Like many of you who are reading this, I spend a good portion of my day listening to podcasts. Whether it is news, information or simply a bit of relaxing fun, podcasts are a part of my routine that I would sorely miss if it were not there. The challenge is finding a podcast app that works across my devices yet gives me a lot of power to control when content is downloaded, when it is streamed and equally as important, when it is cleaned off my device after I’m done watching or listening. For me, Pocket Casts from Shifty Jelly is the go-to app.
Featuring a wealth of content, Pocket Casts works on my Android phones and tablets and allows me to synchronize my content so I can keep all of them up-to-date with my latest podcasts. I can listen or watch podcasts directly from within the app and when I am done, the app has an automatic clean up that deletes it from all of my devices so I’m not taking up storage space on content I’ve consumed. I have been using the app for about a month now and having tried many of the podcasts apps in the Google Play Store, this is the one that quickly became and continues to be the benchmark for such apps. At $3.99 for the Android version, it isn’t the cheapest podcast app available but I think it is one of the best and well worth the price.
Pocket Casts User Interface
While the app doesn’t adhere fully to Material Design, it is pretty close and certainly easy to navigate. When you first open it up, you will be shown the Discover page which allows you to find a
variety of categories of podcasts: Featured, Trending, Top, Nearby, Network and Categories. If you know the network you want to want to get podcasts for, like TWiT or PBS, you can go to the Networks tab and easily find them. Likewise, you can use the search feature of the app to find a podcast by name.
The menu of Pocket Casts is a typical hamburger menu that allows you to navigate to the various parts of the app. These areas include the podcasts you are subscribed to in the app, your unplayed podcasts, your audio or video casts and the casts that you have downloaded. At the bottom you will find Settings which I will go into more detail on later. You will also note that there is an episode filter which allows you to create a custom filter so you can quickly find your favorite episodes or particular type of podcast in your library. The filter is highly customizable and is one of the big pluses of Pocket Casts over similar apps. It allows you to organize your podcasts in a way that works best for you.
Overall I have found the UI of Pocket Casts to be pretty intuitive and easy to navigate. Finding new content is easy and getting to specific episodes or podcasts is quite easy to do. The episode filter is really powerful and it can be a bit intimidating at first until you get the hang of it. I can see where this feature would be very handy if you subscribe to a dozen or more podcasts but if you are below 10, like me, it is a bit of overkill.
Variety of Content in Pocket Casts
A real strong point for Pocket Casts is the number of podcasts that are available within the app. There are over 200,000 podcasts available in a over 15 categories so you can spend hours searching and finding new content on the subject of interest. Even if a podcast you are looking for is not listed in one of the categories, just use the search function and find it by
name. In my using of the app over the course of the past few weeks, I haven’t found a podcast yet it hasn’t been able to locate and allow me to subscribe to for listening or viewing. Literally anything is available from tech oriented podcasts, to cooking and living, government and even those that are very much NSFW. If it is out there, you can find it in Pocket Casts.
What has impressed me with the app is that the developers have done a great job of letting you get to all of these podcasts without overwhelming you. They have neatly organized things that makes the app intuitive to use but it doesn’t feel “dumbed down”. If anything, it feels quite powerful with me completely in control.
If there is one thing I would like to see in the app it is the ability to manually add an HTML or RSS link for a podcast. This is particularly handy if there is a new podcast that you want to listen to or watch but Pocket Casts hasn’t picked it up yet. Admittedly, this is reasonably rare but it would be nice to have the option. I should be clear that there is an OPML import option if you are importing your podcast list from another app or service.
Auto Download Your Podcasts – And Auto Delete Them
Once you have subscribed to a range of podcasts, some of the real nice features of Pocket Casts begin to shine. In settings, you will find a variety of options including the ability to automatically download new content from the podcasts you have subscribed to in the app. You can set it up to auto-download only certain ones of your podcasts, all of them and have it when it will only download them over Wi-Fi connections to save your mobile data. If you have enabled sync functionality (I’ll cover that
in the next section), you can have the app check anywhere from once a day to once an hour for new content. When new content is found, it is automatically downloaded to your device and you will see a notification that a download is happening.
Equally as important in my books is the ability to delete content automatically. You can setup Pocket Casts to delete content after it has been played automatically and you can also tell it the number of episodes you want to keep. This allows you to control just how much storage on your phone or tablet is being consumed by podcasts. This to me is one of the real handy features of the app. I don’t have to remember to delete old casts. It just happens when I’m done viewing.
There is a lot of customizing you can do to Pocket Casts in the settings and I encourage you to go through each area to check them closely. You can for example have the app play over other notifications so you get uninterrupted viewing or listening. You can also change the theme, download show notes and episode artwork as well if you want to do so.
Sync Your Podcasts Across All Your Devices
A key feature that Pocket Casts offers users is the ability to synchronize your podcast content, playback information and filters across your devices. This not only includes being able to sync across your Android devices (say your phone and your tablet) but also across to an iOS device or a Windows Phone. It also synchronizes things like auto downloading and auto deleting so if you play a podcast on one device, it is deleted on all the devices once you have played it (if you set it up that way). It will also synchronize with the Pocket Casts web based viewer that is supported by Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer.
This sync functionality requires that you sign up for an account which is free and you sign in with that same account across all of your devices.
As you would expect, there is a cost associated with each platform you decide to sync. For example, the Android version is $3.99 and you can install it on multiple devices. If you have an iPhone or iPad you want to sync with, that version is $5.99 in the iTunes Store. Want to sync to the web-based player? That’s another $9. This can really add up if you have all of these different platforms you want to play podcasts on so be aware. I really don’t have much of an issue with the separate costs for the Android and iOS versions but the web version is a bit expensive in my opinion. If it were closer to the $4-5 mark like the apps I think it would be more palatable.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Despite the costs involved, I have no hesitation in recommending Pocket Casts for your podcast needs. It is a solid, well designed application that provides a huge amount of content at your fingertips. That content is easily searchable and easy to subscribe to and with things like automatic download and deletes, it keeps your content consumption in control on your mobile devices where storage is often at a premium. It isn’t perfect as I can see a couple of areas that would be great for improvement but of all the ones I’ve tried, it stands above the rest.