iPod Nano

My iPod Nano Takes Swim

My iPod Nano in its silica prison

My iPod Nano in its silica prison

I've really been quite abusive of my Apple devices this week. 1st I abandon my Apple Watch at home and now I try an drown my iPod Nano. Before I get into the specifics I figured I better explain what the heck I'm doing with an iPod Nano in the first place. Afterall, I have an Apple Watch so why do I need a Nano? The answer is I shouldn't need a Nano, but between the music syncing only working half the time and the really spotty bluetooth connectivity of headphones to the Apple Watch...most of the time I just choose NOT to fight with getting the Apple Watch to work as a workout music player. See my post about Apple using us as Beta testers for more details.

So I used my trusty iPod Nano while working out in the gym earlier this week and then left it in my sweaty gym shorts after the workout. When I got home from work I promptly threw the sticking mess into the washing machine and pressed start. When I opened up the washing machine a few hours later, there at the bottom of the washing machine was a very clean iPod Nano.

This isn't our first rodeo when it comes to trying to resurect drowned electronics. So after having done this so many times and using rice as the desiccant, my wife planned for inevitable and started saving silica packets back as part of emergency medical kit for all our various devices. Just running my Nano through the wash would have been bad enough, but on top of that my Nano was already compromised. See my post on why I still use an iPod Nano for the details, but my Nano already had a very cracked screen before it made its journey through the washing machine...

Poor Nano

Poor Nano

So after 3 days of being sealed in a bag with silica I held my breath and plugged my Nano into power. This is always the tricky part. You can actually go out and totally soak your mobile device without damaging it, as long as it isn't powered up. The second you apply current to the electronics and there is any significant amount of water in the works, that is where the damage occurs. So it is always a tough question of how long is long enough to wait in order for it to totally dry out. Well, today was the day and my Nano powered up, but the screen flickered and then went into an endless cycle where it would reboot and then go to the home screen and the immediately reboot again...over and over again. Not looking good.  Several years ago my son did the same thing with his shuffle and we couldn't get it to come back from the dead. So it ended up in a junk drawer and many months later on a whim we fired it up and it worked. We ended up getting more life out of the device. So back in the bag my Nano goes and maybe next week I'll try firing it up and again, do a OS wipe and see if I bring it back. If not, I'll take into the Apple Store and see how much it would take to get it repaired. You never know, it might not be too bad. In the mean time I guess this gives me an excuse to do battle with my Apple Watch and bend it to my will to get it to work for me as a workout music player.

Why Do I Still Use My iPod Nano?

I was out running last night and my iPod Nano went flying out of my hand and dropped into the street cracking the display. I love my iPod Nano, despite the fact that it seems like the iPod is a thing of the past and has been replaced by multiple other devices. So why do I still have an iPod Nano?

  1. Apple Watch Music Sync: I can't easily use my Apple Watch for music while I workout. I sync my Apple Watch with two different iPhones and each time I have to switch phones (which is twice a week) any music I sync to the watch has to be re-synched (and I always forget to do this).
  2. Need Lots of Music for Workouts: I workout a lot, so unless I sync a lot of different music to my Apple Watch I don't have enough variety to keep it interesting.
  3. Old Bluetooth Tech: I own an older pair of Jaybird Bluetooth Headphones. These older headphones don't have the strongest bluetooth signal (it doesn't use the new Bluetooth Low Energy technology) so I have to wear my Apple Watch on my right wrist to keep it connected.
  4. iOS Music Sucks: I don't have the best luck with the iOS music app. Sometimes it works great, but other times it won't play or I can't find the music I'm looking for. Sometimes using an old school iPod is so much easier. It just works.
  5. Great for Travel: I travel a lot, so I end up doing a lot of reading, work and playing games on airplanes. Depending on what I'm doing I am using various iOS devices and each devices has different music on it. The music downloaded locally on iOS devices isn't always the music I am in the mood for or is best suited for the task I am doing. Having all of my music downloaded on my tiny iPod Nano means I plug in once to the Nano and then I'm good to go, guaranteed to have access to the music I want at the time.

I don't absolutely need an iPod Nano, but I would sure miss it if it stopped working. I probably won't repair my Nano right away. It still works. I may end up replacing the screen on it myself, it can't be as hard as replacing an iPhone or iPod touch screen and I've done both. Eventually, I will start using my Apple Watch more and more for music while I workout. I will eventually replace my aging Jaybird Bluetooth Headphones and get ones with the newer bluetooth technology making the connection more reliable with my Watch while working out. And maybe (it's a big maybe) Apple will make the iOS Music app not suck so much (a guy can dream can't he).

How the iPhone 5s Changed How I Manage Podcasts

I have a 45-minute drive each way back and forth to work daily, so that means I am privileged enough to spend 1.5 hours of my day in the car. In order to make the most out of that time I listen to podcasts that allow me to learn more about topics that interest me and I also listen to some podcasts just for pure entertainment (sometimes you can actually get both at the same time...thanks Ken Ray!). Some of the podcasts I listen to are daily podcasts, which means each and every day I need to somehow get these podcast onto one of my iOS devices so I can listen in the car. I also have a lot of time to fill so as you can imagine I have quite a long list of podcast I listen to. The other aspect of listening to podcasts in the car is that of distracted driving. If your solution requires you to look at your device and interact with the screen multiple times during the course of a commute then in my opinion the solution is too dangerous. So what's the best way to manage podcasts for the purpose of listening during daily work commutes? There are many different ways to do it. I'm going to talk about the two methods I have used.

My Podcast Management Solutions

Up until the fall of 2013 I used an iPod Nano as my device of choice for storing and listening to my podcasts every day:

  • No passcode required
  • Didn't take away from my iPhone battery life or storage
  • Required me to physically sync my iPod every morning
  • No way to easily (yes it could be done but it was complicated) create a continiuous playlist of podcasts
  • I also used the Nano to listen to music while I worked out

For a little over a year I synced my iPod Nano with my Mac every morning before leaving for work. Typically I would only have to advance from one podcast to the next only once during a commute and since the Nano wasn't password protected it didn't distract me while driving. It worked pretty well, but having to take even 5 minutes out of my day every day to sync my Nano was a bit of pain. Then came Touch ID and the iPhone 5s. When the iPhone 5s came out giving me the ability to unlock my iPhone without looking at the screen I knew it was time to consider moving my podcasts back to my phone. However, like I said earlier, there are many options out there for managing podcasts on iOS. So what solution should I go with?

Choosing a Podcast App

I'm not going to go into great detail here on all the different podcast app choices that are out there. Not only do I not want to write that much in this post I doubt you want to read that much. However, I will recommend that you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you listen to podcasts on more than one device? (cloud sync may be important to you)
  • Are you concerned about spending money on the application(s)? (there are free and paid options)
  • Are you picky about the app user interface design? (large variety of interface styles out there)
  • Do you want to be able to customize how the app syncs individual podcasts?
  • Do you listen to and use the enhanced podcast features that Apple offers? (not all apps support this)

After you have answered the questions above you should be able to narrow your list of potential apps down to just a handful of apps. For me it was between Downcast and Instacast. I didn't mind paying for the app, had no need to cloud sync between multiple devices and the most important feature for me was being able to customize a smart playlist. Based on what I had read so far I was pretty sure I was going to get Instacast, but I headed over to a website called Applr (www.getapplr.com). Applr is a social app discover site that let's you follow friends and people with similar interests as you and then it shows you the kind of apps the people you follow recommend. My friend Michael Johnston created the service (which is free) along with some help from Adam Christianson (the host of the Maccast podcast). All you have to do is create a free account, enter your Apple ID and password so Applr can access what apps you have purchased and then start following people. You then rate all the apps you have purchased (start with your most recent and favorite apps, rating them all would take forever). You can find me on Applr as Skip Owens so look me up! Even though I thought I knew what app I wanted, after doing some digging on Applr I found out that the smart playlist feature that was so important to me was causing people that bought Instacast a lot of frustration. And here I thought from reading the app descriptions on iTunes that Instacast had the better smart playlist features. So I followed my friend's advice and went with Downcast and love it! I am able to customize by podcast whether I want to stream the podcasts over cell data or download first before listening. I can also customize by podcast whether I want the ability to download new episodes using cell data or if I want to wait until I am on a wifi network.

There is another podcast out there on the horizon called Overcast that is being developed by Marco Arment the developer behind Instapaper. I am very curious about this app and will most likely try that app when it is released...

So I have been using Downcast for about 6 months now and it works perfectly for me. I could have easily spent the last 6-months buying different podcast apps but thanks to doing a little bit of homework and using Applr I found just what I needed the first time.

In case you are curious, here is a list of the current podcasts I am subscribed to:

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