With the rise in podcast popularity over the past few years, there’s been a boom in the creation (and quality) of podcast apps. Apple’s own Podcasts app used to be your only choice, but not anymore. For years now, developers have been creating outstanding podcast apps to help listeners find your podcast, subscribe and download new episodes, and seamlessly create playlists for their podcast listening.
Top-notch apps go above and beyond these basics by adding other benefits that save time, improve audio quality, and more. Whittling down a list of the best podcast apps available can be difficult considering the dozens available for both iOS and Android. Let’s look at some of the frontrunners on both platforms.
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Without the iPod, they wouldn’t even be called “podcasts”. It’s only natural for the best podcast apps to be on Apple’s operating system.
The gold standard in iOS podcast apps is Overcast. It’s got a clean design and straightforward style that makes for a minimal learning curve. Overcast also has some unique features that set it above others on Apple’s mobile operating system.
Smart Speed removes silent moments and dead air in your podcasts. This is different than simply increasing the playback speed; this feature makes episodes shorter without distorting the hosts’ voices. The app tracks the amount of time it saves you, and you’d be surprised how quickly that number climbs.
Another feature unique to Overcast is Voice Boost. This tool normalizes the volume of both ends of a conversation without disturbing the audio quality (or blowing out your eardrums). Podcasts aren’t always leveled out before they’re published, so this can prevent the headaches that come with cranking up the volume.
Pocket Casts (iOS)
Pocket Casts is a great pick if you need something cross-platform. It has all of the features that should come with a top-tier podcast app: automatic downloading of new episodes, variable speed for adjusting the playback, and a great discovery feature that lets you browse or search by network or trending shows.
The killer feature for Pocket Casts is its cross-platform sync. You can create a Pocket Casts account to keep subscriptions and playback position consistent across the iPhone, iPad, Android and web versions. This way, if you want, you can start listening on your iPhone on the way home from work and finish up later at your computer.
Castro looks simple at first, but there is beauty in that simplicity. There’s an understated elegance in the design that keeps the app from getting in its own way.
The UI’s use of blur is beautiful, and it’s very snappy. It also has a clever scrubber for searching within your current episode — slide the bottom play controls to the left or right to quickly fast-forward or rewind to a certain spot.
A discussion of podcast apps on iOS would be incomplete without mentioning the built-in app named Podcasts. If you listen to podcasts across a range of Apple devices, you might be happy simply using Apple’s built-in app.
Apple’s Podcasts app can use your Apple ID to sync your subscriptions, so adding new shows is easily done from any device (including an Apple TV). The app can stream and/or download files, and iCloud syncs your play position across devices. If you’re firmly planted in the Cupertino-based ecosystem, Podcasts may be all you need.
As the world’s most widespread mobile operating system, Android also has its fair share of top-notch apps for listening to podcasts.
Pocket Casts (Android)
Pocket Casts is an easy choice on Android. It’s a powerful app that’s packed with features. As mentioned earlier, it also syncs across platforms with the iOS and web versions of Pocket Casts, making it a great choice if you move between devices.
On top of being powerful and feature-rich, Pocket Casts is beautifully designed. The animations are clean and fluid, and the color schemes adjust and shift based on podcast artwork. Pocket Casts has an endless array of preferences, playlist filters, and auto-download settings, so it can be tailored to your liking.
Pocket Casts will work with video and audio podcasts, and offers full AirPlay / Chromecast support in case you want to watch or listen on a larger device. The app also makes discoverability easy with trending podcasts, curated recommendations, and more.
The cleverly-named DoggCatcher has been around long enough to have topped a “best of” list on most tech-savvy review sites at least once. It’s packed with features like feed categorization and connection-based downloading or streaming; if there’s a specific thing you need to be able to do, DoggCatcher can probably do it. In fact, if your Android phone is the only place you listen to podcasts, and you don’t need the cross-platform syncing of Pocket Casts, DoggCatcher is a very solid choice.
DoggCatcher is fast, flexible, supports most Android devices and versions, gives you control over when and how your podcasts are downloaded, has its own rich podcast directory, and more.
Stitcher for Android is a different take on the standard podcasting app. The service (and accompanying app) has positioned itself as a new form of talk radio, which has a strong connection to the way podcasting is formatted and recorded.
Stitcher has catalog of content that rivals or outshines most other apps on the Android platform. Instead of defaulting to individual podcasts, Stitcher has stations like more traditional talk radio. Stations are first categorized into playback and live streams, then divided into distinct categories of content.
If you’re looking for something specific, there’s always the search bar. Once you find that amazing show, you can mark it as a favorite. That’s when the magic happens. Stitcher can generate a custom station that mixes in other shows. That station is then tweaked based on thumbs-up and thumbs-down ratings, similar to Pandora.
While it may not be as attractive as Pocket Casts, BeyondPod has a ton of customizable options. It can automatically remove episodes from your playlist and delete them from your device once you’ve listened to them.
BeyondPod for Android allows you to only view unplayed episodes and create custom categories for your favorite shows, then choose category-specific options for them. It also integrates sharing and easy playlist manipulation.
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Which is Right for You?
Both of the major operating systems have many options from which to pick. It comes down to what’s most important to you: do you value design over functionality? You may want to go with Overcast on iOS. Is it vital that you manage every feed down to the smallest detail, or are you more of a “plug and play” type of listener? Your choice should probably be Pocket Casts (on either platform) for details, and Castro (iOS) and Stitcher (Android) if you want to set it and forget it. Have we overlooked your favorite app? Let us know in the comments, or tweet at us (@PodcastMotor)!