Podcasts are a great way to learn and be entertained. Here are the best apps on iOS to catch them all.
AT A GLANCE
Castro is the perfect podcast app for people who subscribe to a lot of podcasts but don’t want to catch every episode. The app has an inbox, where new episodes show up. You can review each one and choose which to download, then archive the rest (you can also choose to have your favorite podcasts download automatically).
For the most part, Castro is sharply designed, with elegant typography and lots of white space. The playback screen, however, is sparse. While most podcast apps display show art large and center, Castro shows a gray screen with playback controls.
I can live with Castro’s lack of a pretty play screen, but Castro lacks the ability to trim silence and normalize audio, two headline features that Overcast and Pocket Casts share. While listening to podcasts using Castro, I could make out the longer than usual pauses and uneven volumes, which Overcast and Pocket Casts managed to resolve.
AT A GLANCE
Downcast used to be a fast favorite, but development seems to have since fallen behind.
Let’s talk about the good first. Downcast lets you customize smart playlists so you can choose how you manage your subscriptions. You can download podcasts automatically, or pick and choose which episodes you want to grab. There are lots of options in the settings app for you to run Downcast the way you want to.
There’s even a setting to geo-fence a location for Wi-Fi downloads, although we’re not sure how useful that is. There’s also a Downcast Mac app with which you can sync your podcasts to, but it’s an additional US$7.99.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else. Downcast lacks Overcast and Pocket Casts’ best features; silence trimming and volume normalizing. The interface is also clunky and cluttered. An upcoming v3.0 update is supposed to ship with a modern UI but there’s no news on when it’ll be launching.
AT A GLANCE
Free, US$9.99 for Overcast Premium
The best thing about Overcast are its Smart Speed and Voice Boost features. Instead of the standard way to speed up playback, which makes people sound like chipmunks, Smart Speed dynamically shortens silences to speed playback without distortion.
I’ve used Overcast as my main podcast player since 2014, and it claims that Smart Speed has saved me 36 hours. Voice Boost normalizes audio, which is great when listening to podcasts with varying degrees of volume.
Overcast is a universal app, so it works on both iPad and iPhone, and even has a browser-based player. Overcast shines with an overall finish that reflects an attention to detail, the app is elegantly designed and easy to navigate.
However, Overcast is really built for those who listen to a select list of podcasts’ every episode. Even with smart playlists, it isn’t easy to prioritize episodes to only download the ones you want to listen to.
AT A GLANCE
Android, iOS, Windows Phone, browser
Pocket Casts ships with a host of features, including the ability to trim silence and boost audio, which save you playback time and make listening easier on your ears.
Perhaps the best thing about Pocket Casts is how deeply you can customize it. Let’s start with lists: you can view your podcasts one by one, by all the new episodes, by what you’re listening to, or by podcasts you’ve starred. Plus, you can create your own smart lists.
You can also customize settings for each podcast, like to download episodes automatically or to notify when new episodes are released. You can even set a starting time for all episodes of a particular podcast, so you can skip intros immediately.
Pocket Casts is beautifully designed and it’s available nearly everywhere; on Android, iOS, Windows Phone. Sign up for a Pocket Cast account (US$9) and you can sync your podcasts to the cloud and play them from a browser.
The Best Podcast App Is…
Pocket Casts shines with its advanced playback features, customization options, and availabilty on multiple platforms. There’s something for every one here, and it can be set up to manage podcasts the way you want to. The ability to trim silence and boost volume (features it shares with Overcast) help you to both save time and have a more pleasant listening experience. plus, the entire app is pretty to look at and easy to use.
Whether you’re on android, iOS or Windows phone, this is the podcast app we’d recommend.
Overcast is offering a lot, and for free. Smart Speed helps to speed up podcast playback and save you time, without making shows sound like an alvin and the Chipmunks movie. Voice Boost normalizes audio, making for a more pleasant listening experience.
The app is nicely designed, although it isn’t ideal for people who prefer to download specific episodes instead of subscribing to entire podcasts. To clarify, free isn’t completely free, you’ll need to pay US$9.99 to remove the in-app ads. But if you can stand them, you can’t beat the value you get from Overcast.
Art Direction & Digital Imaging Ken Koh