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  • Hello PodTrapper, Goodbye iTunes

    Posted on January 2nd, 2009 Shawn No comments


    It feels so good to say goodbye to iTunes. I’m not an iPod (or iPhone) user. I don’t buy music from iTunes. “So” you ask, “why, prey tell do you use iTunes?” Well, you see, I’m a podcast junky. Everything I obsess about on this blog, I scour the Earth to find podcasts about. Generally, iTunes has always been an easy to use, single repository to find podcasts and easily download them.

    I typically sync podcasts to my mobile devices (Palm Treos, BlackBerry Storm) for listening when on the road. The downside to this is many. First, iTunes doesn’t play well with Palm Treo 650 or 700p (my old devices) and is not very usable at the moment with BlackBerry syncing. With years of syncing music to mobile devices, I have become very accustomed to using Windows Media Player to sync my music. It works quite well with any device that supports MTP, which both Palm’s and BlackBerry’s do well.

    Though, having to find podcasts in iTunes, download them in iTunes, sync Windows Media Player with my iTunes library, and then sync my BlackBerry (or Palm) to Windows Media Player…just blows, to put it frankly. I have gotten used to it, but don’t like it. I have always wanted a utility on my mobile device that would allow me to grab podcasts directly to my device, without needing my computer (plus iTunes and WMP) as the middleman. Now I have it!
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    Enter, PodTrapper by Versatile Monkey, a fairly young application for the BlackBerry operating system. There have been a few reviews of PodTrapper on the intertubes recently, which is how I learned about it. Thanks to a 30-day trial, I was able to give it a go. I started the trial with PodTrapper 1.4, and thanks to a sale at ShopCrackBerry.com bought it this week. It’s $9.99 regular price, but keep a watchful eye on 20% discounts (like I found at CrackBerry). Just yesterday, PodTrapper upgraded to version 1.5, which is the version that I’ll focus on.

    PodTrapper does several things right, and a few wrong. Let’s first talk about what’s right.

    * It works with the Storm. Since I have the all touchscreen Storm, it’s important that any app developed pre-Storm has been ported over. Version 1.5 works natively with the Storm, whereas version 1.4 required to you Disable Compatibility Mode.
    * Main screen and menu is easy to use, with options to add, edit, and delete podcasts; change global settings; view currently downloading casts; and more.
    * Settings allow you to configure when to download, like only over WiFi or desktop, to save on bandwidth; or only when recharging, to save on battery. I have set mine to download over cellular networks and/or desktop, and at any time. So, I know that battery will drain a bit while my casts are downloading. But downloading works great.
    * Adding a podcast, is good and bad. With version 1.4, it was just bad…forcing you to manually type in a URL to a podcast. That’s where iTunes was a champion, no URL’s needed. Though, in PodTrapper 1.5 things are getting better. You can browse a library of thousands of podcasts to download. This uses the BB internet browser and a menu item add-on titled “Subscribe to Podcast”. This Browse and Subscribe model takes me earily close to searching for podcasts in iTunes. I did notice a few of my favorites were not in the browse, such as X3F Fancast, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson Radio, and Pandora Presents… Though, many others were there, plus some new casts that I had not seen before. The Browse and Subscribe section was just introduced this week and is a good start. It needs to time add more casts, plus the “Subscribe to Podcast” menu item disappeared once and I had to do a battery pull to get it back. I’m very happy with it so far, and see Browse getting better. If you know the URL for a podcast, it’s a piece of cake to add that by typing in (or pasting) the URL.
    * The home screen using icons to alert you of newly downloaded casts, casts not yet downloaded, and casts that you have partially listened to, but not finished.
    * “Auto Bookmark” feature, is the best way to call this. PodTrapper is also a player for casts (and anything stored on your device). The biggest selling point was the ability to listen to part of a podcast, and finish listening later without having to start at the beginning. I call it “auto bookmarking”. You can have many casts partially listened too, and they will all retain where you left off. This is a major missing feature of the BlackBerry default Music player, and PodTrapper get’s it right.
    * It’s very configurable. Some I mentioned above, though you can have it download a certain number of casts at once to save battery and bandwidth, plus you can configure how many of a specific casts you want stored on your device to preserve memory.

    What could be improved:
    * Right now there is no support for Album Art. Since many podcasts supply static (and sometimes dynamic) album art, this should be added in the future.
    * The UI, although quite usable, looks like a 7th graders programming project. It’s not slick, as you’d expect an app on newer mobile devices to look. The UI needs some graphic love.
    * The browse feature (mentioned above), needs to have a library as extensive as iTunes. It’s good now, just needs to grow. Plus there is a bug in the “Subscribe to Podcast” menu item that needs to be fixed.
    * Some bugs. I tried to delete a podcast, but got a 0% complete dialog box. When I it the BB back key to close out, I got the BB clock logo and PodTrapper froze. I was able to use every other feature on the Storm, but PodTrapper would only display the frozen clock. My fix was a battery pull.
    * On screen player buttons could be more responsive.  On the Storm, I need to hit the play/pause button 3 times whenever I want to use it.

    For $9.99 (or $7.99 if you can find the discount), It’s worth it if you are a podcast junky. Though, I believe this should be a native application on the Storm or Bold since RIM is trying to market these devices to the media junky consumers, like me. Since these features are not built into the native BB Music player, this is a must have app for me. Now, I have already added all my favorite podcasts into PodTrapper (plus a few new ones thanks to the Browse feature), and have deleted all from iTunes. Now, the only time I need to sync is if I’m copying music from my harddrive to my Storm, which will be much less frequent thanks to all my podcasts.

    UPDATE: I just used PodTrapper to download my first video podcast. Some great, and not so greats here. First, the video’s can play directly from PodTrapper. GREAT. Video quality is superb, as this is really the first time I have used the Storm for video.  Looks beautiful.  GREAT. The Storm accelerometer allows the screen to rotate landscape/portrait. GREAT, sort of. In portrait it’s buggy and hows only a portion of the screen and a partial keyboard. NOT GREAT. I can’t figure out how to pause, stop, or mute a video while it’s playing. No volume control either. NOT GREAT at work. Fortunately, the BB Media Player immediately adds video podcasts to the list of Videos, so they can be played in the Bb Media Player with full control.  GREAT.  Unfortunately, they are named like “105_127” instead of the title of the video, making it tough decipher what the content is without opening it up. NOT GREAT. At first glance, I was uber-excited about the video feature, but it need a lot of work for primetime.

    For those of you interested in what podcasts I am listening too, here’s the list:
    * 2old2type Radio (found with the Browse feature)
    * BB Geeks
    * CrackBerry.com Podcast
    * donkey wrangler to the stars (found with the Browse feature)
    * Internet Storm Center Threat Update
    * Jay Severin Podcasts
    * Pandora Presents… the Musicology Show
    * Security Bites
    * The WordPress Community
    * X3F Fancast Defense Force Podcast
    * X3F TV (found with the Browse feature)
    * Xbox Live’s Major Nelson Radio

    Do you listen to podcasts while on the go? If so, how do you roll?

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