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Release Week: Castro 3 and Castro Plus

Posted by Padraig on May 28, 2018
Download Castro 3 for free on the App Store

We released Castro 3 a week ago, tweeting:

Castro 3 is out now:

  • Beautifully redesigned player screen
  • New player engine built from scratch
  • Apple Watch app

With this update Castro became free to download from the App Store. The triage features, and almost everything else, that users loved in Castro 2 are now free to use for everyone.

We also announced Castro Plus, an optional subscription for advanced features:

  • Trim Silence
  • Enhance Voices
  • Mix to Mono
  • Chapters
  • Per-Podcast settings
  • Skip Intros
  • Episode Limits
  • Night Mode

Night Mode and Enhance voices were already available in Castro 2, so customers who bought that still have access to those features whether they subscribe to Castro Plus or not.

We discussed this move to Free + Subscription in recent episodes of our podcast. There are a few popular exceptions but we strongly believe that paid up front apps with perpetual free updates are not sustainable for building an indie business on the App Store. Paid updates and free trials (if Apple introduce them) have worked for indie developers on the Mac for years, but the prices for indie Mac software are much higher so I’d be wary of suggesting that those features alone would be enough to make indie software more viable long term on iOS.

Aside from business model changes (and some new features like Mix to Mono) our main focus when developing Castro 3 was to catch up on as many features from other podcast apps as possible. Ryan Christoffel picked up on this in his MacStories review:

If an absent feature ever kept you from sticking with Castro 2, that almost certainly won’t be a problem anymore. Castro 3 addresses nearly all of those “one missing feature” requests in a single release. […] Castro 3 is everything Castro already was, but better. It’s the app that Castro fans have always wanted.

When we released Castro 1, almost 5 years ago, we were driven largely by a frustration with the visual design of other podcast apps, and so the visuals were what set that first version apart. In the intervening years however, we’re happy to have been able to bring much more to the table, and now have an app that serves podcast enthusiasts’ needs in a powerful way. Ryan continues:

Castro has always had its core attractions, and those remain what they were; Castro is still Castro, but better. Its main appeal was once to a select group of users with specific design preferences, but now Castro has truly come into its own: it’s become an app that serves nearly any podcast fan’s needs.

Glenn Fleishman made Castro 3 a Macworld Editors’ Choice, which is an honour:

I’ve found Castro’s triage approach suits my style of podcasting subscribing and listening better than playlist-driven ones, and if that sounds appealing to you, the rest of Castro 3’s improvements make it an easier recommendation as well.

On iMore, Christine Chan compared Castro 3 to Overcast, asking which podcast app is better?

I’ve always enjoyed the aesthetic of Castro over Overcast but continued to use Overcast because of the feature set. Now that Castro 3 brings about a slew of powerful new features, it’s a much harder choice to choose between the two. Each one has their own strengths and weaknesses, but the playing field is much more level now.

We worked hard during development to try ensure Trim Silence would be a worthy competitor to Marco Arment’s Smart Speed® in Overcast; we didn’t want to just check it off a feature list, so we were happy that Christine echoed a sentiment we’ve heard from other reviewers and customers:

After testing out Castro’s Trim Silence, I believe that it’s on par with Overcast, and a great addition to Castro. Voices still sound natural, and I definitely don’t notice as many awkward silences in shows, as it’s meant to be.

Last week was a whirlwind of responding to customers emails and tweets, catching up on reviews, trying to interpret stats from iTunes Connect, selling and buying houses, and even writing a little bit of code.

On Thursday we tweeted:

Castro 3 has been downloaded more times in 3 days than Castro 2 was in 2 years. 😘

That quickly became our most liked tweet of the week. It’s lovely to see how many people are enthusiastic and hopeful about the future of Castro.

It’s important to note that increased download numbers really are only the first step in a successful transition to this new model, we need a certain percentage of those downloads to convert to subscriptions. I’m happy to report that opposition to the subscription model, which we expected and were prepared for, has been from a vocal minority and the vast majority of feedback we’ve received has been from customers saying they’re happy to pay for an app they use so frequently.

Since both subscription tiers ($3 for 3 months, or $9 for a year) start with a 7 day free trial, today is the first day that actual paid subscriptions begin and tomorrow we’ll know what our initial subscriber count is. Over the coming weeks we’ll get an idea of how many new subscribers are signing up each day. It will take a few months before we know how many subscribers on the quarterly plan renew for a second term. All these factors will contribute to us determining whether we can meet our target subscriber count in a reasonable time or if we’ll need to rethink our marketing efforts and/or product roadmap.

We’re hopeful, quietly optimistic even, about this transition; but in many ways the work towards having a successful and sustainable indie software business based on recurring subscriptions is only just beginning.

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