These Apps Are Better Choices Than Apple Podcasts
Apple Podcasts is the podcast app of choice for many iOS users, but don’t ask me why. The changes first introduced in iOS 14 turned it into an intolerable mess , and hopes of fixing them with the launch of iOS 15 last month were dashed when the update included only a few superficial improvements.
Sure, you can spend half an hour tweaking your settings to try and improve Apple Podcasts, but luckily you don’t have to stick with your own app if you’re sick of your recent headaches. The popularity of podcasts continues to grow, and as a result, there are more top-tier podcast managers on the App Store than ever before.
We’ve been at this rhythm for a long time now, and we have a couple of definitive recommendations for the best podcast management apps on your iPhone and / or iPad (and maybe even Android or desktop), as well as a few suggestions for backups. for those looking for a newer podcast listening experience.
Pocket Casts is the best podcast app
Platforms: Free for iOS and Android; Plus subscription ($ 1 / month or $ 10 / year) for iOS, Apple Watch, Android, Mac, Windows, and the web.
Pocket Casts brings together almost all the useful features found in almost all other podcast managers, as well as many that are unique. The app also provides them through a nice interface that’s easy to use – and best of all, it’s free.
Some of the outstanding features include sound enhancement capabilities: built-in “volume up” makes it easier to hear people’s voices while reducing background music or noise; “Cut off silence” – cuts off long pauses; and you can adjust the playback speed from 0.5x to 3x (and it doesn’t affect the pitch of the voice).
Pocket Casts users can sync their subscriptions and play position across multiple devices, and the app offers robust options for finding new podcasts, including the ability to search by episode so you can find all podcasts that talked about a specific topic and view your listening history. You can also play third-party media stored on your device and set sleep timers that will pause your podcast when you listen to it before bed.
While the free version is packed with features, it’s not perfect. For example, the playlist and filter options can be more reliable. You can queue a playlist as you wish, or filter your podcast subscriptions and downloaded episode list using a small set of predefined categories, but you cannot sort your subscriptions by topic or create your own self-updating playlists. Considering how many features Pocket Casts includes, it seems odd that it doesn’t have such a setting.
Despite this frustrating issue, we love the way Pocket Casts looks and feels. Not only does the app cover all the basics well, it also has several customizable gesture options (like setting swipe left to archive episodes) and even a dark theme.
The free version of Pocket Casts is available for Android and iOS and includes all the features we’ve discussed so far, but there’s also a premium Pocket Casts Plus option if you need access to additional features and broader device support. For $ 1 / month or $ 10 / year, Plus subscribers get access to Pocket Casts for Mac, Windows, Web, and Apple Watch, as well as 10GB cloud storage that’s available on all connected devices.
Cloudy is a great alternative, although detection options could be better
Platforms: iOS (including Apple Watch) (free)
Before Pocket Casts was free, Overcast was our top pick among podcast managers. To be clear, this is still one of the best podcast apps and a great Pocket Casts alternative (not to mention the official Apple app).
Overcast has everything you need – you can slow down or speed up episodes, the app automatically takes your place when you stop listening halfway, and you can create a playlist on the fly in a couple of taps, or listen to every podcast you download in a continuous stream. More importantly, all of these features are intuitive and easy to use.
Even information that is usually hidden underground, such as TV series notes, which often include time codes and other useful information, are easily accessible with a single tap. Overcast has the same volume up and silence settings as Pocket Casts, as well as some nice quality of life options like the ability to add Siri shortcuts and customize controls for your headphones, remote, and car dashboard.
What sets Overcast apart – and its main advantage over Pocket Casts – are simple and reliable tools for creating playlists. You can collect individual episodes, group podcasts by length, or simply combine subscriptions in any way you like.
On the other hand, Overcast has ad support, but I find its ads unobtrusive and – hotly alarming – I actually think they make the app better. Listen to me: if there is one aspect of Overcast that can be actively improved, it is the lack of detection options in the app, which are limited to repackaging Apple Podcast charts and changing the skins of several other podcast publisher hubs.
Overcast’s ads are almost exclusively about podcasts, so while they don’t come with any quality assurance, it’s actually the only way to access shows through the app that haven’t yet hit.
Like Pocket Casts, there is a premium version of Overcast. For $ 9.99 a year, you can remove ads, get an alternate logo, and be able to download files not available through iTunes or RSS.
The best of the rest
While it’s hard to recommend using any app other than the two listed above, there are a few apps that deserve credit for their new features – and for being more reliable than anything Apple does with Apple Podcasts.
A relative newcomer to the field, Procast is a great choice if you love to tweet or share your thoughts on your favorite shows – the built-in clip feature allows you to cut out a small chunk of the podcast in addition to the tweet or text. It also has a nifty “flip through inbox” feature that lets you add episodes to the queue with a simple swipe. Procast is a good choice for iOS , but Android users can try it too.
At first glance, Breaker is a relatively simple podcast player, but its built-in timecode comments (similar to Soundcloud comments) give users the ability to discuss podcasts with fellow fans. It’s a new concept for a podcasting app that gives listeners the ability to chat and engage in discussions of their favorite shows outside of places like Twitter and Reddit. Breaker is available on iOS and Android .
Finally, our newest choice for backups is iCatcher!. Unlike Procast and Breaker, iCatcher doesn’t do anything “new” in the podcast app space; it’s just a solid, reliable podcast player that includes many of the Pocket Casts and Overcast features, albeit in a slightly less attractive package. Almost all the basic play functions are available, the interface is simple, and you can sync your subscriptions and playlists across multiple iPhones or iPads via iCloud. And it would be a remiss to overlook the unique and customizable iCatcher gesture controls! – including the ability to skip a full two minutes by circling the L-shape on the screen. It is also a single developer product that is easy to contact with bug reports and regularly releases performance-enhancing and bug-fixing updates.
This story was originally published on 11/27/18 and updated on 9/19/19 to reflect the fact that Pocket Casts is now available for free and has become our top recommendation. It was updated again on 07/01/2021 with a new selection of competitors, iCatcher !, and updated information on Pocket Casts, Overcast, Procast and Breaker features, and 10/14/21 added additional context.