Podcasts are synonymous with the iPod, and have grown in popularity since the mid-2000s. Today, many people enjoy listening to podcasts on the go thanks to their iPhones. While the iPhone lets you download podcasts via iTunes, it offers little in the ability to manage them.
Some podcast listeners are content with using this archaic system, but podcast fanatics want the ability to manage their subscriptions, be notified when new episodes are available and stream over 3G. While these are basic features you’ll find in most podcast apps, find out why Pocket Casts is one of the best podcast management apps after the jump.
Searching For & Importing Podcasts
When you fire up Pocket Casts for the first time, you’ll be greeted with a pop-up that asks if you’d like to import podcasts already saved on your iPhone. It’s worth noting that if you’re in the middle of listening to a previously downloaded podcast, Pocket Casts cannot recognize your pause point. Next, an introductory screen is displayed that lists a brief description regarding the app’s navigation setup.
If you declined to import your podcasts when you first started the app, fear not, as Pocket Casts offers a slew of importing options. After tapping the Search tab, you’ll be greeted with multiple options to search for and import podcasts. Tap the Import Podcast option and three importing options will be displayed including importing podcasts by URL, from your iPhone/iPod and an option to import via OPML, which must be done from your mail client of choice.
Pocket Casts makes searching for podcasts a breeze, offering a basic search function, as well as three options to help discover podcasts. Tapping Popular Podcasts in the Search tab will display a list of the top 50 most popular podcasts. You can also filter by country by tapping the globe icon in the top right corner. Podcast Networks displays a list of 15 different networks (e.g. TWiT.tv, CNET and Revision3). Tapping a network takes you to a new page that includes all the available podcasts for said network. Finally, you can search for podcasts by category by tapping Browse Categories.
Tapping on the podcast’s name will open an info page that display basic information about the podcast, including category, author and a brief description. To subscribe to a podcast, tap the Add button in the top right corner of the info page.
The next step is the manage your subscriptions, which is done through the Podcasts page (accessed by tapping the Library tab in the bottom navigation bar). This page displays all the podcasts you’ve subscribed to in grid view, using the podcast’s artwork as a cover, which is the main reason Pocket Casts shines above other podcast management apps like Podcaster and RSSRadio Mobile.
A badge is displayed In the top right corner of each subscription icon, which indicates the number of new episodes in the podcast’s queue. This is a handy but flawed feature, in that the number count doesn’t include episodes you’ve listened to or episodes you have not finished. Tapping on a podcast’s icon will flip the screen (transitions are another visual treat Pocket Casts offers) and displays a list of each episode in the queue.
Basic information, including the episode’s title, publish date, description, status (e.g. unplayed, minutes remaining or finished) and an option to stream or download is displayed for each episode in the queue. Tapping on an episode fades in an info page that lists a more detailed episode description (if provided) and options to delete or play the episode, and view show notes. At the bottom of Episodes page, an option is available to show all available episodes of the podcast. Once the All Episodes page loads, you’ll be greeted with a list of episodes which you can add to your queue by tapping the +Add button.
Downloading & Streaming
Pocket Casts gives you the option the download and stream episodes, both of which can be done over WiFi and 3G. In an area where 3G is accessible but hovers around 600 Kbps at download speeds, I never ran into issues streaming audio episodes. You can stream an episode by tapping the WiFi antenna icon in the episode’s info box, or download the episode by tapping the download icon.
If you choose to download an episode, a progress bar will be displayed, which you can stop by tapping the red X icon. Once the episode is finished downloading, the streaming and download icons will be replaced with a play button icon.
An important part of a podcast management app is the method used to manage new episodes, which is the one area were Pocket Casts drops the ball. You are notified of new episodes via a badge icon, which represent the number of new episodes available to stream or download; likewise, a badge icon is displayed in the top right corner of the Updates tab. This is the best way to notify users of new episodes without annoying them with push notifications.
The Updates page is formatted similar to the the Episodes page, with the only difference being the podcast title bar used to separate subscriptions. From this page you may choose to stream or download an episode. If you’re uninterested in an episode, you can swipe the episode’s info box and tap the delete button.
The problem with this page is that you have perform one of the three previously mentioned actions to remove an episode from the Updates page and move it to your library. Sometimes, I’m not in a position to download or stream an episode, and since I’m an organized person, I don’t want episodes to pile up in the Updates page. So, I have to tap the streaming icon, wait for it to load and stop the playback so that the episode moves to my library.
Pocket Casts does a great job with it’s episode player by offering a handful of useful features. The top of the player displays a progress bar, which allows you to scrub through an episode. Below that are two icons that allow you to change the speed of the playback and view show notes.
At the bottom of the player, your standard skip back/forward and play/pause buttons are displayed, along with a volume control bar. However, these aren’t any ordinary skip buttons, as Pocket Casts includes an option to specify their function. By default, tapping the the skip back button jumps 10 seconds back in the episode and the skip forward button jumps 30 seconds forward in the episode (you can change the number of seconds in the settings menu).
Pocket Casts is the best podcast management app available in the App Store today, with it’s simple, yet sleek visual style and numerous features that make managing your podcasts enjoyable instead of being a chore. While the inability to send new episodes to your library is a feature that’s very much needed, the overall functionality and vast features make this an excellent app to use.