September 15, 2014

My iOS Podcast Client of Choice

I listen to podcasts… a lot of them. That might make me weird, or nerdy, but I genuinely enjoy it. I have been listening for years. I started back in the day when you had to download everything through iTunes then sync it over to your iPod. It is crazy how much easier the whole process is to manager nowadays, and there are tons of great iOS apps to help you out.

For years I had been using Downcast to download and organize my podcasts. The interface is good, and it has a ton of great features. I was happy and saw no reason to change to anything else. Then a couple months ago Marco Arment released Overcast and I had to check it out. Overcast is free to download with a $4.99 in-app purchase to unlock all the functionality, which I immediately purchased.

Compared to Downcast, Overcast seems simple. The design is clean and modern. The interface is “flat”, and there are a lot fewer screens to navigate. Overall simpler is better, but I felt a little lost without some of the playlist controls offered by Downcast. After the first couple days I thought about going back, but Overcast’s Smart Speed and Voice Boost kept me around. Both features work so well that I didn’t want to listen to podcasts anymore without them.

I’ve been using Overcast for several weeks and I’m throughly impressed. The few playlist features I missed in Downcast haven’t been a major issue, and Overcast has its own advantages as far as playlists go. In Overcast, listening to podcasts is a more enjoyable experience. The audio features are great, but there is something more. The design of the app makes it feel more like entertainment. So often I’d look at my un-listened count in Downcast and it would feel like I was working through a to-do list. Overcast makes the entire concept of listening to podcasts seem more fluid and ephemeral, and most importantly it takes away the guilt of not having listened to every episode.

Conversely, Overcast does make it more difficult to go through the entire back-catalog of a show. Several months ago I started with episode 1 of Roderick On The Line and managing it was very easy. I tried to do something similar with the Cast of Kings podcast in Overcast. It sufficed, but it was more difficult and I had to remember which episode I was on. I could have downloaded every single episode, but I didn’t want to fill my phone up with 4 seasons worth of Game of Thrones analysis. In Downcast you can mark an episode as unplayed, but not actually download it. I think that would be a welcomed feature for me in Overcast, though it would add some complication. I am going to keep Downcast on my phone at least until I go through every episode of You Look Nice Today.

Overall I am a huge fan of Overcast. i don’t regret spending the $5 for one minute. It looks great, is easy to use, and sounds better than any other podcast client out there. The podcast discovery features are also very good. I’ve listened to several shows based on recommendations from my twitter friends, and subscribed to a few shows from Marco’s “starter kits”. If I listen to a couple episodes and decide it isn’t for me, there is no shame in deleting it from my feed.

As if a blog posts about podcasts wasn’t nerdy enough, I will go ahead and make it worse by sharing some of my favorite podcast feeds with you…

  • This American Life - Amazing show. Probably the most popular podcast there is.
  • Radiolab - They don’t make a ton of them, but they are all great. So so good.
  • Accidental Tech Podcast - I could listen to John Siracusa talk about anything.
  • /Filmcast - A long-time favorite movie review podcast. Dave Chen is great.
  • The Pen Addict - It is absurd how much I like this show. My obsession with pens is out of control.
  • Inquisitive - This show has changed a couple times over the years. It was recently re-branded under the umbrella. Myke Hurley is a great interviewer. I always look forward to listening.
  • Hello Internet - This is a recent addition to my list. I’ve only listened to a couple episodes, but I really like it.
  • Roderick On The Line - I’m am not sure how to describe this show. You just have to check it out. The episode about Uncle Lickey had me laughing so hard.
  • Back to Work - Consistently entertaining and informative.
  • Analog - Another new addition that I’ve grown fond of.
  • How Did This Get Made - I don’t listen to every episode of this, but the ones I do are usually hilarious.

If you listen to podcasts and somehow still use the Apple app, do yourself a favor and download Overcast for free. It is so much better. If you’ve never listened to a podcast go download Overcast and subscribe to This American Life.