I’ve been using Instacast for some time now to manage and listen to my podcasts. While there UX could be refined a bit, it certainly outdid Apple’s Music and (later) Podcast Apps. Today I decided to do some cross device syncing with Instacast and quickly became disappointed. I’m running version 2.x of Instacast, and syncing completely failed across devices. It was pulling subscriptions I haven’t listened to in years. But what really annoyed me was their upgrade path: non-existent.

Version 3.0
Instacast requires a new install for its 3.0 version, which currently is listed at $5. While I understand some circumstances may merit such a move, I would certainly expect some major update to merit a repurchase of the same app. Looking at the screenshots and product page, nothing looks significantly different. The iPhone UI looks exactly the same as before. But the thing that put me over the edge was this statement on their page:

We switched out old technologies like manual reference counting (like a stick shift) and SQLITE and removed them with automatic reference counting (like automatic gear shifting) and Core Data, the powerful object layer.

I’m calling bullshit on this.

The first set of changes (manual reference counting to auto) has nothing to do with performance, and the analogy is bad. The user won’t notice any difference, except if the old versions of the app use to crash more often because of poor use of manual reference counting. Furthermore, nearly all the work required for Automatic Reference Counting is handled by Apple’s Xcode compiler, with very little work to do on the part of the App Developer.

The second set of changes (SQLITE to CoreData) could improve performance, but most likely will be undetectable to the user as well. And again, this is just cleanup work for App Developer to make better use of the Apple’s built in data store, and ultimately makes their life easier as developers.

These two changes should most certainly NOT merit a paid upgrade in my opinion. Good maintenance of existing functionality is the responsibility of the App Developer, and charging users extra for these plumbing changes that change their experience is, in my opinion, not fair.

Cloud Sync

Version 3.0 boasts support for Cloud Sync. However, versions 2.x supposedly did so via iCloud, albeit poorly. I don’t understand how they can claim this as a new feature that requires a paid upgrade either.

iPad Support

The only major difference to users is the support of an iPad version of the app. While that is significant work, it doesn’t strike me as fair that users who purchased versions prior to 3.0 and perhaps don’t care about an iPad version are now forced to re-purchase a nearly exact replica of the same app. The new app is actually called “Instacast 3″ which differentiates it from just “Instacast”, which no longer exists in the AppStore, meaning they probably won’t issue new updates for it. Furthermore, the price is too high.

While I’ve been a supporter and fan of Instacast, I refuse to purchase the 3.0 upgrade and will start using other podcasting apps going forward.