Overcast and Pocket Casts: two great podcast apps

The more I listen to podcasts, the more I find a good podcast app enhances my listening experience. I can save time by eliminating silences during playback. Fast search and discovery tools help me find more to listen to. And a reliable sync system smoothes transitions between clients. I like to experiment; I’ve dabbled in almost every major podcast app on the App Store. As of today, I’d recommend two: Overcast and Pocket Casts. Both have standout feature sets and are well maintained by their developers.

The right choice depends on your podcast listening habits. If you listen on platforms other than iOS (desktop, the web, Android), go with Pocket Casts. Likewise, if you have a more advanced listening workflow filled with custom playlists, filters, and subscriptions, Pocket Casts’ user interface is exceptional. In all other circumstances, stick with Overcast.

That split decision comes from months of jumping between both app. That includes two weeks of heavy usage with the just updated Pocket Casts 6. Both apps have far more commonalities than differences. Each have solid search tools for adding new shows, customizable playback, and filtered playlists. Both apps are also universal; they work well on the iPad and take advantage of new Apple hardware functionality (the Apple Watch for Overcast, 3D Touch for Pocket Casts.)

Their main difference manifests in user interface. Overcast has a simpler, sparser UI than Pocket Casts. Most hit targets have a single action that usually leads to playback. Submenus bury more advanced functionality like playlist settings. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just more focused, ideal for those that listen to a handful of podcasts or have listening patterns that center around a single playlist.

Pocket Casts packs in a more complex UI than Overcast, ideal for power users. Playlists squeeze in more episodes per screen, a plus when there’s many to manage. There’s also more complex filtering. You can discriminate by date (e.g. only episodes from the last 24 hours). You can also personalize your playlists with custom icons and colors.

In a nod towards episode and playlist management, hitting play in Pocket Casts always keeps you in place. You’ll have to tap a bottom “now playing” footer to see the full playback screen. The UI occasionally feels cluttered for simpler tasks. But if you’re in organizing a large number of podcasts or playlists it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.

Overcast and Pocket Casts differ in other, more minor ways. Overcast can download individual podcast episodes from shows you’re not subscribed to. And Overcast is free, while Pocket Casts costs $4 on iOS, with extra charges for Android and web apps. Pocket Casts has a more robust and prettier web client. I also find Pocket Casts’ syncing slightly faster and more reliable than Overcast’s.

Any of these might be deal breakers for a select segment of listeners. But over the long run, for most of us, a few bucks or a rougher web client won’t make a big difference. An interface that doesn’t pair with your listening habits will. Overcast’s is a little more straightforward, boxed in, and great for most, especially newbies. But for those that like to browse and organize, Pocket Casts is where it’s at. On the fence? Try both for a week. It’s hard to go wrong with either choice.