💥 Boom! Player FM 4.0 arrives with new user-interface, premium subscriptions, and a thunderous symphony of new features

Podcast heaven is now a place on Earth with Player FM 4.0, which has just begun rollout on Google Play. The app sports a completely redesigned interface optimized for your podcast pleasure and productivity … say goodbye to the old side menu and hello to the new bottom-navigation panel. With 4.0, we are introducing paid upgrades with a bevvy of new features, and there are also many new features launching for all users.

New bottom navigation interface

The most noticeable update is the new bottom navigation panel featuring 5 tabs. The all-important Shows tab is in the middle with your subscriptions, and it’s flanked by Discover, Downloads, your Play Later playlist, and Settings. The side menu is no more, as its main navigational items (Shows, Downloads, and Settings) are now part of the core navigation. The other items (Import, Help, etc.) are now available in Settings, which is a predictable and standard convention.

We don’t make such changes lightly as we know it can cause frustration and confusion to some users (for other users, such changes admittedly light their eyes up in glee). Plus, we’re far too laser-focused on pushing forward the whole podcasting space to make interface changes just for the sake of it. So why put in all the effort to make a new navigation model? It actually brings several benefits:

  • Extra room is created for the thing that matters most: content. The previous interface had a two-row navigation on top – the “Shows” label with some icons like search and Chromecast. By removing the Shows hierarchy and judiciously moving those icons elsewhere, we removed that top row. Now you just have one top toolbar for the current section and the bottom navigation panel. That’s one less row of app stuff replaced by one more row of your stuff!
  • Bottom tabs are also easier to navigate with one hand, now that most phones are too tall to reach with your thumb. This explains the general trend towards bottom navigation, even on Android where it was once frowned upon as an iOS pattern, and even among Google’s own apps such as YouTube and Google+. In fact, it’s an official part of the platform nowadays.
  • Bottom tabs aren’t intended to be swipeable, and since we are emphasising swiping episodes instad of swiping for navigation purposes, it makes more sense to promote bottom navigation than traditional tabs which have some expectation of being swipeable to navigate.
  • Items formerly in the side menu will now be easier to discover and access. The “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon is a real drawback of side menus. A useful feature like showing only downloaded episodes will now be discovered by more users just by tapping the Settings icon.

As part of this redesign, the settings screen got a heavy upgrade too. You’ll now enjoy access to three popular toggle controls directly on the top of Settings: Show downloaded only, Show played, and Force offline. Users have often requested faster access to these features and this was a nice side benefit of the upgrade. There are also new tabs here for Help and About, and Import has found its way onto Settings too, with some new features described below.

Premium memberships

It’s an important part of our mission to make podcasts as accessible and freely available to all. We have no plans to charge upfront and we want to avoid display ads as much as reasonably possible. Therefore, as announced earlier this year, we will be funding future development and server costs with premium memberships.

These are recurring subscriptions because we feel it’s a false economy to charge one-time upfront fees in an era where people expect continuous upgrades and 24/7 server operations. At some point, the burden of supporting existing users becomes overwhelming unless they’re paying a small amount on an ongoing basis. Fortunately it’s now easy to take payments inside the app with just one tap, and with Google recently dropping their fee from 30% to 15%, it’s possible to keep the subscription price affordable.

After much open design and evolution within the fabulous beta community, there are now over 100 paying beta users, to whom we’re tremendously grateful. Based on their feedback, we’ve converged on a set of plans which we believe should work well for all users. The tiers are Patron, Pro, and Gold, and will be offered as annual-billing rates of $9.99/month, $3.99/month, and $0.99/month respectively, with monthly-billing rates also available.

The Patron plan is a patronage model for people who like our approach to podcasting and want to help support it. Similar to a Kickstarter project, patrons receive perks as a thankyou, such as on-demand content recommendations, priority support, insider access, and exclusive updates. We have plans to work with publishers in the future to make this a more conventional plan, but for now, there’s no pretense that this is a plan for supporters of the app. The Pro and Gold plans are more conventional plans, packed full of features. Pro has all the features of Gold, plus cloud-intensive features catering towards people who are serious about podcasting.

Let’s look at the new premium features in detail. We’re excited to be bringing many of these to the podcasting world for the first time! The following are available on all plans:

  • Sync across multiple devices and the web. You’ve been waiting a long time for this one. Finally your full play history syncs in the cloud, so that play positions and played statuses will match across all your devices and web browsers. If it’s faded on one phone, it will be faded on all the others where Player FM is installed, including the Player FM web app and the upcoming iPhone app, which is now close to beta release.

  • Save oodles of storage space. Automatically compress your offline audio to less than half its orginal size in many cases, with minimal loss in quality. Podcast hoarders can save Gigabytes of precious space! We’ve found you can compress down to 30% of original size in the case of some podcasts.

  • Get organized with playlists. Make as many custom playlists as you want, synced in the cloud. Each playlist has its own download options should you wish to keep some offline.

  • Take notes with bookmarks. Getting back to favorite quotes is a breeze with time-stamped, annotated, bookmarks. Keep multiple bookmarks for any episode and they all sync in the cloud.

  • Make it yours with custom themes. Build up your own stable of themes or choose from exclusive member themes. Our theme wizard will make any color combo look sensational!

  • Sync when and where it suits you. Setu p a personal sync schedule, blacklist unwanted wi-fi networks or whitelist trusted ones for download purposes. You determine when key network activity happens.

  • Power settings for powerful playback. Set up custom actions for sequences (e.g. double-click headphones pause button), shake to extend sleep timer, pause between episodes.

  • All-in-one podcast and media player. Make Player FM your go-to app for personal media. Import local audio and video, organize them with playlists, and enjoy your own media with Player FM’s advanced playback features such as silence skip, intelligent volume boost, and sleep timer.

The Pro Plan also adds:

  • Protect your playlists with full audio backup. Our cloud servers automatically backup all your playlists. Pod-fade happens, but you’ll still be able to return to your favorite shows with full-episode backups.
  • Find that show with full-text search on all your stuff. Search full episode shownotes on any of your playlists or subscription categories
  • Get your feeds updated early and often. Be the first to know with high-priority fetching for all your subscriptions. Leave the hard work to our cloud servers. They’ll check your subscriptions several times an hour, saving your device’s battery and bandwidth.
  • Priority support. Faster support.

The Patron Plan, while primarily a patronage membership for now, does add several perks as a thankyou:

  • Recommendations. Get personalized recommendations from our context experts.
  • Recognition. A badge to your profile will be added (optional). We appreciate your contribution.
  • Insider Access. Get early access to new features and quarterly newsletters.
  • VIP Support. Fastest, high-touch, level of support.

Premium memberships are available via Settings. You’ll find full info there and preview screenshots by tapping on each feature. For users who have premium memberships, the plan description will transform into an interactive tour to help you make the most of your upgrade.

As far as display ads, our stance is simple: to the extent we can avoid them, we will. One thing’s for sure: we want to make these memberships a genuinely premium experience, not just a “pay to remove ads” model. That said, the app will still show messages in certain contexts to promote the premium plans, which can be a trigger for people to upgrade.

We do intend to experiment with some advertising, to the extent we can keep it secure and unintrusive, as a way to keep the app sustainable for users who don’t upgrade, and no doubt as a reason for some users to learn more about the premium plans on offer. It was avoided up to now because we don’t like the idea of forcing ads on users who have no way to remove them. But we’re more open to a modicum of advertising now that there’s an affordable way for sufficiently motivated users to remove it.

And much more in Player FM 4.0

If the UI redesign and premium features were not enough, there’s even more upgrades for you in 4.0.

Player updates:

  • Full-screen and mini-player swiping. The full-screen player can now be swiped to navigate to the next or previous episodes, making it simple and fun to switch between episodes. The mini-player has the same swiping ability too.
  • Redesigned mini-player To give a clean look beside the bottom navigation, the mini player was upgraded. A nice side effect is there’s now a bigger area dedicated to the title, which can also make it easier to expand to full player.
  • Video with locked orientation. There’s now a “switch to fullscreen” button on videos, so you can go landscape even with your phone locked to portrait.
  • Player animations. Jump controls and play/pause button will now spin to signify your actions.

Notification updates:

  • Redesigned notification player. Complying to the latest Android conventions, we changed how the notification player looks. The interface is much cleaner as we removed the digits inside the skip controls. A jump-to-next episode button is added when using the compressed view for easier navigation. Also, a single swipe is all you need to close it, instead of hitting the X button.
  • New notification icons. You can now distinguish between the player, downloading, subscription updates, and podcast of the day recommendations, all from a glance at your status bar.
  • Setting for player time. Long-pressing the mini-player time and full-screen player end time will let you choose what exactly it displays: current position, time remaining, or “real time remaining (time remaining adjusted for playback speed).

New playback sources:

  • Play directly from a URL. Via Import, you can now enter or paste a source URL and stream audio or video from it. No need to download the file.
  • Play directly from a file. Also via Import, you can browse the file system to open a file. This was previously only available by sharing from an external file browser.

Performance updates:

  • Faster interface. Smooth like butter! Most screens now load and scroll much faster.
  • Faster sync. Syncing is now more intelligent and selective, meaning it’s faster and uses less battery and bandwidth.

Other updates:

  • Adaptive home screen icon. The icon supports the Android 8.0 adaptive icons standard. Its shape will be changeable based on your launcher, making it more consistent with other icons.
  • Mark played up to an episode. For any of your subscriptions, mark all episodes played up to a specific episode.
  • Improved announcements. New graphical update notifications.

Try it now

Download Player FM in the Google Play Store now! With an update this big, we’ll be rolling it out to all users over the next 2-3 days. You can opt into the beta on the Play Store should you want it without delay.

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