Need a new Podcatcher
November 20, 2017 1:18 PM   Subscribe

I've been complaining about it for years, but the most recent round of "updates" to the iOS built-in Podcasts app has finally broken this camel's back. I need a new podcatcher, but I realize I have no idea what's out there beyond Apple's walled garden. Details inside.

My criteria, in rough order of importance:

- Must be available on iOS (not buying a new phone for this)
- Must be able to reliably download, store, keep track of and play back podcasts without crashing or otherwise glitching out. (I know, I shouldn't have to say this, but given my experience with the built-in app, it seemed worth mentioning).
- An understandable UI that lets me navigate intuitively and easily see what I've got downloaded and what's available from the podcasts I'm subscribed to. (For example, not having a screen called "Listen Now" that doesn't actually have a button to start listening to any podcasts now.)
- Some semi-advanced playback controls would be nice. One of the few things I like from the last few iterations of the iOS app is the ability to listen at faster speeds and skip forward and back in 15 second increments from the lock screen.
- Some sort of personalized recommendation/discovery feature or features would be nice for when I want to find something new. Again, this is something the iOS app has, but it's just not very useful or easy to navigate if you don't already know what you want.
- I'd prefer not to deal with in-app ads, and would be willing to pay (but probably not on an on-going subscription basis) for the privilege.
posted by firechicago to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I really, really like Overcast. You can pay to get extra features but only see ads at the bottom (which, most don't look at their phone while listening to podcasts).

I've been using it for a few years and have had no glitches and think it's miles better than what comes with the iOS.
posted by Twicketface at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2017 [12 favorites]

I'm also +1 to Overcast. I believe it hits most of your list and the app has some pretty cool features for helping eliminate white space which saves me a few hours per week (I listen to several hours of Podcasts a week). It's free but has some subscription options if you want to support them.
posted by jefftriplett at 1:22 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Overcast is the answer to this question. '
(on preview, Twicketface is right)
posted by munchingzombie at 1:22 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I use pocketcast, which ticks all of those boxes. There's a onetime download fee, but after that there are no adds and the UI is pretty robust. My only complaint is the "up next" playlist is a little tricky to get the hang of.
posted by Think_Long at 1:25 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

After the iOS podcast app went off the rails, I just switched to Overcast and am digging it.
posted by culfinglin at 1:27 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use Android, but am a huge fan of PocketCasts, and they have an iOS version (and a web player too!). I listen to a lot of podcasts, and it holds up well, and has some good length-cutting features as well as checking every box in your list of needs/wants.

Pay for it once, and use it forever. Also, their changelog is always good for a laugh when they put out an update.
posted by deezil at 1:28 PM on November 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have been enjoying PocketCasts for Android at least. There is an optional ability to create a login so you can synch across devices. It is intuitive and quick to update/personalize. It meets every one of your bullet points. I was happy to pay a small fee once for this good service.
posted by latkes at 1:36 PM on November 20, 2017

I like Downcast. It's reliable, has most of what you want (I don't know how it is as far as discovering new podcasts, since that's not how I find them), and the developer is responsive to feedback and requests.
posted by Lexica at 1:36 PM on November 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

I switched from Overcast to Castro last year, and have been incredibly happy. Castro is great for people who listen to a TON of podcasts. It has an ingenious triage system which allows you to sort incoming podcasts into Archive (nope), Inbox (still deciding) and Queue (download please!) categories. Plus you can do all of this from their really nice rich notifications. Overcast's search function was unusably bad, as of a year ago when I switched. However, Castro does have kind of an awkward "listening" screen (basically, the volume/timer/playback tools are on a separate screen from the show notes, which is annoying if your podcast's show notes have time markers and you're trying to navigate to a particular spot).
posted by acidic at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding Lexica - Downcast is nice for everything except maybe discovering new podcasts - there's a category view, where you can view the "top podcasts" in each of about 20 categories, but I think it's either that or search by name. Though I haven't updated the app for ages so that might have been improved.
posted by penguin pie at 1:44 PM on November 20, 2017

PocketCasts and Overcast are great. I've used both, though I prefer PocketCasts' sorting and playlist system.

Points of comparison in terms of audio delivery: Both have the ability to skip backwards + forwards 15s (or whatever you choose). Both have speed options that increase by .1 increments. Both can boost the volume of your podcast. Both trim silences & pauses—but Overcast's version of this is slightly more natural-sounding, I find.
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 1:50 PM on November 20, 2017

Piggybacking to add my personal requirement -

Does Overcast or the other recommendations include a sleep timer?
posted by metahawk at 1:53 PM on November 20, 2017

Overcast has a sleep timer, yeah....
posted by ph00dz at 1:58 PM on November 20, 2017

So does pocketcast
posted by Think_Long at 1:59 PM on November 20, 2017

I've tried em all and Pocketcast won the day!
posted by Cosine at 2:07 PM on November 20, 2017

I switched to castbox (free version) a month ago or so from an different app and have been happy with it so far. I believe that it meets all your criteria.

Additionally castbox has:

- synchronization of subscriptions across multiple devices
- multiple simultaneous downloads ( this might be standard these days but the one I switched from didn't have it)

What castbox gets wrong ( in my opinion ):

- the choice of next played podcast is confusing ( at least I have not figured it out yet )
- there's no venue (forum, irc channel, subreddit, whatever) for asking questions about it ( or if there is it's well hidden)
posted by metadave at 2:18 PM on November 20, 2017

I use Bookmobile to listen to audiobooks, but it handles podcasts as well. I can't guarantee it has all your features, but it does have "semi-advanced playback controls" and zero ads.
posted by soelo at 2:45 PM on November 20, 2017

I was in the same position and am now using Overcast.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:47 PM on November 20, 2017

The specific reason I picked Overcast is the Smart Speed feature. It skips dead time in poorly edited podcasts and seems to let me listen to even well-edited things about 10% faster.
posted by Nelson at 2:58 PM on November 20, 2017

To glom on to this question, is there a podcast app that does this (which the iOS Podcasts app used to do):

In the list of episodes of a podcast, I can select any episode and after that one is finished it automatically plays the following episodes in chronological order? I prefer seeing the list from newest to oldest, but any order if I can get that feature.

Overcast doesn't do this, even in with "Continuous Play" on. I select an episode in the middle of the list, then it jumps to the top when that one is done (or maybe I'm doing it wrong).

The old iOS Podcasts app had its issues, but at least I could choose an old episode of a podcast and have it continually play them in sequential order. This is how I play podcasts when I'm driving or listening in bed. It seems such a simple requirement, and I can't figure out why it was removed from iOS Podcasts.
posted by ShooBoo at 3:08 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Overcast is great, and yes, it allows for playback speed adjustment and a 'vocal boost' mode that's nice, but I have one problem with it - whenever I am using it along with navigation software (Apple Maps, Google Maps, whatever), it doesn't let the voice guidance play - it just mutes/pauses for a moment when the voice SHOULD play. I don't mean to hijack, but I just wanted to note that.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:21 PM on November 20, 2017

nthing Overcast. It's really the best, it's independently made, gets lot of regular updates, and it's clearly by someone who loves podcasts. Only thing I wish it had was the ability to play podcasts from an Apple Watch, which it used to have until Apple broke it.
posted by SansPoint at 4:33 PM on November 20, 2017

nthing Pocket Casts. I've been using it for several years and it's great, and is frequently updated. Occasionally I've tried other podcast apps, but I keep coming back to Pocket Casts.
posted by noneuclidean at 6:51 PM on November 20, 2017

Nthing OVercast. It is solidly the best.
posted by Miko at 8:37 PM on November 20, 2017

ShooBoo, Downcast will do continuous play from oldest to newest. You need to press the continuous play button and set the podcast to sort oldest to newest. It’s very simple to do.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 11:19 PM on November 20, 2017

Seconding Castro. Switched from Overcast, the triage model fits way better for me.
posted by daisy55 at 8:19 AM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Pocketcasts.
posted by aerotive at 12:57 PM on November 21, 2017

« Older A haircut fit for a hat!   |   Recommend someone with narrow feet some barefoot... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.