Cosmicast 2: A Podcast Player Devoid of Complexity

Cosmicast, a podcast player released a couple of years ago and recently redesigned from the ground up, is set to disrupt the two-horse race currently led by Overcast and Pocket Casts as the two coveted full-featured third-party podcast players on the App Store by offering on par features, platform access and unique design-centric delights.

Interface & Interactions

Cosmicast 2

One of the traits that help differentiate and establish uniqueness in Cosmicast is the bold approach to its design by semi-adopting the foregone skeuomorphic1 look and feel with the use of an animated spinning turntable on the player interface. Reminiscent of the tape deck found in the native Podcast app in iOS 6, it is sure to evoke nostalgic feelings. I’d love to see a selection of different record players and audio speakers like a gramophone, for example.

In keeping with today’s design standards, however, Cosmicast offers a single streamlined interface with gestures2 to access primary functions on the same interface directly. Accessing other core options can be done via an ellipses and settings button, which, understandably, takes your attention away from the current task on the single interface.

But with the use of gestures, simple button taps to reveal focused and straightforward modal windows, navigating and interacting with elements on the app is devoid of complexity even when swaying away from the current task. A simple dismissal of the modal window transports the user right back to their suspended state before entering the modal context. Such an approach eradicates complexity and makes me wish more apps consider adopting this approach to reduce navigational fatigue.

The app features playful interactions with the turntable, after all, what’s a turntable without the ability to scratch it. Users can scratch back and forth on the turntable to skip forwards and backwards, tap and hold to reveal episode details, chapters and all episodes from the current playing podcast episode.

Along with the spinning vinyl, the design aspect of Cosmicast is a real delight, even more so on the iPad, where I usually set my display auto-lock to never. I’d love to see a setting option to keep the screen awake while Cosmicast is active so that I can enjoy the delightful display of the spinning turntable when I’m not actively using the iPad.

Features and Discovery

Cosmicast

Feature parity is paramount if you want your app to stand a chance of being regarded as one of the best in its category. Cosmicast offers a lot of the existing core features found in some of the renowned podcast players on the App Store. In terms of appearance, the app supports Dark Mode with a selection of tint colours to alter the theme to your taste, along with a wide range of app icons.

Discovery is essential on media platforms. Cosmicast features a built-in directory that enables users to browse an extensive list of categories and topics regionally which automatically populates a list the most popular shows for your chosen region under the Popular tab.

Platforms and Pricing

Cosmicast is available as a universal purchase which gives you access across all platforms: iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and CarPlay support.

Following the revamp, Cosmicast started life again on the App Store with a single upfront one-off payment of £8/$10. The app has since switched to a subscription model due to needing ongoing funds for the continued development of Cosmicast. Users can opt for a monthly, yearly sub or a one-off lifetime payment of £23/$29. I find the subscription pricing reasonable, giving the list of feature parity and platform access.

Conclusion

In all my years using podcast players on iOS, from Instacast to Downcast, to the currently available selections leading the way, it is refreshing to see another new worthy contender in this category. I can firmly say Cosmicast belongs in the upper echelon of podcast players on the App Store.


  1. Some say it resembles the more modern Neumorphic design, you decide!
  2. A list of all the available gestures can be found and activated in Settings.

NetNewsWire 5.0 for iOS Overview

NetNewsWire 5.0
NetNewsWire 5.0 on iPhone

The iOS App Store is not short of great RSS Readers. My current favourite RSS client is Reeder 4 by Silvio Rizzi — I love the elegance, simplicity, and the number of RSS services it can connect to should I ever part ways with Feedly.1

Reeder 4 recently had issues with automatic background syncing with the Feedly service, which coincided with my time Beta testing NetNewsWire for iOS — the highly popular and respected open-source RSS Reader for Mac under development for iOS. As I patiently waited for Reeder 4 to sort out its sync issues, I switched to using NetNewsWire on my iOS devices and loved it. It boasts the same simplicity I found in Reeder 4 but even faster when it comes to fetching and updating feeds.

NetNewsWire is not littered with complicated features as it prioritises speed and reliability to provide an app free of unruly bugs that weakens the experience. The app currently offers Feedbin and Feedly RSS account sources and feeds saved locally on your iOS device. It provides the expected staple features you come to expect in RSS clients on iOS; timeline feed sorting, article and layout options, subscription OPML import and export options.

NetNewsWire values quality over a plethora of ‘Power Features’, which bodes well for the minimalist that wants to launch the app and consume content in the purest form with excellent readability. Such simplicity makes for a compelling reason to give NetNewsWire a good try and see how it fits your use case.

NetNewsWire 5.0 is free to download on the iOS App Store.


  1. Currently on Feedbins 14-day free trial as I explore using RSS clients to consume Newsletters. ↩︎

Dark Noise: A Refined White Noise App with a Liquid Smooth Design

I am new to the world of utilising White noise as a medium to emulate specific types of background noise to help sleep, relax or focus when writing even though I am aware of its existence. Music is the only tried and trusted medium I have used up until now. I had the chance to help Beta test the development of Dark Noise by iOS developer Charlie Chapman, which also prompted me to further look into the whole world of using White noise for relaxation and focus as an alternative to listening to music. I can safely say Dark Noise has introduced an incredibly reliable tool that reenacts the effects of noise to enter a calm, relaxed or focused state.

The App Store currently has a significant amount of White noise apps, but having been on the Dark Noise Beta since version 1.0 - if memory serves me right - and watching the app evolve to what it is now has had an unexpected magnetic effect that draws me towards it every time I think about exploring other apps of that ilk from the App Store. The simple reason being the incredibly beautiful design, simplicity, functionality and realism of the sounds in the app.

Dark Noise Press Kit
Dark Noise for iPad and iPhone

Noises

Dark Noise currently has a sound library of over 30+ noises with categories ranging from Water, Nature, Urban, Appliances, Fire, and for any unique users who like the sound of snoring, the Human category has you covered. Noises, crafted from a mixture of available royalty-free public domain sounds with enhancements for suitability with Dark Noise for better realism and what impresses me the most; the developers own original recordings of sounds.

Touching on the noise authenticity, the combination of the HomePod audio technology with its all-encompassing sense of space and the realism of the sounds from Dark Noise fills the room replicating a true to form sense of being in the environment the noises are emulating, especially when listening to the Office and Coffee Shop noises in my case.

My one feature wish is to have the functionality to create noise playlists, where noises can be queued and automatically play after a set amount of time.

Design

You know you’ve got the app design right when a fellow respected developer of a White noise app tweets you about how impressed he is with your app and would probably recommend it above his.

Designed with simplicity in mind; the simplicity and functionality are what I value the most. Not a single part of the app setup or interaction is trivial and require instructions. It has a clear set of general and advanced options for the user to personalise the experience of how they want the app to function interactively; haptic feedback, auto-play on open option and visually; selection of crafted themes including Dark and Light mode, app icons (If you’re into tech podcasts you’ll love the choices), and glorious noise icon animations with motion graphics that makes me wish for an Apple TV app. Watching the noise icon animations on the TV with background themes automatically switching will be a delight and adds to the relaxation effect.

The Play user interface screen consists of carefully selected and easily reachable set of controls that are tucked low level on the bottom half of the screen on the iPhone, with the play button just above them allowing the noise icon to take center stage with its delightful motion graphics for that particular noise. As the Steve Jobs saying goes: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”, this is undoubtedly true for Dark Noise, no complicated interactions whatsoever. Simple and straight to the point in as few taps as possible, right from the first time launching the app to configuring your preferences in settings.

The ease of which to invoke play of your favourite noises is remarkable, Dark Noise supports the use of customisable widget which can display favourite noises or recently played noise to activate with a single tap, users can also force touch on the app icon to play noise with a selection of other functions or activate the option to ‘Auto-Play on Open’ from settings, which enables the app to automatically start playing from launch. If you are in a position that restricts activation of a noise physically, you can use Siri shortcuts automation to start playing a noise. The noises can be played directly on the device or use AirPlay to play the noise on an Apple TV or HomePod.

I haven’t yet utilised Dark Noise app to help me sleep, planning to do so soon. Its effectiveness in helping me focus has been tremendous, and it has dethroned my use of music for such situations.

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7BDtu9CkAI&w=854&h=480]

You can hear more about the development and plans for Dark Noise on The Outpost Show podcast where the developer discussed the process and evolution of the app from a little ‘learning project’ to what could now potentially be the best app of its kind on iOS.

Dark Noise is a universal app available to download from the iOS App Store.