Posted by: Frank | November 28, 2008

Catching Podcasts on the G1

I’ve written here of my disappointment with Apple’s latest release of the iPhone/iPod Touch software’s podcasting features, stating that I was going to give Doggcatcher a try. I’ve run it for several days, and find it to be a promising podcatching application.  I am optimistic that it will improve significantly in the coming weeks, but find it has some significant flaws.

The most serious flaw is that on my G1 it does not update podcasts over a Wi-Fi connection. With the G1 connected to the Internet over my home Wi-Fi connection, Doggcatcher acts as though it cannot find an Internet connection. This is puzzling because it implies that Doggcatcher is actually checking to see if there is a cellular data connection, where I would expect it to simply need to communicate to its servers on the Internet regardless of the connection type. When I first downloaded the program the automatic updating feature did not work, but was a known issue that was fixed with the latest version that became available a few days after my initial installation.

A podcatcher has three main functions, first, use RSS to downloaded podcast episodes, second, play podcasts, and finally, manage the podcast audio files. With Doggcatcher the process of subscribing to a podcast is manual, meaning that you have to enter a URL rather than the software automatically obtaining it from a directory. Fortunately, unlike the iPhone software, Android supports copy and paste, so this process is tolerable. With the fix for automatic download, and assuming they fix the Wi-Fi issue I describe above, Doggcather will do a good job with this first function.

I would like to see some improvements with podcast play back, but I think these are going to be the most difficult for the software author to provide. I admit upfront that I am spoiled by one big feature the iPod has, which is its ability to remember where you last left off during the playback of a track. With long running podcast episodes, this is a critical feature so that you don’t find yourself listening to the same thing over and over, or having to manually scan through the episode to find where you last left off. On several occasions Doggcatcher has crashed causing it to lose its place, but it also loses its place when the program is shut down by Android. I have concluded for now that I should only listen to podcasts in Doggcather that I am going to hear in one sitting.

Because I am subscribing to multiple, short podcasts (like Tech5 Report and the NPR 10 AM and 4 PM news summaries) I would like Doggcatcher to automatically create a playlist of all un-played episodes so that I can simply tap a button to start playing what I have not heard. Right now I have to manually go into each podcast and manually start the playback of an episode. Doggcatcher also ends play when an episode ends, rather than automatically starting play of the next downloaded episode of a podcast. The program also needs to track what episodes have already been played so that they can either be easily deleted or at least so that the user can quickly determine what they want to play.

Finally, the third function, management of podcast files, can also be improved. You can manually delete episodes with a long tap, but it would be much better if the program automatically deleted episodes after I play them. Because some people like to keep episodes that they play, this final option is probably best provided as a setting. For me, podcasts are not like music that I play multiple times. Once I listen to an episode I want it deleted so that I have enough storage space to download future episodes. This also makes it easier to keep track of what I haven’t already listened to.

My hope is that someone at SnoggDoggler sees this feedback and puts these suggestions in their queue for future releases. One of the most promising aspects of the Android platform is the possibility of quick bug and feature improvements, so I am optimistic that the changes that I would like to see will find their way into the product in the near future.


Responses

  1. Thanks for taking the time to do an in depth analysis of DoggCatcher. Every bit of feedback we gather, gives us an opportunity to make DoggCatcher better.

    Let me respond to each of the issue you raise individually.

    WiFi Connection
    DoggCatcher uses the internet connection that is managed by the Android platform and we really don’t discriminate (currently) based on the type of connection for any of our network communication. It sounds like you may be experiencing a problem related to the discussion here – http://androidguys.com/?p=2919. I would be very curious to hear how other applications that use the internet connection behave when this problem exhibits itself. If this is not what’s happening with you, let me know and I’ll look into it further.

    Subscribing to Podcasts
    We heard from a lot of users that it was very important to make it easier to subscribe to new podcasts. Based on that feedback, we added a directory of the PodcastAlley Top 50 in the version released on 11/13. You will also be able to add a Podcast by an integrated search in the release that should go out by 11/29.

    Remembering last position
    I agree this is very important and DoggCatcher makes an attempt to remember the currently playing Episode title and position when it closes. There’s a bug that causes DoggCatcher to crash when Android swaps it out of memory to make space for another application. When this happens, the attempt to remember fails. We are going to be addressing the crash bug very shortly.

    Handling of played Episodes
    One of the features we plan on adding is tracking what has already been played. Once that is in place, we’ll be able to do many of the other things you suggest such as Playlists and automatic cleanup (deletion).

    Thanks once again for the critique, I have added the features that you have suggested to our Future Features section at http://www.snoggdoggler.com. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to contact me there.

  2. […] Reason Why I Am Excited With Android Here is a reason why I am excited about Android. I wrote a post detailing a number of problems that I […]

  3. […] $.99 to $9.99. I bought DoggCatcher, which is a podcasting application that I have been using and written about here, which is priced at $9.99. The beta version of the application is still in the Market though I do […]


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