BringCast 4 beta for Windows 10 Here!

Well, it’s been a long time coming!! James and I have been super busy over the last year. James has shipped Windows 10. Mark has become a father and shipped Apartments.com. And… we’ve found some time to chip away at the next version of BringCast!

BringCast 4 is a ground-up re-write of the popular podcasting app for Windows Phone. We’ve re-architected it for the modern Windows platform, and it is available for Windows Phone 8.1 today! The work we have done also makes it a seamless transition to move BringCast to Windows 10 – both phone and desktop/tablet – in the not too distant future!

So, what’s new in BringCast 4? Well, quite a lot actually!

  • Playback is now simpler. There is no need to subscribe to shows any more. You can browse for any show and start streaming episodes with a tap.
  • Of course, if you want to subscribe, you can. We’ll manage automatically downloading new episodes for you in the background and clean up things you have played. We’ll automatically add episodes to playlists, and scan for new episodes even when BringCast isn’t running, showing notifications in the action center when new episodes are available.
  • Searching for shows just got a whole lot better, with web-powered search! This makes it easier to find what you’re looking for and discover new shows to love.
  • We now have variable playback speed, to help you get through your shows as efficiently as possible.
  • Episodes can be sorted and filtered thanks to a new database engine that powers the whole app.
  • The user interface is customizable allowing you to add quick links to your favorite shows and filters to the menu. We’ve also built the UI to look great on any sized phone screen.
  • If you like we can download episodes in the background using cellular data.
  • Cortana integration allows you to ask Cortana to search for a show, or to play or pause playback.

Perhaps best of all, the basic functionality of BringCast 4 is FREE!

If you’re interested in some of the gory details of BringCast development, be sure to check out the BringCast Dev Podcast.

Check out some screenshots below, and be sure to stay tuned to @bringcast on Twitter for updates!

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The BringCast Dev Podcast

Did anyone find the Easter egg that we hid in the last podcast database update and BringCast 3.8.6!?

HINT: Try searching the database for “BringCast”… 🙂

That’s right – we’re launching our very own podcast called The BringCast Dev Podcast! This show, co-hosted by James and Mark will cover:

  • The on-going development of the app you know and love
  • Any geeky topics we’ve been interested in
  • Technical challenges we’ve been facing
  • Discussion of our favorite parts of recent podcasts we’ve listened to
  • Maybe even a few podcast and music recommendations

We won’t commit to a show schedule – let’s just say there will be new episodes as and when we find the time to record them 😉

Regardless, subscribe and enjoy! The first “real” episode is coming very soon!

Announcing BringCast 4 Beta

James and I have been hard at work this weekend getting BringCast 4 ready for beta testing! After a super-productive “Geek Weekend”, I’m proud to say we made it.

BringCast 4 is a complete re-write as a Universal Windows App for Windows Phone 8.1.

It has a brand-new user interface, which is both simpler to use and more powerful. Here’s the new playback screen:

Player
Player

It’s cleaner than BringCast 3.8, yet shows more episode detail information. The new UI is fully adaptive to support large screen devices such as the Nokia Lumia 1520 and high DPI devices like the Nokia Lumia Icon.

Adaptive User Interface
Adaptive User Interface (L-R: Lumia 520, 928, Icon, 1520)

The new Windows Universal App model also allows us to finally offer variable playback speed! You can choose from a bunch of options to speed through episodes at a more efficient pace. We’ve also added variable speed scrubbing to give you extra control.

Tapping the hamburger menu icon in the top right opens the new drawer. This is where BringCast 4’s new power user features really start to shine through. From here you can manage your playlists, but also view a complete playback history of every episode you’ve ever played.

Playback Drawer
Playback Drawer

BringCast 4 is built atop a fully relational database, making it possible to slice-and-dice episode lists however you want. You can show all episodes, unplayed or just those that you’ve downloaded. Also, new in this release is the ability to play an episode from anywhere in the app, without having to add it to a playlist first. This makes BringCast 4 an excellent choice for the type of users who likes to view a list of episodes in a show and play them easily, without worrying about playlist management.

With BringCast 4 you can ensure that you always have the X latest episodes available on your device and we’ve refined the display of them. Here you can see the list of episodes in a show, with one-tap access to play and stream and at-a-glance information about the episode.

Episode List
Episode List

This new version has been built from the outset to be fully localizable too, so we’ll be asking for some help from our loyal multi-lingual users to help us with translations into your languages!

Being a Universal Windows App has allowed us to greatly improve the download manager. You can now queue as many episodes to download as you like and the operating system will get them over Wi-Fi in the background. Is there a new episode that you just have to listen to now, but you’re not on Wi-Fi? No problem, BringCast 4 now supports promoting episodes to download over cellular in the background – there’s no need to keep the app open anymore!

There are lots of other features we’ll briefly touch on, including:

  • Auto-suggestion of podcasts when searching
  • Integration with Cortana – ask her to search for podcasts for you, or to control playback by voice
  • Mission Control – a high-level view of all episodes across all shows that you can slice-and-dice, thanks to the powerful database under the hood and infinite scrolling

Geeky Deep-Dive
You guys have been clamoring for this release for some time and we’ve felt inspired by the overwhelmingly positive energy you’ve been sending us! So… what took time?

Really, the re-write is what took the time. BringCast 3.8 was already a well-established and feature-rich product. When Microsoft announced Universal Windows Apps earlier this year at //BUILD/, we know it was the right choice for the next version of BringCast to enable all the great features we wanted to bring, along with keeping us on the most modern platform version.

So, the decision was made to essentially start from scratch! With the updated platform, we chose to build support for large screen, high DPI devices and localization into the core of the product.

Perhaps one of the most time consuming things we chose to do was to sit BringCast 4 atop a fully relational database. This not only had a steep learning curve, but also tore apart our tried and trusted methodology of binary serialization of the data model that had powered the first versions of BringCast so well. However, the moment we implemented episode filtering, we knew we’d made the right architectural choice!

I Want It!
We’ll be sharing BringCast 4 Beta Zero with some select users as soon as this week. Once we’ve ironed out any show-stoppers with that small group, we’ll open up Beta One to those users who previously expressed an interest a few months back (thank you!).
Beta Two will be made publicly available to anyone who is interested ahead of the final release.

Please be patient, BringCast 4 is coming soon!

 

BringCast 3.8.4, Database Update and SD Cards

We’ve been busy at work on BringCast v4, but have a little treat in store for all our current users!

BringCast v3.8.4 is now available in the store! This release has a few bug fixes and a transparent tile, so it looks great on Windows Phone 8.1! Get it now! In addition, we’ve published an update to the podcast database, including more of the shows that you guys love. Get it by going to Settings > Database and tapping “Update Database”.

While we’ve got your attention, it’s worth mentioning that Windows Phone 8.1 allows the installation of apps to an SD card. This means that if you’ve upgraded your OS, you can install BringCast to an SD card! This is great for users on smaller capacity devices, who have expandable memory. We plan on supporting this even better in BringCast 4, but for now this is a great stop-gap!

Enjoy!

Introducing BringCast 4

Today ObjectivePixel is excited to start telling the story around our next release of BringCast: version 4. And… it’s a biggie! In this post we’ll cover some of the key new features and details but there is a lot more to talk about in due course.

This release will exploit a number of the key new features in Windows Phone 8.1 that were announced this week at BUILD 2014. For that reason, our preview won’t kick off until the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1 comes out (which the above blog posts suggests will happen “in the first part of April”). If you are interested in taking part, please send email to subject BC4 Preview Request.

Refined User Experience

So what’s new? In this release, as before in BC3, we took the decision early on to completely rebuild the UI from scratch. Unlike last time, however, we literally deleted all of the UX (for the developers amongst you that means blowing away the XAML pages & controls, styles etc. and rebuild using the new WinRT-based XAML platform). In short we kept the best bits and discarded what was less good. We have also moved away from using third party controls to being 100% native. In so doing we have continued to focus on honing the “player first” experience that puts the content you want to listen to at the heart of the experience. We introduced that UI paradigm back in v3.0 and have taken it further by de-cluttering and simplifying the player
by putting the controls that really matter front and center. The following two screenshots compare the previous player experience first with the new 4.0 experience shown as the second image with the Tangerine theme selected:

 

Fewer buttons; more information about what you are listening to. And, yes, gradients because metro doesn’t have to always be flat. Where have your episodes gone you may ask? The answer is into the new playback selection “drawer”. From there you can get to your playlists, recent items and the latest content from all of your subscriptions with a quick tap on the hamburger menu on the player. This is also the new gateway to subscriptions, playlist reordering etc. By creating this new UI “layer” we can both simplify the player and make it more powerful at the same time.

 

Simplified but more powerful playback powered by Windows Phone 8.1:

In the spirit of simplifying whilst adding more power (Scotty), in BringCast 4 you can now play anything from anywhere. There’s no need to add episodes to a playlist any more. If the content is not downloaded, it’s easy to see that you will be streaming: simply press the stream button and playback starts inline… you can easily start or resume an episode right from the episodes list. If you want to download items, a quick tap and hold brings our powerful download manager into play to ensure the episodes are on your device ready for those places without cell reception (and the button changes to a green cellular budget-friendly button.

 

Helped by a complete rewrite of our media playback infrastructure on top of the Windows Phone 8.1 audio engine, BringCast 4 can now take advantage of new platform capabilities such as the ability to play back at greater than 100% speed. This capability is alive, well and working in our recent builds:

More Automatic for more users

One of the big areas of feedback we’ve received is around the fact that the BringCast has historically given you a lot to manage. In order to be able to play episodes and download them you needed to have them in a playlist. Some users like this but for a large majority it is simply one more thing to manage that can get quickly out of control as episodes pile up in there. The reasoning behind why this design as remained this way for so long stems from a long-standing architectural limitation that has been hard to change without substantial surgery. We decided that now was the time to put the patient under the knife and get it fixed up. One of the major improvements we’re making in BringCast 4 is to make it much easier to manage what content is on the device and how you subscribe and get notified when there are new episodes:

    

 

Cortana enabled for speech

One of the (in our humble opinion) coolest parts of the Windows phone 8.1 feature set
is Cortana.

Not only does she bring a bunch of amazing goodness on her own but developers can also plug in and add application specific enhancements. We have started diving into what is possible here and have some basic capabilities working with more planned. “What podcasts does master chief listen to”.

SD Card support

This is a biggie that folks, in particular Nokia 520 users, have been asking for repeatedly for some time. Thanks to new APIs in Windows Phone 8.1 (that, by the way users of the 520 will be able to upgrade to) we are now able to offer the capability in BringCast 4.

Universal App

We’ve been talking about our “Windows 8” port of BringCast for a while now some of you will be asking what’s up? Back in V3 we did the work to make the application core portable between Silverlight and WinRT but the remaining problem was the UI layer; we don’t want to write new code simply to target a Windows tablet that has to be different than what we need to do for phone. From a user perspective a big part of our hesitation from moving forward this was the lack of a universal model for apps. When you buy BringCast on phone you would expect to also be able to get it for Windows and not have to buy it all over again. You’d expect your in-app purchases to be available. Luckily, Universal App support announced at BUILD should provide a solution to both classes of problem. The work we’ve done to move to WinRT will enable the Windows version of BringCast to be realized with little additional work in the V4 code base. It will also give us the flexibility to roam purchases etc.

Timeline

On the phone side, since we are squarely targeting the Windows Phone 8.1 platform with BringCast 4 our ability to make bits available to users is gated by availability of the OS. We are currently working on a preview version of the app that we hope to make available as soon as possible after the bits are available via the developer preview. On the Windows side we don’t have a final schedule defined yet as Phone is the top priority but hope to share details relatively soon.

In Summary

This is the first update we’re sharing in BC4. There is much more to talk about.. Expect to read more here over the course of the next few weeks.

Thanks!

BringCast 3.8.3 is Available!

BringCast 3.8.3 is available now in the Windows Phone Store! This update includes the following changes:

  • Support for podcasts from PodcastOne. We love the work Rob Greenlee did for podcasting at Microsoft, and he’s now CTO over at PodcastOne! BringCast can now process podcast feeds from PodcastOne, and we’ve even added a bunch to the built-in database!
  • Expanded podcast database. A whole bunch of user-requested feeds have been added.
  • Updating database now updates subscriptions automatically. In the past, if a podcast publisher changed the URL of their show, users would have had to unsubscribe and re-subscribe. With this new release, when you update your database (via Settings > Database > Check for Database Updates), we’ll automatically patch any URLs that have changed!
  • Bug fixes. We fixed the top six bugs being reported by users

Grab the update now and enjoy!