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5 podcatcher apps to replace nearly dead Instacast

Michael Simon | June 22, 2015
In some ways, Instacast doomed itself. One of the first podcast clients on the iPhone, the pioneering player helped propel the medium from its humble roots into a global phenomenon spanning the gamut of genres and subjects. But with the podcast app's popularity came a catchalong with a hoard of new users, a slew of competing players popped up too, all vying to chip away at Instacast's sizable audience. Over the course of its lengthy version history, it from paid to free with in-app-purchases and even offered two levels of subscription memberships, but modern clients kept the pressure on until the company announced earlier this week that it had run out of money and was shutting down for good.

From a distance, in fact, Overcast and Pocket Casts sport kindred interfaces, with a similar use of fonts, menus and animations. While the subscription screens are quite different Pocket Casts uses a rearrangeable mosaic of squares the two apps share many of the same visual cues, but when it comes to the experience as a whole, plenty sets the two apart.

The main screen does a great job of showing what's been downloaded and played, and a set of customizable filters let you easily apply your own parameters. The Discovery section has a familiar App Store feel, which makes finding new podcasts a snap. It also mirrors Instacast's support for streaming and video podcasts, but while it does have a web component, it'll cost you an extra $9 to use it.

Pocket Casts doesn't offer any special playback features, though it will let you speed up the voice and quickly scrub through streams. And one annoyance is the lack of an easy way to continuously play a series of episodes other than creating a manual playlist.

Downcast

Compared to the other apps here, Downcast ($3) takes a decidedly utilitarian approach to podcatching. You won't find much glitz or gloss in the interface, but what it lacks in vibrancy it makes up for with features and playback.

The app's main screen includes a simple list of any unplayed episodes, but don't be fooled by its sparseness--Downcast is easily the most advanced client in this list, so users who prefer power and personalization over prettiness would be well-served checking it out. The main settings include a wealth of options, from continuous play to scheduled feed refreshes. You can also dial down into little details like the startup view, sounds and notifications, and toggle settings for skipping, backups, and priority playback. It offers far more than most users will ever need up to and including the ability to customize the name of a particularly unwieldy podcast in your playlist but it's refreshing to see a podcast client focus so much of its attention on features.

The player, which supports video podcasts and streaming, is equally feature-laden (albeit a tad cluttered), offering separate buttons for skipping tracks or intervals, continuous playback, speed, timer, AirPlay, and casting. You can increase the speed all the way to 3X, which will get you through an hour-long episode ridiculously fast, but you might not understand much of what the hosts are saying.

Castro

Instacast users looking to break free from the traditional podcatcher need look no further than Castro ($4). With a playful, gesture-heavy interface that offers just enough features to be taken seriously, Castro might take some getting used to certainly more so than the other options here but it also might become your new favorite way to listen.

 

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