Podcast app

Pocket Casts new features make it arguably the best podcast app

Even with a number of free services available for listening to podcasts, Pocket Casts is a popular option for episodic audio. Indeed, it costs you a few bucks, but the app is well-designed and offers a more comprehensive set of features that some freeware doesn’t. Following its May sale to a public radio group that includes NPR, Pocket Casts is today launching a major overhaul that makes what many consider the best podcast repository even better.

The user interface will look somewhat familiar to you, but you will notice that some things have been tweaked. Specifically, the individual podcast episode listings and player interface were where the tweaks stuck out to me the most – with color, icon, and layout changes. However, everything you need to use regularly is still easy to find.

As for more features, Pocket Casts now offers a host of new tools for your podcasting habit. For me, someone who uses the app daily, the two biggest additions are the search for episodes and the ability to play a podcast without having to subscribe to it. That last one was a minor annoyance I could overlook, but still, being able to get what you need right away without having to commit is much better. After using the new version of the app for a few days, the episode search is handy for locating an archived show you want to rewatch or an older episode recommended by a friend. It’s also very easy to use, with a search box at the top of the episode listing on each podcast page.

Siri Shortcuts are also available as part of this new version, bringing more specific voice control to Pocket Casts. Once you set it up in the iOS version of the app (by recording your voice cue), the virtual assistant can quickly help you with things like playing a specific podcast or playback controls like resume, pause, skip chapters and more. Pocket Casts also touts improved recommendations and better synchronization between devices among the changes. Syncing episode listings and progression across mobile and desktop hasn’t been great in the past, so as a frequent user, this is a welcome change. And speaking of the desktop, the web interface has also been revamped with a new look and new features.

There are also some changes to existing features – tweaks to things like filters, archiving, playback effects, listening history and Apple Watch support, all aimed at you help keep you organized and make that podcast habit seem less of a chore. Pocket Casts is available on iOS and android ($3.99) plus the Web ($9). It’s compatible with CarPlay and Android Auto, for on the go, and with speaker setups like Sonos, Google Home (via Cast) and the HomePod (via AirPlay 2).

Update 11/14/18 1:08 PM ET: This post has been updated to clarify that the iOS and Android apps are both $3.99.

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