There’s been a fair bit of discussion over on Micro.blog about podcast players recently. I’ve switched among Overcast, Castro, and Apple Podcasts players over the years and, mostly to help myself think it through (again), here are my thoughts.
For me, there are three main criteria: audio quality, episode management, and OS integration. Though, I completely understand that others may have different criteria.
Like most podcast listeners, I listen at high speed, usually around 1.5x, which can distort the audio. Apple Podcasts player is definitely the worst for this criterion. For me, Overcast’s smart speed and voice boost features give it the edge over Castro, in terms of audio quality at increased speeds.
Castro is definitely the player of choice if you subscribe to more podcasts than you can listen to. The queue management features in Castro are very good. You can replicate some of this with Overcast, but that isn’t one of the app’s main features. Apple Podcasts player doesn’t offer much in this regard. Despite listing this as a criterion, I’ve actually elevated to subscription, rather than episode, triage. I carefully curate my list of podcasts and don’t add new ones very often. Given this, Overcast’s approach is more than sufficient for me.
OS integration is a bit unfair, as Apple has given themselves some nice features that independent app developers aren’t able to use. Nonetheless, Apple does a good job of intermixing podcasts and music into their Siri-powered widgets in iOS and the HomePods. With my reinforced interest in less screen time and use of home screen widgets, Apple Podcasts wins out here. This may change once Overcast releases a widget.
As just one example of the integration, here’s what happens when I plug headphones into my iPhone: a selection of music playlists and podcasts appears. I use this feature a lot.
After all that, I’m using Apple Podcasts for now, mostly to take advantage of the OS integrations while I’m experimenting with a widget-based iPhone. I’m quite certain this is short term and that I’ll return to Overcast soon. In addition to the better audio quality, Overcast also has some nice refinements, like per subscription speed settings (I like to play music podcasts at 1x) and skip-forward amounts (Quirks and Quarks, for example, always has a two-minute preamble that I skip). These small refinements are typically what distinguishes the stock Apple apps from good indie apps.
I’m glad there are so many solid apps for podcast listening. Whatever your preferences, there’s sure to be one for you.