-in player: it’s also essential for a podcast playback application to be able to randomly position inside the already-local podcast. Note that this has nothing to do with the positioning capabilities of still-downloading and/or streamed apps, which was elaborated upon earlier.
If it does have a player, can you still use an external one?: almost all the built-in players are definitely inferior (buth CPU usage- and capabilities-wise) to those offered by other, third-party players. Therefore, particularly with podcaster applications having a low-quality player, it’s essential to be able to configure it to be able to invoke an external multimedia player to play back any multimedia content.
Channel / individual song image support: Generic channel image displayed?: This group elaborates on whether generic (non-podcast-specific) channel images and podcast-specific, inline images are supported.
The first test, “Generic channel image displayed?”, shows the podcaster app is able to display the generic image associated with a channel. This is in no way essential, just cool to have and makes it easier to easily spot a feed, particularly if there are more than a handful of them.
Album art / article display? :
Note that, with external players, this will only players that do support embedded artwork in individual podcasts; that is, NOT the built-in Windows Media Player Mobile in Windows Mobile. See the first chart HERE for more info on this question and the compatible apps.
Mass playback / delete operations: Mass playback in a given channel?: this mass operation-specific group elaborates on operations best done in one step instead of doing the same separately for each and every headline / podcast – that is, using mass operations.
The first of the tests, “Mass playback in a given channel?”, elaborates on whether the podcasts of a given channel (feed) can be played back in order without having to manually intervene (that is, start the next one when the previous is finished). This is of extreme importance with shorter clips you’d like to see. Just a real-world example: during my last 10-hour-long bus trip, I’ve watched almost all the episodes of X-Play. These podcasts are, in general, some 2…5 minutes long. As the client (the otherwise great NewsBreak) doesn’t support mass playback, it was quite a nuisance to always having to switch back to NewsBreak (from CorePlayer playing the video) and tap (with my finger) on the next feed’s “Play” icon.
With podcaster apps capable of mass playback (either in a given channel/feed or globally, with all available podcasts), you don’t need to constantly switch back to the podcaster app to start the playback of the next podcast.
Incidentally, behind the scenes, mass playback is accomplished by using playback (m3u / pls / asx files). This is how podcaster apps instruct external players to be aware of more than one playlist items. Also, this is why some of the podcaster apps (for example, Egress) explicitly refer to creating playlist files upon downloading.
Mass playback globally (not just in one channel, but all the new enclosures)?: while the previous row discussed in-feed mass playback (without human intervention), this one refers to playing back all the clips globally, originating from all feeds, not just one. Unfortunately, as with the feed-only playback, very few podcasters support this.09-16-08 05:51 PM
- If (any kind of) mass playback is supported, audio / video distinction (unattended “Commute mode“ as referred to by FeederReader?): when you, for example, jog and, therefore, can’t watch the screen of your handset, in a mass playback mode, distinction between audio-only and video content can be highly useful. This way, you can be sure no video will be played back while in mass playback mode; only audio.
Mass deletion of all enclosures? If possible, can you do this on both globally and just in an individual channel?: in addition to mass playback, mass deletion can also be highly useful. Here, I elaborate on both global and in-one-feed mass deletion capabilities.
Filename naming conventions (for quick file system-level lookup, mass playback queuing from external players, deletion etc.): there are two approaches podcatcher applications use when downloading streams (one of them, BeyondPod, also supports both): either keep their original names (in some cases, adding a unique, machine-generated trailer/header to make sure no accidental overwriting will occur) or use a fully machine-generated name, mostly consisting of running indexes.
Both approaches have advantages. If you keep the original podcast filenames (particularly if you do this in separate, feed-specific subdirectories in the file system), you won’t need to do any lookup to find out what a given podcast really is. Also, queuing podcasts for mass playback (particularly if they’re in a separate subdirectory) becomes far easier. However, it’s prone to the overwriting problem, which may be particularly an issue with, in this regard, not very well written applications like
If you only have index-based and/generated random indexes, accidental overwriting won’t even occur. However, you may have a hard time identifying the podcasts in the file system, should you want to access them in an external media player without firing up the podcatch/caster application.
Of course, there are combined solutions as well; for example, Egress uses both a unique, random leading string to make sure no overwriting will take place and, after this, the original filename follows.
Compatibility with some real feeds: MoDaCo: in this pretty large group, I’ve presented some real-world test results on whether these podcast/catcher applications are compliant with some real-world, popular podcasts. The first of the test is MoDaCo’s, which causes some problems to, for example, Pocket Player (the fix is promised for the next version). It’s, otherwise, a pretty usual MP3 podcast. CorePlayer, which, as of version 1.2.5, has still pretty bad RSS feed parsing capabilities, is fully incompatible with this feed.
1Src Palm-powered Podcast (MP3): another usual MP3 podcast, no real catches here, except for Skookum, which can’t download more than one podcast a time, as it erroneously assumes the filename being “redirect.mp3”, which results in downloading subsequent episodes overwriting previous downloads.
Heart of Space (Mp3): another pretty usual feed. The only podcaster not compatible with it is NewsGator Go! for Mobiles: while it can download it, it can’t invoke an external app to play it back. This is a pretty common issue with NewsGator Go! for Mobiles, several other feeds are also suffering from this problem.
SpaceMusic Archive (MP3) and (Current) SpaceMusic : no problems at all with any of the apps.
Radio 538 (AAC-LC) : now, this is a problematic feed causing issues with many apps. For example, CorePlayer has problems with the 080804 issue, while the other episodes (for example, 080811) work just fine.
Also note that it isn’t an MP3 podcast but an AAC-LC one. Therefore, many podcasting/catching apps are simply unable to play it back – or, for that matter, even retrieve it.
Classic Animation (H.264 Baseline video): switching to videos, Classic Animation is a great source of old cartoons. They have their stuff in H.264 baseline format, which means great compatibility with a lot of multimedia players (as opposed to more advanced H.264 formats).
It worked with most podcasters, except for NewsGator Go! for Mobiles, which exhibited the same trailing bug as with a lot of other feeds.
X’Play’s Daily Video Podcast : these videos are high-res (VGA, 640*480) and use a more advanced, non-baseline H.264 format meaning very few players (most importantly, CorePlayer on all mobile platforms except BlackBerry) will be able to play them back.
Tagesschau Podcast (MP3): these MP3 files are the plain audio tracks of the Tagesschau video programs. They’re different from the previous titles (but not the original “video” versions) in that they have a much more complicated feed URL. Probably this is what makes these feeds inaccessible for several podcatcher/caster apps (CorePlayer, Hubdog and the BlackBerry version of AudioBay).
Tagesschau Video Podcast (MP4 / H.264 baseline): the situation is pretty similar with the original video versions of these programmes.
Other sources of information
A REALLY cool post on desktop podcasting
VoiceIndigo for BlackBerry
What are you using to “podcatch”?
A german list
Another quick news item on the PPCMag article
A 2006 thread: RSS reader with podcast support for TyTn, any suggestions?
Mostly a FeederReader-specific thread
Note that, while some feeds (for example, C&L) offers the capability of accessing two videos from one article, physically, they only hold one enclosure, not two (they only link to two videos). An example screenshot series:
No longer existing or plain weak applications
SmartFeed, an old, still widely known, popular app, has been incorporated into NewsGator in the meantime.
The Windows Mobile version (as of beta3) of the otherwise very nice and famous Doppler is pretty much useless and far inferior to any of the products in the chart. Still, a quick elaboration, should you still want to know why I don’t recommend it.
First, unless you have a lot of built-in storage, in Menu / Options / Settings, you’ll want to change the default podcast download path, \My Documents\My Podcasts. Finally, after a double-click on the feed, select Menu / Download podcast. Trying to update feeds / podcasts has always resulted in constant problems; then, also Aborting download… has stalled and required a manual, forced task kill. Therefore, it seems the only way to download the podcasts is via the built-in Internet Explorer (that is, fully manually – which is in no way recommended; after all, podcatchers exist just in order to avoid doing this), you can manually tap the link after double-tapping an article.
PiP (also see for example THIS) has been discontinued in the meantime.
Pocket Podcasts 1.0 is also pretty weak and requires a desktop-side server; this is why (on purpose) I’ve left it out.09-16-08 05:52 PM
- Popular at CrackBerry
- General BlackBerry Discussion
The Multiplatform Podcasting / Podcatching Bible (updated!)
LINK TO POST COPIED TO CLIPBOARD