Choose the Best Podcast App for iPhone Free Apple Podcasts vs Free Overcast: Podcast Player vs Free Stitcher Radio ... and 3 more
Edited by Jasmin, Eng, Alma
Though many people only discovered Podcasts with the advent of Serial the medium has actually been around for nearly three decades; known back then as audioblogging. Podcasts as we know them today have undergone quite the considerable evolution. There's improved sound quality, better distribution and diversity of content, and a general greater understanding of what the medium even is. Although it's still common to find someone who isn't familiar with them, asking questions like, "what radio station can I find the show on?"
The popularity of podcasts is definitely on the rise, though. There are 60,000 active podcasts available on iTunes alone, and some estimate the total number could be somewhere near 100,000. As the amount of content has grown so, too, have the methods in which we can listen to them. As an iPhone user, you're likely used to the stock app given with the purchase of your phone. While there's no shame in sticking with what you know, you owe it to yourself to shop around a little.
Below you'll find a breakdown of the of the top rated Podcast Apps available for iPhone and what kind of user they are best suited for.
Method 1: Free Apple Podcasts
- It comes standard with an iPhone, so you can get started right away.
- It offers cross-platform syncing with the iPad or anything you use iTunes on.
- The interface is quite similar to both the Apple Music app and iTunes, so for those already familiar with these programs the transition will be effortless.
- Even if you're not familiar with these other programs, the app is very easy to get acquainted with.
- Complete integration with Siri.
- You can create customized playlists with the Up Next feature.
- It supports video podcasts.
- Try out single episodes of shows first without subscribing to the podcast.
- Search on your own terms or through the Featured and Top Charts menus.
- All the basics, like subscribing to your favorite shows, optional push notifications for new episodes, sleep timer, and downloading episodes for offline listening, are available.
- Search function tends to lag.
- Doesn't offer a list of your downloaded episodes, which means you have to go searching for your available offline content. This can be especially annoying when you're trying to avoid using cellular data
- Doesn't provide enough features to manage more than around 20 subscribed podcasts. After that its usage gets more complicated than it need be.
- 3Verdict. This is the perfect app for podcast beginners. Its interface is simple and clean. For those who want something fairly basic without any bells and whistles, this is the app for you. Download here.
Method 2: Free Overcast: Podcast Player
- It's got all the basics: download episodes for offline play, search and subscribe to your favorite shows, set a sleep timer, and receive push notifications for new episodes.
- There's also a very basic web version that syncs with iPhone.
- Offers Voice Boost, which normalizes speech levels by lowering louder voices and raising the quieter ones.
- Offers Smart Speed, which removes gaps and silences in podcasts by speeding up the play time without distorting audio.
- Compatible with both Apple Watch and CarPlay
- Link your app to your Twitter account to get recommendations of what people in your network are enjoying.
- Easy to import from other podcast apps
- User interface is aesthetically pleasing, with clean lines and a bright yet muted color scheme of orange and cream.
- Playlists can be created manually or based on filters.
- Doesn't support video podcasts.
- An account is required, which means just another password for you to remember.
- To remove ads, it will cost you $9.99.
- 3Verdict. If you're an avid watcher of video podcasts then this isn't the right app for you. However, nearly everything else about Overcast makes it a great pick, especially its unique Voice Boost and Smart Speed features. If you're ready to upgrade from the built-in Apple app, this should be your first choice. Download here.
Method 3: Free Stitcher Radio
- As usual, you can download episodes for offline play, subscribe to your favorite shows, set a sleep timer, and make custom playlists.
- Login info is required, but you can use your Facebook account.
- Offers personalized recommendations based on your subscribed show history.
- Combines podcasts, radio, and headline news in its personalized Front Page. The FP "stitches" together the latest episodes of your favorite podcasts, recommends new shows and keeps you up to date with the biggest news stories.
- Supports CarPlay.
- SD cards are supported and can be used for alternative storage
- There are a ton of ads.
- For an ad-free experience and to access exclusive features, you'll have to go premium for $4.99/month.
- Content is somewhat limited because the app doesn't allow RSS feeds.
Method 4: Paid Pocket Casts - $5.49
- All the standard features are available, but they up the ante with playlists.
- Custom playlist creation allows you to organize 'casts by what you like to listen to while working out, commuting, or cooking dinner. Or, organize them by episodes that are currently un-played but already downloaded. You can even name these lists and assign them with a unique icon.
- Vibrant, attractive design that uses a stylish tile format to display your subscribed content.
- Video podcasts are supported.
- Saves on storage space with automatic deletion of finished episodes.
- Allows syncing between devices.
- Customize skip settings; how many seconds you'd like to fast forward or rewind.
- Customize when each podcast will start. This is pretty ingenious. If you know a podcast's theme is one minute long and you're tired of listening to it each time, you can program the app to make those episodes start at the one-minute mark.
- Offers multiple ways to find new content.
- Doesn't currently sync with iTunes.
- 3Verdict. This app includes everything you'd find in a regular old podcasting app, with customizable features galore and very little to complain about. Pocket Casts is an organizer's dream. If your podcasting habit requires a little more control, this app is well worth the few bucks. Download here.
Method 5: Paid Downcast - $3.99
- All the standard features are available, with a slight tweak to how new episodes are delivered.
- The Background Update Locations feature allows you to set specific locations for the app to know when it's OK to check for new episodes. This is handy for people wanting to only use WiFi, but also for those who listen to podcasts at certain times and will appreciate those automatic downloads upon arriving home, at work, etc.
- Supports CarPlay, AirPlay, and Apple Watch.
- Options for password protected podcasts.
- Sync across devices using the cloud.
- Support for Bluetooth devices.
- Optional auto-download of new episodes.
- Optional automatic prioritization of playlists, so you can organize the order in which you like to listen to your 'casts without having to keep manually sorting them.
- Saves on space in two ways. Downcast can delete episodes based on the time they've been hanging around in the app or based on how much space they're consuming. This can be organized for an entire group of podcasts or on an individual episode basis.
- When a particular episode is playing, the display will feature its show notes, instead of the more common default of podcast art.
- Supports multi-touch gesture shortcuts for easy navigation.
- The interface leaves much to be desired as it is both plain yet cluttered.
- 3Verdict. If you're not overly concerned with aesthetics but need an app that delivers more than just the basics in a user-friendly manner, Downcast is your perfect match. The Background Update Locations feature is worth the $3.99 alone, as it's nice to arrive home prepared to cook and have a few new 'casts waiting for you. Download here.
Method 6: Paid Castro - $5.49
- All the standard features are offered, but an added focus on individual episodes is what makes Castro distinct.
- Whether you want to try out a variety of new shows or you just don't time the time to listen to every episode of each 'cast, Castro's Queue menu is built with this in mind.
- New episodes of your favorite shows will congregate in Castro's unique Inbox feature. From there you can listen to the episode immediately, move it to the top or bottom of your Queue, or place it in the Archive menu.
- The Archive menu holds onto every episode, so if you miss one or you reconsider listening to a particular one it's there until you decide otherwise. Until then it's out of your way. It's very similar to the Gmail Archives.
- Your first launch of the app will offer a quick tutorial to get you acquainted.
- Easy to use and intuitive interface that's simple yet elegant in design.
- If you were using the original Castro, you'll have to start from scratch or export all your data to the new app.
- Lacks fancier features like cutting out silence or starting 'casts at set times.
- 3Verdict. This is the app that combines simplicity of function and beauty, which is sure to please people who need a bit of both from their apps. Castro's approach won't appeal to every podcast listener, but if their focus on single episodes instead of full subscriptions resonates with you then you've found your app soul mate. Download here.
Confession time: I never even considered using something other than the stock iPhone podcast app before researching this article. I never even knew there were so many options! After putting this information together, I've decided to expand my podcast app horizons and I hope you will too. There are so many bonus features out there, waiting for our discovery! As someone who loves to organize, I just can't resist the pull of something like the highly customizable playlists offered by Pocket Casts. And the idea that I could listen to more podcasts in less time with a feature like Smart Speed from Overcast has me very excited for my listening future.