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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.

Castro's unique spin boils down podcasting to its two basic functions: playing and searching. It separates your subscriptions by title and episode, with large circular icons that help quickly navigate lengthy lists. Settings are hidden behind the main window (literally) and include a fairly customary set of options for speed, sleep timer, continuous play, sorting and sounds. Plus, the app has some nice data usage and storage preferences--particularly useful for habitual downloaders is the ability to limit the episode cache size.

Video podcasts are unfortunately not supported here, but the audio player is a wonderful expertise in minimalism, contained to the bottom bar and featuring one of the coolest scrubbers I've ever seen. Its weakest aspect is discovery adding podcasts is entirely search-based, so you're unlikely to stumble across something you haven't heard before and there's no iPad companion app or web component. But Castro is still a charming, elegant client that definitely stands out among its peers.

Podcasts

The best things about Apple's Podcasts app are that it's free and it's likely already on your iPhone. It might lack some of the polish and features of the other apps on this list, but if it's too soon to commit to a relationship with a new podcast client, it'll get you through the tough transition.

If you haven't used Podcasts since its skeuomorphic reel-to-reel days, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much it's improved. Gone are the bugs and crashes, and overall it does an excellent job of sorting through your recent and unplayed episodes, though its interface is still somewhat scattered with a distinct lack of intuitiveness. For example, there are no global settings. Setting the play order, refresh rate, and episode limits are all done on a per-podcast basis, which can quickly get tedious.

Video podcasts and streaming are supported, and Apple does a great job curating its store, mimicking the top lists and featured sections found in the App Store (though any podcast you're looking for obviously needs to be available through iTunes). You can speed up audio and set a sleep timer as you'd expect, but Podcasts does have one main advantage: You can summon Siri to play the latest episode of any of your subscribed feeds.

Bottom line

This list is by no means definitive, and fans of Sticther, PodWrangler and iCatcher will surely take umbrage with it. Truth be told, Instacast users really can't go wrong with any of options here (even Apple's Podcasts app will fit the bill for some). Overcast edges out the others, but only if you don't mind having to download every episode. If streaming's your thing, go for Pocket Casts. If you want to fiddle with a lot of features, try Downcast.

 

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