There aren’t many podcast managers, or “podcatchers”, for iOS, but perhaps that’s because there’s one that’s already next to perfect. Downcast handles practically every podcast need you’ve got, offering easy updating, streaming, multitouch gestures and much more.
- Search, subscribe to and download audio and video podcasts of any size
- Video and audio AirPlay support
- Manually subscribe to podcasts via URL
- Download podcasts automatically (including resuming downloads)
- Download podcasts in the background (for supported devices)
- Browse and download older podcast episodes
- Auto-update podcasts
- Specify retention settings globally or for individual podcasts
- Import podcast feeds via OMPL and export podcasts and OPML files to your computer and other third-party app
- Support for password-protected feeds
- Play audio in the background (for supported devices)
- Variable-speed playback
- Chapters support for enhanced podcasts
- Stream episodes without downloading
- Control audio with Bluetooth or other headphone remote controls
- Create and edit “smart” playlists
- View podcast details and episode show notes
- View embedded images in podcast episodes
- Rename podcasts with long or unwieldy names
- Sleep timer shuts off podcasts after a specified amount of time
Downcast is really fantastic, especially if you’ve been stuck with the built-in iPod app until today — when you’re going to switch to something far better. Aside from the necessary features Downcast provides, like automatic updating, finding podcasts from within the app, AirPlay support and plenty more (see above), it just makes the entire experience of listening to podcasts simple and effortless. You can use multitouch gestures to navigate through your podcasts. You can also set a sleep timer so you can listen while going to sleep and not worry about the podcast running on forever. What’s incredibly helpful is how specific you can get with settings for specific podcasts. For example, you can tell one podcast to download and retain as many unplayed episodes as your iPhone’s storage space can handle while telling another podcast to download only the latest three episodes and delete everything else even if it hasn’t been played yet. Downcast will act differently depending on whether you’re connected to 3G or Wi-Fi as well if you choose or you can let it download as freely as it likes. Every one of Downcast’s features was designed to make getting and listening to your podcasts easy and it really succeeds in that effort. You even get an iPad version of the app included in the price.
For more detail, check out our full Downcast review.
There is really nothing to complain about with Downcast. Not even a tiny nit pick. This is what Apple should have done with its podcast portion of the iPod app.
The most obvious competitor is the iPhone’s built-in iPod app. It’s actually pretty good as a podcast player, and if you like to update your podcasts manually it’s capable of that much. That said, if you want automatic updating and additional features you should try something else. It’s not a good option, but it’s on your iPhone whether you like it or not.
Podcaster 4 ($1.99) is very similar to Downcast in many ways. The feature set is pretty similar and the price is the same. It can even backup and restore to Dropbox. The major disadvantage, however, is in the name. Podcaster 3 was released for the same price about a month earlier and was then replaced by a newer version of the app with more features. Our concern is a new app called Podcaster 5 will replace 4 in a short amount of time to try and pick up new buyers. Your two bucks will net you a good app, but we’re a bit sceptical about the update situation that seems to be in place.
Podcatcher ($1.99) is another equally priced alternative, but it’s getting a mention primarily because we’d recommend avoiding it. There’s technically nothing wrong with this app — it does what it advertises — but its abilities are just far behind Downcast and Podcaster 4.
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