Pocket Casts from Shift Jelly software received a huge update to its Android client recently, somewhat leaving its iOS counterpart behind. Can the good-old iOS version still meet your podcatching needs? We take a look at Pocket Casts for iOS to find out.
My first impressions of the iOS version of Pocket Casts was that it was a poor relation to the Android version which has received a significant visual update, granting it a simple and elegant look. That impression is reinforced by a few skeuomorphisms that are familiar on iOS apps. In Pocket Casts these take the form of a radio tuner animation while the app checks for new episodes and a speaker grille in the player screen when no podcasts are playing.
The iOS version is also missing the killer feature from its Android counterpart in that it does not sync episodes and playback positions between devices. This is a big disappointment with the iOS version, however, the iOS version still benefits from some of Pocket Casts behind-the-scenes magic.
When the app checks for new episodes it isn’t polling each and every RSS feed that you’re subscribed to. Instead, the same servers that power the Android synchronisation check the feeds for you, and so when your iOS client checks for new episodes it directly queries just one server which saves time and battery power.
The central server method also has the advantage that notifications of new episodes can be pushed to your device. This is excellent as it gets around the tricky limitations of iOS that force other podcast apps to require you to set an automatic refresh interval. This makes Pocket Casts even more power efficient.
The main user interface has two modes, one shows tiles for each of your subscriptions, complete with indicators for how many new and downloaded episodes are available. The other mode is the episode list, which can show recent, unplayed, downloaded or unfinished episodes. It’s a comprehensive layout and is clearly labelled so it’s not difficult to work out what’s what.
An additional area in which Pocket Casts feels inadequate to its Android counterpart is with playlists and continuous playback control. The Android version can have any number of playlists, while the iOS version only has a single playlist. Furthermore, you have to hunt through the settings to find the option that automatically adds newly downloaded episodes to the playlist.
Playback controls are good, there are forward and back skip buttons and they can be set to any time increments that you wish. There’s also a variable speed control, so if you can process speedy voices, you can save yourself some time by listening to podcasts at high speed. Unfortunately though, there isn’t a sleep timer – a feature which is present in one of Pocket Casts competitors, iCatcher!.
Also bear in mind that at $1.99, Pocket Casts is about half the price of iCatcher!, which represents very good value for money when you compare the feature sets.
If for nothing else but the push notifications of new episodes, Pocket Casts comes recommended.
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