Pocket Casts review
Smartphone apps are the perfect medium to manage your podcast library and take it with you--anywhere your ears go, your favourite podcasts can follow. Pocket Casts (£2.70) is the best podcatcher for your Android smartphone or Android tablet. See also: Best Android apps.
Pocket Casts: Style is substance
Pocket Casts' flat design and clutter-free navigation allows for an intuitive user experience. All your favourite podcasts are stored in one easy-to-peruse magazine-style library (as you can see to the left). One nit-pick: There is no "list view" layout option in the initial window (I'm a fan of list views), but once you click a podcast icon, the app will present you with a list view of available episodes.
Tap on an individual episode to prompt a pop-up with a brief episode description and the option to stream or download. (The app charitably has an auto-delete function that will delete episodes after they've been played - the lack of an auto-cleanup in other apps has caused me grief in the past.)
Once inside an episode, you can readily skip around on the timeline or simply push a button to skip ahead 30 seconds if you're bored, or backpedal 10 seconds if you missed something. Easy.
The app boasts a simple discovery function to find new podcasts by network, genre, or staff picks. Additionally, it's simple to find and subscribe to the podcasts you already knew you liked.
Pocket Casts: Playlists are for playas
Playlists are a must-have for long car rides or those times in your life when you want to remain hands-free over a long period of time. Creating and managing playlists in Pocket Casts' minimalist interface is a simple endeavour.
You can add episodes to manually curated playlists with a simple tap. Additionally, you can create "smart playlists" that will automatically separate podcasts into a group (such as sports, comedy, tech, and so on), which you can download/stream manually on a per-episode basis. Alternately, you can set it up to auto-download as episodes become available (wisely, Pocket Casts has included an option to only auto-download when connected to Wi-Fi).
Personally, I'm not a big consumer of video podcasts, but Pocket Casts seemed to handle video content just fine and allowed for the same navigation and playlist management as my audio podcasts.
If there was one thing missing from Pocket Casts, it would be a lack of a Web interface. The best apps anticipate that we travel between multiple screens throughout the day. I would love the ability to explore new podcasts, manage playlists, or download episodes directly from a website and have it sync with my phone. To be fair, few podcatchers offer this functionality with the exception of the no-longer-supported Google Listen, which would sync with a folder in the moribund Google Reader. See also: Best Android apps.
Many consumers have a mental block against paying for apps, which is unfortunate as it encourages better software. Yes, there are plenty of free podcatching options out there, but for my four dollars, the ability to interact with a quality (and ad-free) app that you will literally spend hours with is well worth the investment.