Do You Use It? Podcast Apps

Podcasts featured prominently in last week’s TidBITS issue thanks to Apple’s addition of podcast transcripts in iOS 17.4 and the sponsorship of Listen Later, which converts articles, PDFs, and images into personal podcast episodes.

However, transcripts are available only in Apple Podcasts, whereas Listen Later creates a podcast feed you can listen to in any podcast app. So, that got me wondering whether Apple’s Podcasts app has gotten good enough that third-party podcast apps are no longer as attractive as they once were.

So, for this Do You Use It? poll, the question is which podcast app you prefer. In the comments, tell us what you like about your favorite, and if you chose Other, be sure to let us know what it is. And yes, you have to choose only one—if you use two more apps equally, please explain why.

What is your preferred podcast app?
0 voters

I use Overcast as—in general—I find it less clumsy than Apple Podcasts and a little easier to use, especially with CarPlay.

I say “in general” because Overcast is still a little glitchy when it is trying to play a podcast that must be downloaded first. But, when I’m traveling I’d rather roll down my window and listen to the passing wind than try to deal with Apple Podcasts.

Of course, just my personal preference. :slight_smile:

5 Likes

My preference for Overcast stems primarily from the accompanying web site. I listen to podcasts frequently in both my car and my office (continuing where I left off from one to the other), and afaik, there’s no equivalent Apple capability. That and there’s just a certain simplicity and elegance to Overcast that really appeals to me.

2 Likes

I switched to Downcast from Apple Podcasts because I strongly dislike apps that try to push new “content” at me, rather than prioritizing the content that I already have subscribed to. When I open a podcast app, I want to go directly to my subscription list at least 99% of the time, rather than seeing ads for other podcasts.

When I decided to move away from the Apple Podcasts app, I tried several alternatives, including Pocket Casts, Overcast, and Downcast. Eventually, I chose Downcast. That was a couple of years ago, so I don’t remember my specific thoughts about the other apps. My general impression was that Downcast gave me very quick and direct access to my actual subscriptions without having to click through screens trying to push other content at me, and it provides extensive preference settings to choose from. Subjectively, it just seems to work the way I want it to work.

5 Likes

??? I’m pretty sure that Apple’s Podcasts app syncs between instances of itself (macOS, iOS, etc.) via your iCloud login. I know this because I found it frustrating - I don’t want my car and desktop auto-synced with eachother.

I’ve been using Overcast since it debuted, I think. The file-upload feature was, and continues to be, a big draw for me, along with Smart Speed. I’m pretty sure file uploading has always been a feature. I don’t remember if Smart Speed was there from the start or added later, so I can’t remember if that was one of the reasons I chose to use it in the first place. But I know now that I wouldn’t want to use a podcast app that didn’t have it.

1 Like

I own Pocket Casts, Downcasts and Overcast.

I found managing the stream of material in Overcast to be too much.

Downcast has the best management to multi stranded streams of Podcasts into relevant playlists. But again I spent too much time managing specifying how many episodes to keep and my phone kept filling up. Enough.

Pocket Casts matched me best, the speed and trimming controls, syncing position across devices, plays video podcasts and it is so easy to set up on the fly playlists. And it runs on the web… I use that surprisingly often.

7 Likes

Yeah, poorly worded on my part. I meant Apple doesn’t support any web access to your current list of subscribed podcasts (again, afaik). Overcast does. I already have my browser running; I don’t want to launch and quit Podcasts to get the same information.

When it comes to podcasts, I think in Overcast. I use it every day. I used Downcast before Overcast, but switched to Overcast because of its smart speed and voice boost features. Before Downcast, I used Pocketcasts on Android, and before that I used iTunes syncing to an iPod - that was really the last time I used “Apple” podcasts, though I did use the app once for a video episode, since Overcast doesn’t do video.

Besides smartspeed and voice boost, for me a podcast app must have a way to make certain podcasts a priority so that they automatically get added to the top of the queue when they are downloaded. Most of my podcasts are not really time-limited, but some I want to hear as soon as new episodes are released. They get pushed to the top and the rest wait until the priority episodes are done. Downcast also did that, which is why I used it when I first switched to the iPhone.

I do like and use the upload feature of Overcast as well, but that is limited to subscribers rather than free users of the app.

Lastly, Overcast’s watch app is decent and works fine for the few times I go out for a run or a walk when I am not carrying my phone (which is basically any time it is raining) and is also usually fine a s remote control for the phone, so I can control the app without taking the phone out of my pocket. Overcast is supposed to sync with the phone and download a certain number of episodes in a playlist of your choice when you charge, but also has a clever method to download to the watch on demand which includes playing a game of breakout, which is required as the watch will stop allowing an app to download data on battery unless the app is actively being used. (And just as a tip, downloads are faster if you disable Bluetooth temporarily on the phone so that the watch uses WiFi - it’s a lot faster than downloading from the phone using BT.) And, of course, the watch app is pretty good about syncing state back to the phone when you are done, though sometimes I need to do so manually.

2 Likes

I like Pocket Casts. I listen to podcasts on my iPhone, but I like having a Mac client so that when I read about an interesting podcast, I can subscribe right there, and it appears on my iPhone. It is being updated moderately frequently.

I have one niggling complaint about the UI. When I select a group of podcasts to perform an action on them, like downloading them, the selection is undone at the end of the command; I’d prefer that it retain the selection so I can do another group action, like adding them to the Up Next list.

2 Likes

I don’t listen to podcasts; I prefer to read. If there are transcripts of podcasts now I may take a look at them.

4 Likes

I’ve used PocketCasts for years. No complaints. But with the new transcripts I’ll be trying Apple Podcasts again.

I use Apple’s Podcasts, but rarely. Mostly I listed to AudioBooks, primarily via BorrowBox from my local library.

1 Like

I use Pocket Casts on my iPhone because when I started listening to podcasts, I asked a good friend what she used (also on an iPhone) and that’s the app she used. Since she was quite proficient with the app, she saved me from what might have otherwise been a somewhat steep learning curve. I tend to stick with what I know or get used to, so I’ve not tried other podcast apps to compare them. My needs are relatively simple, so Pocket Casts seems to do the trick for me.

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I looked at a few podcast transcriptions from Apple’s Podcast app, but the ones I looked at did not distinguish between the various people speaking in the podcasts. Having a transcript certainly is better than not having one, but it loses significant value if it does not distinguish “Speaker A” from “Speaker B” and so on. If it’s a lengthy podcast with three or more participants, it’s very challenging to keep track of the conversation without going back to the audio. It’s not a trivial problem, but I imagine that eventually it will be solved.

On the other side of the coin, there are podcast production apps that keep track of different audio inputs (e.g., microphones or caller channels) and label them appropriately when they generate transcriptions. While not a podcast app per se, Zoom does a good job of transcribing speech from multiple callers. They’re definitely not perfect, but I’ve found Zoom call transcripts to among the most useful manifestations of AI tech in my daily work.

2 Likes

I use Overcast for audio podcasts and Apple’s app for video. I like to keep them separate because I do a lot of listening in the car & want that to be audio only.

I want to use Snipd. But it needs a couple of features before I can use it more than occasionally, namely importing individual episodes from Apple Podcasts links, and better export to Obsidian.

I’ve been very happy using Overcast for several years now. Somehow it just seems easier to use than Apple Podcasts.

I fully admit the only time I looked at the Apple Podcasts app was when it was first released, and I immediately hated it with a passion. I paid for Downcast for both Mac and iOS, and have\b’t looked back.

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I use BBC Sounds as well as Apple as a number of BBC podcasts don’t seem to make it to Apple. I find both easy to use. I also had a podcast a few years ago (66 episodes) and had many more listeners there than any other podcast channel.

1 Like