By Mike Riley on Thu, 08/25/2011
The apps that Apple bundles on their iOS devices are slick, polished and almost perfect. But for those power users who need just a bit more tweaking to attain an even higher level of perfection, they have to turn to Apple's App Store to seek out programs that scratch that particular itch.
The Apple Music Player app qualifies for this opportunity, especially for listening to podcasts. Apple's built-in app does an adequate job of podcast playback, but as anyone like me who listens to podcast programming on a daily basis, there are irksome qualities of the Music Player that eventually drive you crazy. For example, the player doesn't allow for continuous playback of different podcasts. Sure, it will play back a bundle of episodes from the same source, but forget playing back an uninterrupted playback session from different shows.
Another nagging aspect that is showing up more often as a result of podcasts becoming big business is the long-winded audio advertisements peppered throughout the more popular podcasts (especially tech-related podcasts). While the stock music player allows listeners to rewind 30 seconds to replay something you may have missed, it doesn't support skip ahead for obvious reasons. After all, podcasters are banking on the fact that their advertisement works like real-time radio broadcasts in that you can't skip ahead and are forced to listen to the same advertiser's message over and over. And why do podcasters feel compelled to play so much filler intro music and preambles to their podcasts? How about a three-second bumper and then get right into the conversation. I listen to many podcasts; I don't have the time to listen to even a minute of music and rambling introductions. Cut to the chase, please.
Fortunately, developer David Emeny felt the same way and created an even better application for podcast listening enthusiasts. By hooking his PodPlayer app into the standard iOS music player, PodPlayer calls upon and keeps synchronized with the very same iTunes subscription lists and audio library that you're already used to managing within iTunes on the desktop. So unlike other podcast players that house their own copy of the various MP3 files downloaded from podcast feeds set up independently from iTunes, PodPlayer acts almost like an overlay to the standard music app. But it adds so much more, optimized for the podcast listening aficionado.
For starters, PodPlayer adds the ability to skip ahead in podcasts at any number of seconds you desire. Better still, PodPlayer hooks into any three button headset and allows you to skip ahead by clicking the headset's pause button, and clicking it again within a specified time (the default is within 1.5 seconds). The freedom for that function alone is well worth the $0.99 asking price. Additionally, the PodPlayer includes a sleep timer and a Favorites Feature that allows you to sort your podcast playlist in order of date, title and importance. It also allows the ability to auto-skip ahead a specific duration per podcast to blow past those time-consuming intro bumpers. Nearly everything that could have been programmed into this podcast playback overlay program has been.
A few minor issues keep the product from a perfect score, though none of them are directly the fault of the developer but rather the constraints that are placed on him by Apple due to bugs in the OS or restrictions on just how much access programs like PodPlayer can have to the music player's on-board data storage. For example, the application seems to take an inordinate amount of time to launch. But according to the "Known Issues" available on the application's help screen, this is due to the way the underlying music player could reset playback on PodPlayer when it comes to the foreground after a sync. As the developer states in the description of this problem, "Hopefully this bug will be fixed in future versions of iOS."
Another minor issue I encountered was that the program sometimes gets confused about playing back podcast-specific playlists. One moment I'm listening to my favorite podcast and the next I'm listening to a music album. Not sure exactly why this happens (most likely a bug), but it happens often enough to take notice, but fortunately not enough to be a major hassle. Still, I anticipate this kind of bug to be easily identified and eradicated in future releases (along with some minor word spelling changes for U.S. English, etc.).
Overall, I'm quite satisfied with the enhanced capabilities that PodPlayer offers avid podcast listeners like myself. Using it saves me time by listening to only the parts of a podcast that I want to hear, allows continuous playing of all my podcasts, not just those from the same feed, And it allows me to operate the application's most important functions from my headset without taking my iPhone out of my pocket. Awesome!
Product: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/podplayer/id449499154?mt=8 PodPlayer
Developer: http://mneapps.wordpress.com/ MNE apps
Rating: 4/5 stars