Casting the net a little wider

Published October 11, 2019

Phone, book and headphones

I’ve been a podcast listener for a long time and have talked often about them, from my evolving listening habits, to being a bit of a hoarder, and even picking out some of my favourites on occasion. Recently, I’ve been more obsessed with Beats 1 and streaming music and letting my podcast backlog creep up and up, but that has all changed.

My podcast app of choice has previously been Downcast. It’s a sturdy product that collects and plays podcasts well, but it’s not perfect, and if I’m honest I had got into that slightly stale place where you just keep using an app even though it crashes quite a lot, because laziness is keeping you there.

I did find that Downcast crashed a lot – sometimes when I was using it and sometimes when I wasn’t looking. I can’t count the number of times I would open up the app and it would give that warning “App previously crashed, do you want to feedback to the developer?” And I’m thinking, it did?? It also had a bit of a dodgy relationship with CarPlay. Yay for being open to CarPlay but boo for being a little bit wonky.

When iOS13 launched, Downcast, like many other things, started behaving even more strangely. The app hadn’t been updated for five months, and whilst that’s no shade on the developer (I haven’t even managed to keep up learning Swift let alone make an app let alone keep it up to date), it did make me wonder if there was a slightly more energetic product out there.

Of course, Overcast was the obvious next destination. I’ve been hearing about it for a long time but never quite taken the steps to move across. Now I’m wishing I had done sooner. Firstly, the option to import your list of podcasts from other apps made switching so easy that I felt a bit stupid for being lazy about it previously.

Secondly, there’s an ad-free in-app purchase that is only £8.99 per year and worth supporting the product for, but if you don’t want that, the ads are so subtle and well-designed that it doesn’t really take away from the user experience. I genuinely can’t think of another app that incorporates ads in such a graceful way.

And most importantly for me, the skip forward and back buttons are everywhere. On the player screen, obviously. But also on the smaller player when you are navigating the app. And then on the lock screen when you are not actively using the device. And the drag down to control centre. And wonder of wonders, on the CarPlay app as well. It was always a bit awkward listening to podcasts via CarPlay, partly because Downcast would get stuck but also because you’d have to listen to the ads or be unable to skip with finesse, just from one episode to the next. Now it’s a perfect compromise.

The only thing I’ve found that I’m missing is a bit more control in the playlists. In Downcast, there were more options for how to sort the episodes, so I had an all episodes list by date and then also one by episode length to allow me to whizz through some of the shorter episodes. As far as I can tell, Overcast only has a by date option, and then whether you gather the episodes by podcast or not. It feels just a little bit limited.

BUT, whilst I am missing that feature at the moment I also think it’s making me think more about what I’m listening to, which is no bad thing. And to be honest, it’s worth sacrificing a “By Length” playlist for being able to skip forward 15 seconds in the car. I’m sold.

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