Best Podcast Apps for Listening on your Smartphone
Listeners have a huge range of options when it comes to subscribing, downloading and listening to their favourite podcast. In this article I go through the best podcast apps (or podcatchers) on the market to make sure you get the best listener experience.
Now, this varies, depending on what you're looking for. Some podcast listening apps are great because they're as simple as they possibly can be. In many cases that's all we need: find, subscribe, listen. But, in other cases, a podcast app is a great option because it offers a tonne of flexibility in how you listen. However, while this might appeal to the power listeners, it can lead to an app that's too complex for the average user.
I cover them all here, giving you the pros and cons for each option. If you're still seeking the podcast listening experience of your dreams, then let's see if I can help you out!
How to Use This Guide
First, I'm going to tell you about my two favourite podcast apps, and who they're suited to. You'll probably guess: one is for those who want a quick and easy user experience, and the other is for those who want the biggest range of listening options.
I'll also cover the rest of the most popular podcast listening apps out there, giving you the lowdown on why they might be worth checking out. If you're new to this, start with the ‘Top Picks' options below – they'll give you a great start in listening to podcasts. But if you're looking for a new listening experience, then check out the other options. There are some really interesting projects emerging at the moment, offering unique ways to listen. If you're a veteran listener, it might be worth a look.
Top Podcast App Picks
Pocket Casts by Shifty Jelly
Android & iOS. Find Pocket Casts Here.
- Beautiful, clean interface
- Auto-download of episodes
- Good backup options and web account so you don't lose your feeds
- Free syncing across all your devices
- Push notifications, smart playlists and a sleep timer
- Navigation is simple and intuitive
- Great social sharing options, allowing short clip shares.
Pocket Casts, for me, is the most attractive and easy-to-use podcast listening app on the market. For new listeners on Android, this is the first stop. And for many, it's the last you'll need! Pocket Casts rivals the default iOS podcast app for user experience, and it certainly offers many more options in terms of how you listen.
One of the most interesting aspects of Pocket Casts is the social sharing options they're developing. These allow you to share short clips of a podcast, jumping straight to relevant points – vital if you're pointing to just one segment of an hour-long show.
- Power users looking for ultra-customisable options may not find everything here
- It doesn't sync with iTunes or any other desktop manager
- No episode preview; you always have to subscribe to a podcast in order to stream and listen
- Needs better feed management, categorisation and playlists
On the downside, I'd like to see even more customisation options within individual podcasts. The only real power option is the ability to set the start time of individual podcasts. So, if your favourite show always has an intro that's about one minute long, you can set it to start at one minute by default, getting straight into the action. Nice feature, but limited.
The speed selector is an annoyance for me in Pocket Casts too. It uses a slider which isn't very accurate, and I always end up fiddling back and forth to find the right setting.
Android only. Find BeyondPod here.
- Super-simple playlist addition and navigation
- Chromecast compatible
- Podcast subscription categorisation for easy navigation and listening
- Settings a-plenty, but well laid out
- Play video as audio
- Car mode – big buttons for using while driving
- Set as a favourite – mark episodes for a re-visit
- Complete Feedly integration
BeyondPod, for me, is a Podcast listening app designed to allow you to listen in the way that suits you. By that I mean that it's hugely customisable.
At the top end, you can categorise every show you subscribe to. This allows you to navigate depending on your mood, and even set update and download settings based on category.
At the granular end, it means you can differentiate between the shows you want to listen to EVERY episode of, and those that you just want to catch up on from time to time. The latter can be set to download and keep only one (the latest) episode, while the former can be set to keep 20 episodes at at any time – this ensures you always have every episode to hand when you want to listen. In a world of streaming, this is becoming less important, but I still find myself in low-signal areas quite often, where the download settings in BeyondPod are invaluable.
Finally, I don't know many people who listen to every show on their phone at 1x speed. There are a range of shows that I listen to at anything from 1.2x to 2x speed. BeyondPod excels here by allowing you to set a custom speed for every show. When I'm listening through my playlist, my audio dramas will play at 1x, ensuring I hear them as intended, while slow-speaking hosts will play at 2x, helping me catch up on the content. I set every show I listen to individually, depending on the content and the host. This is the one thing I hugely miss in any podcatcher that doesn't offer the feature.
- Navigation is counter-intuitive
- Chromecast is Pay to Play
- Settings are complex and could be confusing
My biggest frustration with BeyondPod is the navigation. It's inconsistent and often leads me to the wrong page. Having used it for years, I still sometimes hit the wrong button and end up in the wrong place. I remember a real frustration in this area as I was getting to know the app.
Another area where it's a little lacking is the aesthetics. Pocket Casts is just beautiful – it showcases each show's cover art and makes navigation a pleasure. BeyondPod's categorisation system is functional, and works well, but it just doesn't have the same attraction. Also, the purely vertical navigation makes for slower searching if you subscribe to a lot of shows. In Pocket Casts, you can scan through the cover art tiles really quickly and easily.
If you're someone who likes to share highlights with your friends, then BeyondPod doesn't quite have the power of Pocket Casts. You can share an episode, but only as a link in another app. And you can't highlight a particular part of a show.
Finally, the syncing options just aren't there with BeyondPod. To back up your feeds you can save a file to your phone, and you can even share that file to other services. But I'd like something much simpler, like a web account that centralises everything and syncs with my other devices. That's where Pocket Casts really shines for me.
iOS Only. Comes as default on Apple devices.
The Apple podcasts app is a mainstay in the podcasting world. It's a default app on any apple device, now, so it's great that every iOS user now has a podcast listening app right at their fingertips.
The big advantage of Apple podcasts is it's pure ease of use. Of course, it's Apple, so the user experience is as simple as they come, and even if you're totally not techie, you'll be able to find your way around and discover a few shows to subscribe too.
Another big advantage is that it ties directly into the iTunes store and the Apple Podcasts directory. This is still the #1 place that people search for new shows so every podcast of note lists themselves in there. That means if a podcast exists, then you'll be able to find it in the Apple Podcasts directory. Apple have made it super easy to browse around, to discover new shows and to preview them right in the directory.
The stations feature is a nice way to do categories, I have to say. You group together a range of shows on a particular subject, and you can then really easily listen to the newest episodes from that group.
Finally, you get some of the standard listening features, like listening speed and skipping.
In keeping the app super simple, Apple haven't added a huge amount of advanced features.
I'd love to see them add more power over individual shows, like download or not, show-specific listening speed, number of episodes to keep, etc.
But, really, the power of the Apple Podcasts app is it's simplicity and how easily it allows new and entirely non-geeky podcast listeners to get into the medium. So, I'm not going to moan about that – it's a great entry point for any new listener, and that's something we need to keep.
Other Podcatcher Options
Now that we've covered my top picks, let's look at the other options out there. Here are the best of the rest.
DoggCatcher Podcast Player
Android only. Find DoggCatcher here.
DoggCatcher is one of the more popular players, but not one I've spent a LOT of time with. I downloaded it a while back and was entirely put off by the interface, which seems completely unintuitive to me. I couldn't find a way to create a playlist, for example, and that's a dealbreaker. Now, it may be possible, but it's not obvious, and so I'm called that a big negative.
Others have reported DoggCatcher as their favourite app, though. The reasons stated include the fact that all controls are on one page, streamlining the listening experience. They also include a love for the tablular view, which makes it really easy to navigate your show list.
Android only. Find Stitcher here.
Stitcher is still the default Android podcast app for many, simply due to the fact that it gained a high profile very early. It retains that profile thanks to it's simplicity and ease of use, and the design of the app is among the best out there. Not to mention that Stitcher is one of the top 5 must-submit directories out there, so it has a great content search and keeps attracting new shows.
Stitcher has done well to integrate with a huge number of external tools and apps. This means that if you have a Stitcher account, you can sync your podcast listening across a range of devices, including smart speakers like the Sonos. The app also plays very well with social, allowing you to easily share favourite shows and listening habits.
But sadly, that's where the innovation ends. For me, Stitcher suffers with a lack of flexibility and power for the competent listener. It's a good-looking, effective, search-subscribe-and-listen app, but I feel Pocket Casts outdoes it on that front these days. And if you want more detailed control over the way you listen to each show, then look towards BeyondPod.
For me, it comes down to four choices when choosing a podcast app.
- If you're an iOS user and you just want a point-and-play app, then stick with the default iOS app: Apple Podcasts. It's got good discovery, decent listening options and is as simple as it gets.
- If you're an Android user looking for point and play, then Pocket Casts will make it easy.
- If you're an iOS user who's looking for more power, then also check out Pocket Casts. You'll find a range of options there that are worth paying for.
- Finally, if you're an Android user and want full control over how you listen, get hold of BeyondPod. You can't beat the customisation and power here, and it's a perfectly nice app to use once you get used to the navigation.
Remember, once you've chosen an app, the next biggest choice in mobile listening are the headphones you use. Check out our favourite headphones for podcast listening here.
Do you use a podcast app I've not mentioned here? Let me know what you think of it in the comments below.
And has anything changed with the apps I've reviewed? Let me know below and I'll update the article.