Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

How the spoken audio works

Posted by universalis on 31 August 2022

The spoken audio of the Readings at Mass and of the Liturgy of the Hours is available on subscription. It is very simple to use. If you haven’t tried it before, do! You can listen to a sample before you subscribe.

How it works is this: you press the Play button, and a real, recorded human voice will speak the whole of the page you are looking at: the readings at Mass or one of the Hours. A yellow highlight follows the spoken lines and sentences, so you always know where you are.

You can read more about it all here for Android and here for iPhone and iPad.

The purpose of this blog post is to go just a little below the surface so that you can understand how it all behaves.

Universalis stores the audio it needs

To play audio, the Universalis app needs to have the necessary audio data. So if it knows that you will be wanting to listen to (say) Morning Prayer, it wants to download all the data that will ever be needed for Morning Prayer.

The first time you press Play

  1. Universalis works out what audio is needed to play you the page you are looking at on the screen. Nothing else.
  2. It downloads what is needed from the Internet. This takes a few seconds.
  3. It starts to play. Playing the audio does not require an Internet connection.

Meanwhile, while you are listening:

  1. The app works out everything you will ever need to play Morning Prayer, for your particular local calendar and your particular choice of translations – for instance, English versus American canticles, or Jerusalem Bible versus RSV for the readings.
  2. Invisibly, in the background, it downloads what is needed for Morning Prayer on all possible days in all possible years. This could take quite a few minutes. (Of course this background download does require an Internet connection).

The next time you press Play

You listened yesterday. Now it is today. You press Play. What happens?

  • If the “invisible background download” was completed, then nothing more needs to be done. The sound starts playing at once. No Internet connection is needed.
  • But perhaps not everything has got downloaded just yet. In that case everything works just like the first time you press Play – except that it is likely to be faster because less needs to be downloaded than the first time round, since whatever was downloaded the first time is already on your device. An Internet connection is needed to do the download.

In practice

Almost always, this boils down to “You only need an Internet connection the first time you press Play”. But if you lose your Internet connection soon after starting to play the audio, there may not have been time to download everything, so we may need to re-phrase it to “You only need an Internet connection the first few times you press Play”.

This all works separately for each Hour. So if you play Morning Prayer then the Morning Prayer content gets downloaded, and if you play Evening Prayer then the Evening Prayer content gets downloaded.

If you deliberately terminate the app immediately after closing it (some people have this habit), then the “download in advance” will be terminated too. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself needing an Internet connection next time.

If you change your choice of translation, then of course you will need to have an Internet connection because a certain proportion of the audio you have on your device will need to be replaced by the new translation. The app only downloads the translations you need.

If we send out an update – then at some point the app will notice “Oh, there is some new material I need” and will download it. But updates aren’t frequent and they are never huge.

Any questions?

If something happens that puzzles you, use “Contact Us” to ask us about it. The advantage of the Contact Us system is that the message it sends carries a lot of information about your settings and the state of your app which, especially in matters of audio, makes it much easier for us to see what is going on.

How it all used to work: Older versions of the Universalis app (before summer 2022) worked in a different way, which was simpler for us to program but less convenient for you to use. They insisted on downloading “absolutely everything you will ever need” before playing you any audio at all. So the first time you pressed Play, you were left drumming your fingers for 5-10 minutes until the download was complete. There were other disadvantages as well. The new system is smoother, makes you wait less, downloads only what is necessary, and allows for easier updates.

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