Choosing the right podcast app has a big impact on your listening enjoyment. They all play audio, but how they do it and the features they offer are different. Here are some of the best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad.
Why Your Podcast App Matters
As podcasts continue to grow in popularity, what users want from podcast streaming apps (or “podcatchers”) has also grown. Some apps do the bare minimum—they play podcasts. You might be able to speed up playback, but for more advanced controls, you need a more feature-rich podcatcher.
That’s where the more complex apps come in. They bring more interesting interfaces and fuller feature lists, as well as the ability to side-load audio files, share audio clips, skip silence, and more.
The best podcast app for you might be different from what’s best for someone else. And thankfully, there’s enough competition in the podcast-playing space to cater to everyone.
Best of the Best: Overcast
There are some features all podcast apps have to offer to become popular, like chapter support, and options to change the playback speed. Overcast is a great example of what’s possible when a developer goes the extra mile. It has two standout playback-related features: Voice Boost and Smart Speed.
Voice Boost increases the volume of speech and makes hosts sound clearer and louder without distortion. The volume doesn’t increase for music or jingles, which makes listening to podcasts more pleasant.
As great as Voice Boost is, Smart Speed offers the biggest change. Most apps allow users to listen at 2x, or other speed increments. But Smart Speed removes the silence in podcasts and makes them shorter. So, it reduces your listening time without making anyone sound like a chipmunk. There’s more science to it than that, but once you listen to a podcast with Smart Speed active, it’s difficult to go back.
Overcast also lets you record short clips of podcasts to share on social media, or anywhere you like. This means you can share a snippet with a friend, and she won’t have to scrub through a whole podcast to hear it.
CarPlay support, a podcast recommendation engine, and notifications of new podcast episodes are some of Overcast’s other features.
Overcast is a free download and is supported by ads for podcasts. You can remove all in-app ads for $9.99 per year.
Best for Most People: Apple Podcasts
It’s strange iOS went so long without a first-party podcast app, but the Apple Podcasts app has been around for a while now. It’s by far the most popular podcast app. That doesn’t mean it’s the best, but it’s easily accessible as it’s installed on every Apple device that ships.
Like all good podcast apps, Apple Podcasts downloads episodes for offline listening to save you cellular data. Also, because Apple has the biggest podcast directory on the planet, the app helps you discover podcasts with in-app charts. You receive recommendations based on what you already listen to, as well.
If you want to listen to podcasts with a minimum of fuss, then Apple Podcasts absolutely fits the bill. It lacks some advanced features, and its interface is best described as “functional.” But it plays podcasts just fine, and you already have it on your devices.
Apple Podcasts is free to download and pre-installed on all iPhones and iPads.
Best Cross-Platform: Pocket Casts
Pocket Casts is cross-platform, so, unlike the other apps on our list, it works on both iOS and Android. If you change devices or have an iPad and Android phone, Pocket Casts is the perfect solution.
Pocket Casts also has all the features you should expect from a good podcast app. There’s an Apple Watch app so you can listen on the go. It also supports AirPlay 2, which is a big improvement if you use compatible speakers (like the HomePod or Sonos) because it reduces lag when you use the playback controls.
There’s also a pretty impressive search functionality. You can search for episode titles and even show notes. That alone is a good reason to take Pocket Casts for a spin—especially if you often wonder which podcast you heard something on. We all do that a lot.
Pocket Casts cost $3.99, and there are no in-app purchases after you downloaded it.
Best for Podcast Management: Castro
No podcast app looks or works quite like Castro. It’s a beautiful app, and if that’s important to you, look no further. But Castro’s beauty is more than skin deep.
When you first use Castro, it’s immediately clear it doesn’t work quite like the other apps on our list. It works like an email app, and new episodes of your favorite podcasts land in your Inbox. When they do, you can read the show notes and decide whether you want to listen. If you do, you add it to your playlist and settle in for some podcast goodness. Otherwise, you Archive it and never see it again.
This method of podcast management should prevent you from being overwhelmed by episodes you haven’t listened to. It’s an interesting way to deal with the unlistened-to podcast pile of shame.
Castro isn’t all frills and no substance, though. It has built-in CarPlay support, and an Apple Watch app for those times when taking your iPhone isn’t convenient. The only downside is its lack of an iPad app—you’re stuck with a blown-up iPhone app instead.
Similar to Overcast, Castro also allows you to clip short potions of podcasts for instant and easy sharing.
Castro is a free download. The optional Castro Plus subscription is available for $18.99 per year or $2.99 per month. It offers full chapter support and unlocks the ability to trim silence during podcasts, enhance voices, and side-load audio files.