I have been podcasting since 2007 (CloudFocus Weekly anyone?) and listening to podcasts for years before that so it has been a long wait for podcasts to get their own special space in the world of iOS. With the release of Apple’s new standalone Podcasts application I thought it would be a good time to do a quick comparison of it and other options out there.
Downcast by Jamawkinaw Enterprises
First up is Downcast, a nice universal app that is in the middle of the road. Downcast, like most of these applications has a lot of features including background downloading, new episode notifications, sleep timers and iCloud sync that make it a good contender. A unique feature is the “Gesture Area” which turns half the screen into an easy to swipe or tap interface for controlling what you are listening to. The downside (pun intended) of all these features is an interface littered with over 20 icons and buttons that makes actually listening to something a little like flying a plane.
Pros: Feature packed. iCloud Sync.
Cons: Cluttered interface, has crashed a few times.
iCatcher by Joeisanerd.com
Next up is a step down in the $1.99 iCatcher. It too is a universal application with iCloud sync integration and lots of features. These features, however, are buried in the depths of badly designed settings screens that seem built for another platform. There are some nice interactions with swiping across episode to mark as played, but overall it was hard to get past the interface to really enjoy this application or what it had to offer.
Pros: Universal, feature packed, priced right.
Cons: Looks built for Android
Podcasts by Apple
You would think that the application built by Apple for its own platform would just hit it out of the park. You would be wrong. The free Podcasts application is almost not worth the price. It is slow, a bit hard to navigate, and lacking in dozens of features that the other applications have. Podcasts lacks the polish of most Apple products and should only be considered by those who don’t want to pay for anything related to listening to podcasts.
Cons: Lack of features, slow.
Instacast HD / Instacast by Vermedio
One of the first players in the podcast listening application market is both one of the best and most expensive. Coming in at $4.99 for the iPad version and $1.99 for the iPhone version, you better love your podcasts to pay these prices. It does have the best screens for seeing what is on the device and what is available and in my tests has been the most accurate in terms of actually automatically detecting and downloading podcasts when they are published.
Pros: Most polished application
So which one should you buy? It really depends on what type of listener you are. For anyone just dipping their toes into podcasts and wants to listen to one or two, Podcasts by Apple is fine. It has enough features to try and the free price is right. For those who consume a lot of podcasts and want the right mix of features and design, Instacast is great. Sure it will set you back eight dollars all in, but think of all that free content you get. If you are somewhere in between, skip iCatcher and use Downcast which is a good mix of price, design and features.