Apple issues update for buggy podcasts app

Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 12:20pm

Podcasts app for iOSSome had high expectations for Apple's stand-alone Podcasts iOS app (RAIN coverage here), but after it launched in late June, many users -- including Ars Technica, RAIN coverage here -- complained about bugs and controversial design choices.

Fortunately, Apple yesterday issued a much-needed update for the app including "significant improvements to performance and stability."

"While there aren't any major new features here," writes The Verge, "we're hoping that these bug fixes make this app work a lot better than it did before — the concept certainly has potential, despite the continued presence of some truly questionable design decisions."

You can find more coverage from The Verge here.

Sonos adds visual improvements to iPhone, iPad, and Android tablet apps

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 12:00pm

Sonos, the wireless home music device company, has announced updates to its Controller apps for iOS and Android.

The Sonos system enablea you to play your digital music collection throughout your home, on your stereo, intercom, or home theater systems. The system is controlled remotely via apps for iOs and Android phones and tablets.

The updates are mostly visual, and make the apps more pleasing to the eye, and perhaps easier to use. For Apple's devices, the update includes support for the high-resolution Retina Display on both the iPhone 4S and New iPad (hope you've been saving your CD cover art in a good resolution!). For the Android version, the Sonos Controller for tablets is optimized for both 7" and 10" devices, and include "landscape mode."

There's more in the Sonos blog here. Photo from The Verge here.

One week later, how's Apple's podcast app working? Not great, says Ars Technica

Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 12:25pm

Podcasts iOS appLast week, Apple launched its own dedicated iOS podcasts app. Observers hoped the move -- bringing podcasts out of relative obscurity buried in the "Music" app -- would "increase the importance of podcasts" (RAIN coverage here).

After a week of usage, Ars Technica writer Iljitsch van Beijnum has posted his thoughts on the app, which he sees as "surprisingly immature." Besides random crashes and other glitches, core functionality -- like removing podcast episodes -- doesn't work.

And rather than putting podcasts in the spotlight, van Beijnum fears "lots of people aren't going to discover podcasts organically" now that podcasts are not a default feature of iOS (rather, they've been moved into a separate, optional app).

That said, "we have reason to hope that an update could turn this into a great app," writes van Beijnum. He goes on to list a number of needed tweaks and features -- including iCloud support.

You can find the full Ars Technica article here.

Mobile users spending more time with apps and becoming more loyal, studies find

Friday, June 29, 2012 - 11:45am

Mobile devicesNew studies from Localytics and Nielsen show that users are spending more time with mobile apps, but the fact remains that getting users to download an app "is only half the battle."

Nielsen found that U.S. Android and iOS app users spent 101 billion minutes per month with apps in March -- up more than 100% year-over-year. Consumers spent 58% of that time using the top 50 most popular apps. That's apparently down from 74% last year, "indicating there are opportunities for new apps to capture consumers' attention," note eMarketer.

Meanwhile, a study from Localytics found that more than 25% of mobile consumers use an app just once after downloading it. On the other hand, 31% of users opened an up at least 11 times or more over a nine-month peroid, and that's up from 26% last year. Interestingly, the study discovered iPhone/iPad users "are about twice as loyal to their apps than Android users," writes the Wall Street Journal.

Apps from news outlets apparently have the highest user retention rates, while lifestyle apps have the worst rates. You can find more coverage from the Wall Street Journal here and eMarketer here.

New iPhone podcasts app includes streaming, "Top Stations" recommendations

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 11:55am

Podcasts iPhone appApple's rumored dedicated podcasts mobile app has arrived surprisingly early, with new features like streaming in tow.

Last week we reported on speculation surrounding Apple's podcast app (RAIN coverage here), which observers thought would arrive with iOS6. "This would increase the importance of podcasts," commented CultofMac, with analyst Mark Ramsey calling it a warning call for broadcasters to "develop sensible and effective podcasting strategies."

The free app is now "somewhat surprisingly" available for free in the Apple App Store and offers "one-stop access" for all things podcasts (or, as Engadget writes, "pre-recorded talk radio-killing entertainment"). Podcasts were previously a sub-section of Apple's native Music app.

The "Podcasts" app (here) includes "more robust tools for managing podcasts on iOS devices," as Ars Technica writes, but the biggest changes involve adding features common to web radio. This includes adding the ability to stream podcast episodes directly, without needing to download the entire episode (as was previously required).

Apple also borrows from radio lingo in its new "Top Stations" section, which delivers podcast recommendations to users. "This is certainly the most compelling new feature -- at least from an aesthetic standpoint -- mimicking a radio dial to divide up different categories like Business Comedy, Music , News and Technology," writes Engadget. Notes the Verge, "There's quite a few main genres, and many of them have sub-genres, each with five podcast selections underneath. If you're new to podcasts, or just looking to find something that you've never listened to before, this feature should make discovery an even easier process."

Other updates include improved playback controls, AirPlay support, sleep timer and other features. "In all, there's not a heck of a lot of breakthrough content here, but as usual, Apple's offering things up in a clean, instantly navigable way," comments Engadget.

Ars Technica muses that the inclusion of streaming may "smudge the line" on podcast subscriptions. "We wonder if the newly blurred lines between subscribing, streaming, downloading, and listening won't muck up the listener counts that podcasters are so fond of using as a metric."

You can find more coverage from Ars Technica here, Engadget here, The Verge here and PC Mag here.

Ramsey says podcast app a wake-up call for radio to "develop sensible and effective podcasting strategies"

Friday, June 22, 2012 - 11:50am

iPhone podcastsApple may offer a stand-alone podcasts app in iOS 6, the next version of its operating system for iPhones and iPads. Would such an app put broadcast radio "in the bulls-eye"?

"People familiar with Apple’s plans tell me that when its new iOS 6 software becomes widely available this fall, podcasts will have their own app, where users will be able to discover, download and play them on mobile devices," writes Peter Kafka in All Things Digital (here). Currently, the native Music app on Apple's mobile devices includes a section for podcasts

"This would increase the importance of podcasts," comments CultofMac (here), which expects the new app to include voice-control options courtesy of Siri -- perfect for listening while driving (an environment Apple is actively pushing Siri into, RAIN coverage here).

"During your daily commute, you’ll listen to 'talk radio.' But instead of desperate groups of un-funny idiots trying to imitate Howard Stern or put-you-to-sleep NPR type shows, you’ll hear the podcasts you’ve selected from the thousands available," continues CultofMac, predicting the "big losers" will include broadcast radio.

"Right or wrong?" asks Mark Ramsey (here). Though he thinks it's too early to tell (after all, this Apple-built podcast app is still rumor), he does point out that "those quarter-hours in the car will have to come from somewhere."

Ramsey argues this is a warning call for broadcasters to "develop sensible and effective podcasting strategies... and by that I mean a strategy that gives folks what they want, the way they want it, and when they want it." In sum, there may be an opportunity opening for radio stations that do podcasting right -- Ramsey points to public radio in particular -- to be a part of "a brightly showcased default app built into the OS on every [Apple] mobile device."

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