Instacast 4: iOS 7 or Bust

iOS 7’s bold new design convention gave many developers the chance to completely reinvent their apps, free from the shackles the previous constraints of iOS’ stylings. Vemedio seized this opportunity and have recently released Instacast 4, the latest update to their flagship podcast app, which has been completely redesigned with a new look and feel, as well as looking to the future of iOS by making iOS 7 a requirement.

A Giant Leap Forward

We reviewed Instacast 3 earlier this year and found it a great podcast app for iOS. Instacast 4 takes the app into a new direction and the first thing you’ll notice is the totally redesigned layout. It’ll take some time for seasoned Instacast users to get used to this new layout.

It’s a layout I already find far more efficient as much of the chrome that adorned previous versions, the title and navigation bars, have gone in favour of an off-Canvas panel that you slide to access or through the use of the hamburger icon on the top-left. By keeping navigation within this hidden menu, your podcast content remains the focus of the app no matter where you are.

Instacast now favours an off-canvas layout rather than toolbars and status bars

Instacast now favours an off-canvas layout rather than toolbars and status bars

Navigating through podcasts hasn’t changed though starting a podcast has. Unlike many other podcast apps, tapping an episode wouldn’t bring up the show notes, instead it would start playing the episode. With Instacast 4, this has now been reversed and tapping the episode brings up the show notes but a small play button is always present if you just want to start listening. It makes for a much more consistent experience, especially if you prefer to read some of the show notes before listening.

Navigating through shows and episodes is similar to previous versions but tapping on a show won't immediately start it.

Navigating through shows and episodes is similar to previous versions but tapping on a show won’t immediately start it.

Now Playing

The Now Playing view is much improved and has some subtle visual enhancements. Gone is most of the artwork reflection, instead the layout is far less visually distracting. To compliment the artwork, Instacast samples the colours within the artwork and uses them to detail the controls. This gives each podcast a unique feel when listening to an episode and, although it serves nothing more than an aesthetic purpose, it’s a really nice touch.

Instacast's Now Playing view is much cleaner.

Instacast’s Now Playing view is much cleaner.

Show notes are much easier to access as what was previously the button to access just bookmarks now brings up all of the episode’s information.

Show notes are far easier to get to during playback.

Show notes are far easier to get to during playback.

The Now Playing view hasn’t changed all that much, fundamentally. Unlike the iPhone version, Instacast for iPad didn’t have any issues in this area due to the amount of screen real estate that the app can work with. The controls themselves haven’t changed, either, and you’re able to access AirPlay controls, playback speed, bookmarks and more. The only difference is that you can toggle some of the controls if you’d like to make the podcast timeline bigger so that it makes scrubbing easier.

Up Next

Instacast 4 has done away with the continuous feed playback so you can no longer listen to episodes of a podcast continuously. Instead, it’s been replaced by a feature called Up Next. Adding an episode is as simple as tap-and-hold, which brings up a menu that offers you the option to add tracks to a playback queue, think of it as iTunes DJ for podcasts. You can amend the queue at any time and reorganise episodes as you see fit. While some may lament the loss of continuous episode playback, Up Next lets you do this across all of your podcasts.

Up Next has replaced Instacast's previous function of continuous podcast playback that was less versatile.

Up Next has replaced Instacast’s previous function of continuous podcast playback that was less versatile.

Lists are still available with the ability to create lists that you can add episodes or shows to, or smart lists that will automatically generate lists based upon the criteria you set. You can also listen to all unplayed or downloaded episodes one after another, as well as favourite episodes.

Syncing and Updates

Instacast’s excellent sync service still remains and offers near-instant syncing between other iOS devices as well as their Mac app. In addition, Instacast’s Directory — a list of popular podcasts, is more prominently featured through its own section within the menu as well as using the Add Podcast button.

One of Instacast’s great features has been push notifications of new podcast episodes and this is further enhanced by iOS 7 with background updates. Not only are you notified whenever a new episode is available but Instacast 4 will then download the podcast without the need to launch the app, meaning your podcasts are ready to go as soon as you are.

I’ve been an Instacast user for some time yet still have difficulty with Instacast not deleting older episodes. Despite setting the app to auto-delete played content, I often find many older episodes still remain undeleted, taking up unnecessary space. Every so often I’ll wonder why Instacast is taking up over 500MB of space, only to see that it’s kept a bunch of old episodes that I’ve already played.

Final Thoughts

Instacast 4 is a huge update to an already great podcast app. By making the app require at least iOS 7, it can focus more on adding some great features going forward than holding it back by supporting previous versions of iOS. Apple has given developers such as Vemedio an opportunity to do this by allowing those who aren’t able to run iOS 7 the ability to download the last up-to-date version of an app that they can run. Instacast 4 is a great first app for iOS 7 and I’m genuinely excited to see where it can go from here.


Summary

A comprehensive update that lets Instacast take advantage of all the benefits of iOS 7 without being held back by previous versions of iOS.

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