Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
iPhone Integration Rating:
User Interface Rating:
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For a long time, I have been using Downcast to manage all of the podcasts I listen to. Its ability to create customized playlists and tweak settings for each individual show gave me a complete sense of control over the way I listened to my favorite shows. That being said, I was never 100% satisfied with Downcast for a variety of reasons that I couldn't quite put my finger on for a long time. Now, I can safely say that my main issue with Downcast is that it isn't Overcast: Podcast Player. Although this new podcast app isn't perfect for every podcast listener's needs, Overcast: Podcast Player has a very impressive suite of features that are smart, elegant, and super useful, provided you pay to unlock all of its features.
For those familiar with other podcast-listening apps, Overcast: Podcast Player has all of the features that are now expected for optimal audio consumption - playlist options, variable playback speeds, download/streaming options, etc. Overcast: Podcast Player really shines in the fact that not only do all of these features work as promised and on a per podcast level (via an in-app purchase), but there are smarter and better additional features available that I haven't seen on other podcasting apps.
These smart features include a speech boost option, which allows for listeners to hear voices on talk podcasts more clearly without having to crank up the volume on their phones. Also, there's a "smart speed" feature that adjusts podcast playback speed to shorten silences and gaps in playback without noticeably distorting audio. Finally, Overcast: Podcast Player asks users to create an account to use it, which makes updating podcasts use up less battery life and also allow for players to easily sync playback across all their devices and even pick up where they left off on a computer using the app's web interface.
In addition to all of this, Overcast: Podcast Player makes it extremely easy to make the switch into its ecosystem for users of any podcast app that has the ability to export feeds to OPML. For me, switching all of my podcasts from Downcast to Overcast: Podcast Player took less than a minute, although fine-tuning some of my preferences took considerably longer.
All of this being said, there are a few drawbacks to Overcast: Podcast Player. The first is that Overcast: Podcast Player does not play video podcasts. So, any users that subscribe to video feeds should probably stick to their current setup for now. Also, the app doesn't have as fine audio scrubbing tools as some other podcast apps, though this isn't a dealbreaker. I'd like to also note that I was a bit disappointed with the bare-bones nature of the app's web interface, but the fact that it has one at all is a pretty sweet bonus to begin with. Finally, most of the features I've listed above are not available for use without making a one-time unlock purchase for $4.99, though free users can try some of the app's smart audio features 5 minutes at a time to test them out, which is nice.
Overall, Overcast: Podcast Player seems like it is positioning itself to be the new must-have podcasting app. It's not perfect, but its rich feature set in version 1.0 has me thinking it will only get better over time. That being said, Overcast: Podcast Player is already pretty darn impressive.