Pocket Casts: Beautiful, Feature-Rich Podcasting

Pocket Casts is a stunningly designed podcasting app available on both Android and iOS. There are quite a number of great podcasting apps out there, as explored in our recent article Forget Google Listen: 10 Great Podcasting Apps. Of these, however, I found that Pocket Casts shone brightly as an app that’s not only stuffed full with functionality, but also the most handsome of the bunch.

With these impressive looks and rippling functionality in mind, let’s take a closer look at one of the best podcasting apps available.

Brief Intro to Podcasting on Android

In a nutshell, a podcast is an audio, or sometimes video, file that can be downloaded from the web. Usually these are pre-recorded spoken-word discussions, documentaries, interviews or phone-in radio-style shows. Most, but not all, are free to download and cover a massive range of different topics: from knitting, surfing and astronomy to Android, software development, politics and netball. If there’s a popular interest, there’s probably a podcast available exploring it.

Dashboard for the detailed search feature

Dashboard for the detailed search feature

You can download these podcasts in a few ways. Many are available via places like iTunes. You can often visit websites related to certain podcasts and download them directly. Alternatively — and on mobile devices this has become the most popular and convenient — there are podcast managers. These search the web for podcasts of various topics and present them into a straightforward format. The podcasts can then be streamed or downloaded, depending on user preference.

The most popular of these managers include paid-for apps such as Doggcatcher Podcast Player, BeyondPod Podcast Manager and Pocket Casts, in addition to free solutions such as Stitcher Radio and, until recently, Google Listen. Because you can find podcasts on almost any topic, they have become popular among commuters and all sorts of other users who want to listen to something other than music. While mobile radio is popular, a secure and stable signal is required, which isn’t always possible. These factors then point to the popularity of solutions like podcasts which are free, topical and easily downloadable.

Podcast categories. These can additionally be filtered by country.

Podcast categories. These can additionally be filtered by country.

Pocket Casts

As mentioned, there are quite a few options out there. While some people might want something free and simple, more advanced users and people who listen to a variety of different podcasts might require something more customisable and automated. If you’re willing to pay for a reliable app, Pocket Casts is one of the best apps available.

Opening guide to simple navigation

Opening guide to simple navigation

While podcast fans prefer managers that can provide a load of useful features, like automated downloads, recommendations and great search tools, I personally like apps to look good too. Therefore, while I have previously enjoyed using BeyondPod, my head has been turned by the impressive-looking and feature-rich Pocket Casts. Blending in-depth functionality with a beautiful UI, it quickly became my preferred service.

Playing podcast view. Punt and Dennis are superb by the way.

Playing podcast view. Punt and Dennis are superb by the way.

However, before we get knee deep in the interface, let me describe some of that all-important functionality.

Rich Functionality

Firstly, the app features a brilliant search tool that not only presents a massive number of available podcasts but also lets you search by popularity, networks and categories. It will also allow you to import podcasts from other sources, such as via a URL or from Google Listen. You can follow as many podcasts as you like and it automatically refreshes your lists. Listening is convenient too, you can add podcasts to playlists for continuous playback or use the sleep timer to listen to podcasts as you fall asleep.

Settings screen

Settings screen

Pocket Casts also features a slick-looking and handy widget for your homescreen. It supports playback in landscape mode, so it’s a great app to use if you place your Android device in a dock. It has variable speed playback support and even lets you easily skip ahead to a certain part of the podcast. If you’re interrupted during playback and have to stop, the app remembers where you got up to, even if you listen to multiple podcasts. Also, if you have a favourite episode or podcast series, Pocket Casts lets you share it with your friends.

Subscribed episodes list, this page packs loads of information about the episodes you have

Subscribed episodes list, this page packs loads of information about the episodes you have

Downloading can be automated so that it only occurs when you’re on Wi-Fi, if you have a restrictive data plan. Or perhaps you want all the latest episodes downloaded for a long trip – in which case you can ensure Pocket Casts is configured to download all your favourite podcasts before you go. It automatically updates your lists and can even be set to delete old podcasts after a certain time. It’s a massively powerful little app that makes podcast listening an absolute breeze. If that wasn’t enough, you can even play the podcasts through your PC via the generated HTML file in your podcast directory!

Sumptuous User Interface

Your podcast manager might be full of bells and whistles in terms of features, but if it looks ugly or is difficult to navigate, this can severely take the shine off an otherwise nice application. Pocket Casts however is one slick-looking app. Blending dark grey and black with deep red highlights, it looks superb and very professional. Tabs are large, making it simple to navigate, and the app further displays bold associated images.

There are several additional user-friendly elements too such as the way the app will display notifications if one of your favourite podcasts releases a new episode. There are various icons throughout the application which indicate things like the number of podcasts available, or how many are downloaded, which have been played and how much time is remaining on each. It’s quite simply an application that has been created from the ground up with user experience very much at the forefront of priorities.

Strong Competition

Pocket Casts goes up against some stiff competition as far as podcast managers in the Google Play Store are concerned. Doggcatcher is another paid application that has an army of loyal fans. It is a little more expensive than Pocket Casts but any app that invokes such loyalty from its users must be pretty good. BeyondPod also looks good and includes pretty much all the above functionality. Perhaps the main strength of BeyondPod is that it comes with a free seven day trial — something which few paid podcast apps offer.

This grid shows your subscribed podcasts, how many episodes can b downloaded and which you have listened to.

This grid shows your subscribed podcasts.

Another app, Stitcher Radio, should not however be discounted either. It is free after all and includes plenty of great features. I think however, the reason Pocket Casts perhaps edges these other solutions is because it looks that little bit slicker than its rivals. All the above apps are great; brilliant fun to use, easy to navigate and jam pakced with functionality. But, for me anyway, Pocket Casts looks that tiny bit nicer.

Detailed updates screen for all podcasts

Detailed updates screen for all podcasts

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for a fresh podcasting application that not only boasts all the functionality required for heavy and prolonged usage and yet looks impressive too, Pocket Casts is a great solution. I really like the way much functionality is quite discreet, meaning a newbie is not going to put off by being confronted with enhanced settings menus and detailed configuration demands if they don’t want to. However, those features are there if, as an advanced user, you know what you’re looking for.

Pocket Casts is an app you have to pay for and, sadly, there is no free version to try out. If you’re new to podcasting I would have to suggest you try something like the free BeyondPod trial or Stitcher Radio first to see if it’s something you’ll use. The lack of a trial or a lesser-featured free version is the only real downside to this otherwise brilliant application.

If you have perhaps used apps like Google Listen before, or want something a little better looking than other podcast managers, Pocket Casts is just what you’re looking for. Dripping in good looks and stuffed with functionality, it’s the very cream of the podcast crop. Definitely check it out.


Summary

Pocket Casts is a feature-rich and impressive looking podcast manager that is incredibly easy to use. There are some great podcast apps out there, but Pocket Casts is the best of the bunch.

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