Podcasting isn’t really a new phenomenon, but podcasts in general (I’m not just talking about ASOT and other Music Podcasts) are growing in popularity once again. Since we’re all mobile, the best way to get to your podcasts is on your phone or tablet. There have been quite a few services that deliver podcasts to your devices; iTunes has a podcast section, Zune too. Stitcher Radio is one of the more popular podcast delivery services around, and while it has almost every podcast out there, it has a few limitations. It’s streaming only (you can’t download for real offline use) and you can’t really add your own feeds (podcasts that you can’t find on stitcher). Now, with iTunes on your iOS device, you can subscribe to podcasts that are published on iTunes, sync via iTunes on your PC or Mac or just download them onto your device directly, but you can’t stream them. Zune only works with Desktop sync, unless you can figure out a way to download directly on your Windows Phone device (Even I don’t know how some of my podcasts can be updated directly from my phone and some can’t!). Which brings us to Pocket Casts, which apart from following the middle path (between Stitcher and Zune), has an amazing UI.
Now, there are other apps on iOS (Like Downcast or Instacast) and on Android (Beyondpod , free trial, and Doggcatcher), but there’s something about them that just doesn’t make them perfect. The one app that I’ve found that seems to do that, is Pocket Casts. Available on both iOS (Free Lite version and Paid) and Android (paid only), it’s pretty much the best podcatcher for both Audio and Video podcasts. It also does one thing I like; maintain a simplified, similar UI on both platforms.
Shifty Jelly, the company behind Pocket Casts (and other apps on iOS and Android) somehow manage to make the app seem more “human”, with update notes like this:
What’s in this version:
“Fixed settings page crash under Android 2.2 Added FAQ, we love you guys and all, but be sure to check it before you email us ;) Made our playing notification a little bit prettier, more coming here soon…The Android Download Manager is no longer recommended. If you have it on, and you’re not on 4.0, you should probably turn that thieving, lying, lazy, good for nothing, all talk, two faced punk off.”
And this on iOS:
“What’s New in Version 3.2.1
– Minor bug fixes- Removed all unicorn created code, due to industrial action. Maternity leave?! Pffft good luck with that unicorns! We’re now employing elves instead, since Santa fired them after automating his factories”
You have four main tabs (5 on Android, the updates and download management tab), and all the podcasts that you’ve subscribed to are presented in a Grid, with Thumbnails. You can go through all the available episode in each, select and download episodes that you don’t have on your device, or just stream it. The grid is updated (manually or automatically, depending on how you set it up) and can be arranged either alphabetically, by the date you added the podcast or by episode.
(All the screenshots are of iOS on the left and Android on the right)
You can tab over to the “episodes” section on the same tab to manage downloads, storage. Oh, and it’s actually cool (in a geeky way) about how the data is presented (unplayed, in progress, downloaded, etc).
The player tab has some easy controls to switch between your playlist and the currently playing podcast, access to show notes, sharing functionality (which could be the podcast, the episode or even a particular part of the episode). You also have toggles to rewind and forward, which can be user adjusted; the default takes you 30 seconds forward and 10 seconds back. It’s the standard overlay, with the seek bar on iOS, while there are tabs that auto hide on Android. Oh, and you can speed up your podcast playback too (I don’t really know why people do that, but it’s there).
The search tab is pretty neat too; there’re featured podcasts (with some witty notes on why they’ve been featured), search by podcast name or browser by network or category. You can also import podcasts by the link (usually the RSS feed link for that show) or import using the OMPL file (handy if you want to export ALL your podcasts out of your old podcatcher and into a new one) or import from Google Reader.
The settings menu is pretty awesome: you have control over a lot of things. You can set up the app to auto update your playlist, notify you when new episodes are available and auto download the episodes (on WiFi only or on any network). There are controls for the number of episodes to keep on your device (which you can control for individual shows too), auto deletion of episodes that you’re done listening to and so much more. The thing is, they’re easily accessible and in a format that you can actually understand, which makes them really useful.
Pocket Casts is a paid app on iOS and Android which you can download from the App Store (here) or from Android Market (here). It’s just $2, and it’s definitely worth it! There’s a free “lite” version for iOS, which you can download here, which has limits to the number of shows and episodes that you can keep track of. I do wish there was a similar trial/lite version for Android devices too, that would help people who need to decide if they’re actually going to buy the app. Do check out the other apps by Shift Jelly on their site. Oh, and make sure you read this interesting blog post of theirs, especially if you’re one of those people who think twice about buying any app that you’d probably use every single day.