D-Link Omna vs. Logitech Logi Circle: Which home security camera to keep?

I didn’t intend to do a comparison piece between the D-Link Omna and Logitech Logi Circle, but here I am, with both in my house, and I only need one. One has to go. But which is it?

First: Let’s talk about my needs. I’m really only looking for something to check in on my kids during the day. I want something more full-featured than a baby monitor, but it doesn’t need to be a full-fledged security cam (which I already have through my security company). I’m looking for something in between.

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The Omna in all its glory.

The brand new Omna immediately stuck out to me. It’s the first web-enabled “security” camera with built-in HomeKit support, which I currently use with my Hue lights. (What is HomeKit? It’s a protocol that allows smart home devices from different companies to work with each other — and to blend seamlessly with Apple’s ecosystem of products and software.)

It also has a built-in microSD card slot allowing it to store video locally, no cloud service needed. Looking for a dedicated security cam? Don’t get this one, because if the crook steals the camera, they steal the video evidence of the crime too. But if the idea of paying $4-$10/month just for access to your own videos sounds like a pain, this is an alternative. Guess which boat I’m in? (The boat that doesn’t want to shell out any more bucks per month.)

Because it’s not cloud-enabled, there’s no need for a subscription to unlock core features. What you see if what you get.  Zone motion detection? Check. Notifications when activity is caught on camera? Check. Ability to look at past events? Check.  The only limitation to how much it can record is the size of the microSD card you put into it (which is an additional, albeit only one time, purchase, of course).

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Above you can see the motion settings. You pick the zone. You pick the sensitivity. You pick how often it triggers (i.e. if it senses motion twice or more in a given amount of time, it only sends one notification).

Nice benefit: Even if your home internet goes down, the camera will still keep on recording when it senses motion.

Potential drawback: In only records in 20 second increments (the 20 seconds immediately following when it first senses motion).

The feature I love the most (and the main reason why I bought it)? Once it’s set-up, you don’t need the dedicated Omna app anymore…if you’re an Apple user. You can just use Apple’s Home app — the same app I use to control my Hue lights.

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The ability to see my room specific lights, cameras, and other smart home devices on one screen is SUPER convenient.  It also makes sharing with other people in the household a breeze.  Once I set it up on my phone (which is done in 3 easy steps), the new camera automatically appeared on my wife’s Home app. Didn’t have to do anything at all on her phone.

So as you can tell, I bought the Omna. I set it up. And I was happy…until I went to Best Buy to get a microSD card and saw that the Logi Circle had just gone on sale.

Two days ago, the Logi Circle and the Omna were the same price — $200, which is why I went with the HomeKit-enabled Omna over the Logi Circle, despite it’s great write-up at thewirecutter.com (where tech reviewers go for reviews). But as of this writing, the Logi Circle is now only $130. That’s $70 in savings. With the Omna still in its return period, I had to check out the Logi Circle.

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Both have the same basic (and free) functions: A live view of any room in your house and the ability to record motion-triggered events.

The Logi Circle has no local storage, though, so you’re dependent on Logitech’s cloud-based hosting of your video. At the free tier, you get a 24-hour recording archive. NOTE: That’s not 24 hours OF recordings. Just recordings FROM the last 24 hours. Like the Omna, the Logi Circle only records in snippets, based on when the motion sensor is first triggered. Unlike the Omna, the snippets vary in time and can go well-over 20 seconds.

Possible detriment: If you put the camera in a place with a lot of activity, that’s a lot of video uploading. It could tax the speed of your home network a bit.

But the cloud-service (even at the free level) does come with a perk: You can view a special time-lapse video (30 seconds in length) of all the activity over the previous 24 hours. And you have the option to pay $4 or $10/month for a 14-day or 31-day recording window.  The $10/month option also unlocks the ability to record by zones (something free on the Omna), as well as some other features — like the ability to tell when a “person” triggers the motion sensor instead of an animal or the wind or something.

So that’s how they are the largely the same at the free level. But how are they different?

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  1. The Logi Circle is vastly more customizable.

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You can choose another resolution if the 1080p setting uses up too much data (either uploading or downloading on your mobile device while on the go.


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The ability to set up motion zones might be extra, but the Logi Circle has some free “alert” settings missing from the Omna, like “smart location” which checks to see if you (i.e. your phone) is home. It also has more generous delay times, up to 30m, which can keep your phone from getting cluttered with notifications for the same activity.

2. If your internet goes down, so does your ability to record anything on the Logi Circle. Not a problem with the Omna.

3. Degree of visibility and video quality. Both offer HD imaging, but not all HD is the same.  Blurry pixels in HD are still blurry pixels. Also: The Omna has a much wider degree of visibility.

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The Logi Circle’s 135 degrees of visibility.


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The Omna is 180. Note: Both pics were taken from the same exact spot.

4. Night Vision. Both offer night vision. But the Logi Circle made a weird “click” noise whenever it enabled its night vision mode (i.e. anytime it senses motion in a dark environment, or you if you check-in for a live stream). I think that’s because the Circle senses for motion first (or waits to be contacted for a live stream), then looks for light, then enables the night vision mode if needed.  The Omna senses its dark first and already has it’s night vision lights enabled (and ready) for when it senses motion.  The click noise was definitely noticeable, and it draws attention to the camera.

5. As mentioned, the “alert” options are quite different.  The Logi Circle’s added customizations results in much fewer notifications on my phone.

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6. Apple Watch support! Because it’s HomeKit enabled, the Omna sends preview images to your Apple Watch whenever it senses motion. And you can also watch a (tiny) live stream of your home from your watch.  The Logi Circle does none of the that. Even on your iPhone, you don’t even get a preview photo.

7. The Logi Circle has a battery! The Omna does not. The Omna is made to stay in one place. In fact, I tried moving to another room and had to set it up all over again (why? I’m thinking it’s because I have an eero system, and switching from one eero router to another changed the IP address assigned to the Omna, which confused it.) The Logi Circle can be taken off it’s dock (i.e. the permanent place in your house where it sits) and moved anywhere for up to a few hours. I had no issues moving it all over the house. Just know that the battery can drain quickly in a place with a lot of motion. (Putting it in battery saver mode turns off the motion sensor, saving energy because the camera only turns on for remote live viewing).

So which will I be keeping? I love the look of the Omna… I love the HomeKit integration, but for a saving of $70, I can do without those things.  And I’ll get some other things, too, like a battery and some modest, free cloud storage. So I think I’m going with the Logi Circle… Or not.  I need to think a little longer on it…


Products mentioned in this write-up:

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Orbi vs. eero in a house that’s already (somewhat) wired for ethernet

There’s a million comparisons already out there between Orbi, eero, and the other wireless “mesh” routers for home use (like AmpliFi, Luma, and Google WiFi). But because people are always looking for reviews to match their unique homes, I figure I’d toss this out there, see if it helps anyone still debating what to purchase.

Why am I just comparing Orbi and eero? Because I already had an eero set-up, but wasn’t 100% happy with it, so I thought I’d try out an Orbi. According to tech review sites like The Wircutter (which do much more comprehensive, all-purpose reviews than I can ever do), Orbi and eero tend to duke it for the top two spots.

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The Orbi units quite literally tower over the eeros. That alone, might be a deciding point for many users without much vertical space for a wireless router.

First up: What’s my house’s set-up like?

When we moved in a few years ago, consumer-grade wireless mesh routers weren’t a thing yet, so I converted some phone jacks into ethernet jacks. That way the cable modem could be hooked up to two different wireless routers on both ends of the house.  Both wireless routers would be set up with the same wifi credentials (network name and password).

ONE CABLE MODEM/ROUTER –> TWO WIRELESS ROUTERS (ON OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE HOUSE)

The upside to doing it that way? I could use equipment I already had (two Apple Airport routers) to cover the entire house.

Or so I thought.  There was still a dead spot in my daughter’s room, which lies between two bathrooms (notorious wifi killers).

Also: The hand-off between the two (identical) wifi networks wasn’t always seamless as you moved from end of the house to the other, no matter how much I tweaked the network settings.

The two-router system worked okay overall, but it could be better (especially in my daughter’s room). So when eero came out, I had to give it a try.

I bought a three-pack, spreading them around the house.  I plugged two directly into the wired ethernet ports. The third went in the middle of the house — right on top of the dead zone.

So what was wrong with the eero set-up?

Not much, actually. It really worked great for the most part. Set-up was easy, and I got great coverage with high speeds throughout the entire house, BUT:

  1. The eero units don’t have many ethernet ports. (Only two per device) So I had to keep my old Apple Airport units around as dumb ethernet hubs. (With their wifi capabilities turned off.) The need for additional devices to provide more ethernet ports added complexity that would prove to be a problem down the line.
  2. My Philips Hue lights started acting up.  There was a very annoying (and very inconsistent) delay when using my phone to adjust the smart lights.  The delay was not there when using the dedicated Philips Hue light switches we had around the house, which don’t use wifi (they use their own proprietary wireless signal). It was also not there when I adjusted the lights when away from home.  The delay (which effectively rendered my phone useless as a light switch) only happened on my home wifi network.
  3. I have a dedicated computer as both a Plex server and an iTunes media sharing machine. (Meaning, as long as the computer is on, I should can access a trove of media content from any other computer or device in the house.) Both Plex and iTunes media sharing stopped working in the early days of using the eero. After hours unplugging all the equipment and re-plugging them back in in different configurations, I eventually got iTunes media sharing working again, but not Plex.

One thing that was always suspect to me about the eero: Its constant need for internet access just to keep your local network functioning (even if you don’t need internet, like just wanting to connect to your Sonos speakers, Hue lights, etc.) Eero routers need to check in with the servers at eero headquarters just to function properly. Could that be creating some kind of proxy issue that’s confusing the Hue?  The complexity of the network — a cable modem with a built-in router, two Apple Airports used as ethernet hubs, and three eero devices, all on the same network that’s both wireless and wired simultaneously — made things too complex to troubleshoot with ease.

One way to simplify things: Just get the Netgear Orbi!

The average American house only needs two Orbi units (compared to three eeros). And each Orbi unit has a bunch of ethernet ports built-in. I could finally do away with those Apple Airports (or any kind of ethernet hub)!

Also: The Orbi doesn’t require an internet connection just for the barest of functionality. With the Orbi, If your internet goes down, your home network should still stay up!

So I thought I’d give Orbi a try, and if it worked, give my eeros to a family member with simpler networking needs.

How did Orbi work out?

Long story short, not great for my needs.  Remember how my home has some wired ethernet ports?  One of them is in the family room. I plugged the “main” Orbi unit into the ethernet port in this room, and then plugged my Sonos, Blu-Ray player, and Apple TV directly into the Orbi. (No additional ethernet hub required!)

Unlike the eero, the “satellite” Orbi unit cannot be plugged into 2nd ethernet port (nor would you want to).  It’s supposed to go in the center of the house.  So that’s where I put it.

The resulting wifi network was great. Covered the whole house, and the download speeds even clocked a bit higher than with the eero.

BUT:

What about that second ethernet port on the far side of the house? As far as wifi coverage is concerned, I didn’t need it anymore. But I still had to have my Philips Hue hub in that room (for proximity to the Hue light bulbs in our bedrooms). And the Hue hub NEEDS an ethernet connection.  So I still had to use the ethernet port in that room.

And that’s where the Orbi was useless.  No matter what I did, the Philips Hue hub was basically invisible to my Orbi-centric home network.

Here, let’s follow the signal from my phone to the Hue Hub:

On my phone, I hit a button to turn on a light –> My phone is wireless connected to the Orbi system via wifi –> the Orbi is connected via wired ethernet to my cable modem/router –> the cable modem/router is connected via ethernet to an ethernet hub –> the ethernet hub is connected to both the Philips Hue hub –> the Hue hub connects wirelessly to the various Hue bulbs in the house (via something other than wifi).

Oh, and also in the mix is an AppleTV, which is necessary to make HomeKit work. (HomeKit is Apple’s system for controlling smart home devices from your iPhone’s home screen.)

The fact that the Hue hub had a wired connection that went through the cable modem/router before going to the Orbi kept it treated as a second class citizen on the network. (as far as I could tell)

With the eero, there were no second class citizen devices.

So back to eero I went, and that’s what I’m using now, simply because the eero system incorporated my two wired ethernet ports into my home network better.

Yes, I still sometimes have a bad delay when using my Hue lights, but it still works most of the time. And that’s better than none of the time.

So if you’ve got a home network that’s a mix of wired and wireless connections…you might find a system like eero to be more your liking. Results may vary, though, as no two homes are exactly alike.

A case for ad blockers?

I don’t believe in internet ad blockers.  I mean, I believe they exist, but I’m believer in advertising as a legitimate means to support content that’s provided to audiences for free.  It’s the ultimate leveling-agent, allowing anyone — rich or poor — access to information and entertainment.

And then I notice stuff like this.  Photo 1:  The normal homepage of CNET.com, as it appears right now as I type this.

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Photo 2:  The same page at the same time with an ad blocker in effect.

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See what’s missing?

(Hint:  It’s the horrendously alarmist, fear-mongering “paid content” that has no place on a mainstream news site — let alone disguised as an actual article on that site.)

CNET, you can do better than this.  You’re only giving ammunition to people who want to decimate your primary form of revenue.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Apple To Announce A New Product

IMG_1009Congratulations! You’re due for a new Apple product! Any day now, Tim Cook is expected to birth something revolutionary and magical. Or not. You never know with Apple. What pops out of the largest uterus in Cupertino — and when exactly it will pop — might be a mystery, but here are some things to definitely expect when you’re expecting Apple to announce a new product:

1. Anxiety. The responsibility of owning a new Apple product can seem overwhelming. How do I keep it clean? What if I drop it? How do make sure it gets fed enough data? OH MY GOD, I’M NOT READY FOR ALL THIS RESPONSIBILITY!?!?! Fret not, my friend, you are not alone. Every expectant consumer has those same questions and fears. Just take solace in knowing that people a heck of a lot dumber than you are handling the immense responsibility just fine. Oh, and use AppleCare. Despite GOP efforts to repeal AppleCare, it’s still around, and the piece of mind it offers is well-worth the cost.

2. Weird cravings. The closer you get to the due date, the weirder your desires will become. I want an iPhone 6 with a 7inch double-sided touch-screen! No, I want a 12inch MacBook Air with a retina display and a floppy drive! No, I want an iWatch big enough to mount on the wall and watch 4K 3D TV on!! Relax. The weird cravings will pass. In the end, you’ll be happy if it’s just a healthy device that isn’t delivered to the market prematurely.

3. Sudden weight gain. Knowing that Apple’s next iWhatever will almost certainly be slimmer and lighter than any personal device you currently own will suddenly make you feel much heavier in public. This is normal. My advice is to try something that’ll counter the effect, like starting a juice cleanse or adopting a trendy food allergy. (Warning: juice cleanses and trendy food allergies do not actually help people lose weight, but talking about them incessantly will help you lose friends… which is kinda like losing weight.)

4. Morning sickness. This is the sick feeling you will get the morning of the supposed product announcement, when it suddenly dawns on you that you have absolutely no idea what Tim Cook is about unveil. Sure, it could be a cool new phone. But it could also be a blender. In one fateful breath, you will realize that no one on the internet knows anything. You’ll suddenly notice that every “exclusive report” on every website purporting to know what Apple will release is based on the same “anonymous sources” with specious connections to “overseas suppliers.” Same for all the self-proclaimed Wall Street Analysts who cherry-pick from said reports to make whatever “bold prediction” will get them airtime on CNBC. And, of course, when the spurious predictions turn out to be bunk, they shirk responsibility and act like it’s Apple’s fault. (I’m looking at you, Gene Munster, senior analyst at Piper Jaffray, and the Apple-branded HDTV set you’ve been predicting as “imminent” every year since 2009.) Sorry, got off on a tangent there. Where was I? Oh yeah, morning sickness the day of the product announcement. Try to get plenty of rest the night before, avoid greasy foods when you wake up, and take it easy on the coffee. Also: Don’t believe anything you read about Apple in the days leading up to unveiling.

5. Messiness. Once the mucus plug of consumer innovation finally spills its contents, the internet will become a messy, messy place indeed. Best to stay off social media for at least 24 hours, until the backlash and the backlash to the backlash have subsided. All that really matters is the, um… lash? That doesn’t sound right. But let’s go with it for now.

6. Post-partum depression. This will kick in the moment you hold the new little miracle in your hands for the first time, after your credit card has been charged and you’ve parted with a considerable amount of money. Don’t worry, though. The first time someone in public compliments you on your new acquisition, you will feel much better. The sudden sense of technological superiority will jump-start the pleasure center of your brain. (FYI: For this reason, you never want to be the last person in your neighborhood and/or workplace to get a new Apple anything.)

7. A growing distance between you and your Apple-less friends. It’s a sad fact of life: Once you become an Apple household, you simply won’t be spending as much time with your non-Apple-having friends. You will get new friends, though, and they will be much more awesome than your old friends. They are called Apple Geniuses and they are available by appointment only.

8. Transcendence. This is what happens as soon as you realize your life has been irrevocably changed by the little bundle of joy. You will wonder how you lived for so long without it. You will admit you can never go back to life before it. You will get sucked into your new device. Literally. You will be like Johnny Depp in that movie where he died and was brought back to life as a computer program. That movie had a happy ending, right? I don’t know. Didn’t see it. Did you? No? Did anyone see it? Hmm. Well, let’s just pretend it had a happy ending and move on to…

9. Ennui. This is the inevitable sense of boredom that will overcome you. Life’s old pleasures will cease to have impact. New pleasures will emerge, but they will pass quickly. The rush you felt the first time you unlocked your phone with nothing more than your fingerprint will be long gone. All that will remain: A hole in the center of your being, filled with the dispiriting notion that your new Apple product will one day be obsolete. As will you.

10. Wonderment. You will wonder what happened to the whole iDevice-as-a-baby metaphor. You are probably already at this phase right now.

11. Temptation. The longer you possess your no-longer-new Apple product, the more tempting the Samsung commercials will get. You’ll see some new Amazon product getting a ton of press and you’ll picture yourself holding it in your hands. You’ll take a second look at that ad for… Windows? “Wow,” you’ll say, “Windows is actually looking pretty good these days.” But the temptation will give way to…

12. Mutual respect, deep-seated appreciation, and a Hollywood ending. Sure, the novelty of your new Apple product will wear off. Siri’s limitations will become readily apparent. The device’s heft and quirkiness will become more pronounced as it ages. Curiosity will lead you back to Windows or maybe over to Android or one its many variants, but the experience will be painful, oh-so-very-very-painful: Why does this Windows 8 computer have two separate interfaces that DON’T WORK TOGETHER AT ALL? Why can’t this brand new Android phone be updated to the latest Android OS? Why does this Amazon device seem to be designed solely to get me to spend even more money on other stuff? And you’ll find the only thing that will relieve the pain is your once-new-but-now-old Apple product. The one you came this close to selling. You will apologize to it. You will hold it close, caressing it with tenderness. You will promise never to abandon it again.

Well, at least not until the iPhone 7S comes out in 2017. According to the internet, it’s going to be so freakin’ awesome!!!

For the movie rights to this post, please contact @ericbuchman. All I ask for is casting approval, final say on the script, and payment in German bearer bonds.

Pocket Casts vs. Downcasts: Which is the superior podcast app?

I’ve been using Pocket Casts as my main podcast-listening app since the beginning of the year. (You can read my original review here.) The main advantage Pocket Casts has over Apple’s own podcast app?  Greater ability to organize podcasts.  For example, I like having a listview of only podcast episodes that have been both downloaded (i.e. not-to-be-streamed) and are unplayed.  Pocket Cast can do that.  Apple’s podcasting app can’t.

IMG_0684Pocket Casts does have one annoying quirk, though. The app’s filters are a great way to view your preferred podcasts, but they lack “continuous play” (i.e. when one podcast ends, the next one on the list automatically begins).  To get that, you have to manually add episodes to a separate playlist.  It would be better if filters and playlists were the same thing.

(Note: The app does offer a couple other ways to “build a queue,” but none of them are ideal solutions.)

This might not seem like a big deal, but I hate it when I’m driving and the podcast I’m listening to ends, only to be followed by dead silence.  The last thing I want to do while behind the wheel of a car is mess with my iPhone.  It might not happen often since the average podcast is about an hour long, but it happens enough that I figured it’s time to give another app a chance.

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That app:  Downcast.  Let’s take a look at how it compares to Pocket Casts.

Like Pocket Casts, Downcast has a little red icon with two curved lines.
Like Pocket Casts, Downcast currently costs $2.99.
Like Pocket Casts, Downcast is extremely customizable when it comes to automatically filtering out (or in) podcast episodes.
Unlike Pocket Casts?  Downcast does its filtering right in playlists.

Downcast must be my new default podcast player, right?  Not so fast.  Let’s look at them side-by-side.

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App Review: SquareOne — The first third-party Gmail app I actually might keep using

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Everything you need to know about the new iOS email app SquareOne is in the above photo.  That’s the home screen, the first thing you see whenever you open the app. Notice the little numbers in the corners of the boxes? Those are the numbers of unread messages in each of those categories, and clicking on a square will only show you the messages related to that topic.  How does the app know where each message goes? The very first time you open the app, you’ll see all your messages in the “Unsorted” folder.  A simple swipe to the left allows you to select the folder where a particular message belongs. From that point on, whenever that sender emails you something, their message will go straight to that folder.  You don’t have to do anything else. As new people email you, you only have to sort them once. The app will take it from there.

SquareOne doesn’t mess with any of Gmail’s own file structure. When you sign into Gmail from a computer, you’ll still see all your messages as you normally would with no new folders or rules or anything added.  That’s handy because if you decide to stop using the app, you aren’t stuck having to undo all the damage it’s wrought.  The flip side, though, is that if you use Gmail’s own preferences to filter your messages at the server level, SquareOne will not recognize them.  In fact, the app only sorts messages in your Gmail in-box, so the contents of any other folders you’ve manually created (via the web interface) will be ignored.

Another minor drawback to SquareOne is if you have a sender that’s associated with more than one category. SquareOne doesn’t use subject lines or keywords to sort your messages, just the email addresses of senders.  This makes the sorting process really simple (i.e. no “learning process” like other apps that try to guess where messages should go), but if you work with your spouse — this is just an example — it won’t know whether a particular message is work-related or home-related. All messages from any sender will go to the same place. (FYI if you DO work with your spouse… just mark his/her message “VIP,” okay?)

The composing and reading windows look just like any other email app, nothing special there.  But that’s okay because for me, those actions don’t need improving.

Other things to note:

— You can create as many groupings as you need/want.

— It’s Gmail-only at the moment, but they say support for other email providers are on the way.

— It recognizes Gmail’s two-step authorization, if you use it (which you should, for additional security).

— When you first connect the service to your Gmail account, it’ll show you a neat “analytics” report for that account: how many messages you receive on average per month, your average response time, and how “overloaded” your in-box is compared to other gmail users.  If this is the kind of data that interests you, take note when it first presents itself, because there’s no way to get back to this screen once it’s gone (as far as I can tell).

— You can link the app to multiple Gmail accounts.

— You can “silence” individual groups so the app doesn’t push you any notifications when certain people email you.

— Yes, there’s a way to see all your messages in a single unified in-box for those times when you might need it.

I don’t rely too much on my Gmail account mostly because I find Gmail’s web interface to be a tad unwieldy. Even Google’s official mobile app can be annoying.  With a streamed-down app like SquareOne, though — which only does one trick but does that trick very well — I can see myself using Gmail more and more.

App Review: Pocket Casts for iPhone

Long-time readers of this blog (hi, mom!) know my affinity for podcasts.  I’ve offered advice to aspiring podcasters. I even returned my first Android phone largely because I didn’t like how that platform handled podcasts (in 2010).  So when Apple came out with their own dedicated Podcast app over a year ago, I was ecstatic.  Though version 1.0 was full of bugs, it offered one feature that made it worthwhile: A single playlist that automatically showed all my downloaded & unplayed podcasts, ordered from oldest to newest.  That’s all I really needed.

And then Apple updated their Podcast app.  The bugs largely went away… but so did the one function I actually used.

The new “unplayed” list now showed all the unplayed episodes of all the podcasts I subscribed to, whether they had been downloaded or not. Here’s the thing: If I haven’t downloaded a podcast episode, that means I don’t want to listen to it. (I have zero interest in streaming podcasts while I’m out and about.) I kept waiting for a revision that would restore the ability to automatically hide undownloaded episodes, but, alas, that day would never come.

After a year of manually managing my podcast library, I decided to finally break Tech Guy Rule #121: “Never pay for an app when a decent alternative is free.” I emptied my piggy bank and scrounged up enough coins to buy a new podcast app. But which one? Downcast, Instacast, Pocket Casts and iCatcher all had good write-ups on the web, as well as largely positive reviews on the app store.  They all cost less than five bucks.  They all bragged about their customizability.  But only one had this on its app store page:

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And that app was Pocket Casts, which I immediately bought.  Here’s what the app looks like once you get it up and running:

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Above is the app’s home screen, where you’ll find a bevy of filters and lists you can customize to organize your library.

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This is what the app looks like after you’ve subscribed to some podcasts.

Subscribing to podcasts is very easy. As soon as you hit the “+” in the upper right hand corner (from almost any page), you’re greeted with a page of Featured Podcasts.

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You can also see podcasts grouped by popularity, categories, and network.

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The Network view is very useful, though it’s far from complete. Earwolf and MaximumFun.org, for example, were both missing. (But their podcasts were easily found using the search tool.)

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Once you’ve subscribed to a podcast, you can see all available episodes.  You can then download only the ones you want to listen to. You can also set it to auto-download new episodes in the future, if you wish. Thanks to iOS 7, downloading is done in the background, and only on wifi if you don’t have an unlimited data plan.

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Some of the icons were unfamiliar to me. For example, I had no idea what that little checkmark meant until I clicked it. (FYI: It’s to toggle between “played” and “unplayed” status.)

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From the episode page, you can choose to start playing the episode immediately or add it to a playlist. There’s also a “PLAY NEXT” option I’ll go into detail more later.

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Viola. A list of just the episodes that are both unplayed and downloaded.

The app is not without its quirks.  For example, you can create a “filter” — like the one seen above — that will automatically sort your podcast library by whatever criteria you want, but it’s not the same as a playlist.  Selecting an episode in the “filter” list will only play that individual episode. It will not automatically go onto the next one in the filter.  You need to create a “playlist” to do that.  Adding episodes to a playlist is easy, but, still, it’d make more sense to just have filters and playlists be the same thing.  The reason I left the Apple Podcast app is because I didn’t want to have to manually add anything to a playlist, yet here I am, having to do just that.

But just when I was ready to give another podcast app a try (for another $3), Pocket Cast won me over.  The saving grace?  The “play next” button.  One of the reasons I hate playlists is this: Let’s say you see an episode you’d like to listen to after the current podcast you’re listening to is over.  So you add it to a playlist, where it appears at the bottom of the list, and then you have to manually move the episode up, in order to hear it next.

With the “play next” button, it’ll cut through all that.  Just hit that button and the app will automatically cue the selected podcast to start playing as soon as the current one is finished.  It’s a feature I never knew I wanted… and now it’s the main way I listen to podcasts.

Another cool thing about the app is the way it handles “chapters.”

PocketCastsScreenshots 1

Only one podcast I listen to — Scriptnotes — uses chapter markers, but I imagine more and more podcasts will start to.

Another thing it handles quite well: Links to additional content.

PocketCastsScreenshots 2

The app might not be quite what I expected (seriously, filters and playlists shouldn’t be two different things), but I’m not regretting the purchase. If the idea of super-customizable filters, a “play next” option, and an extremely user-friendly interface for finding & subscribing to new podcasts intrigues you, then I can easily recommend Pocket Casts.