Overcast app is a spot-on podcatcher

Marco Arment, the one-man team who founded and runs the podcatcher Overcast, really loves podcasts.

It’s this passion that makes the app so usable, with a perfect five-star user rating on the iTunes store and top billing on every “best podcast app” list I could find online.

Mr Arment is the 34-year-old American developer who cofounded Tumblr, and then went on to create Instapaper, which he sold a few years later.

He has been running his own podcasts for years, and currently hosts a weekly show called the Accidental Tech Podcast. He launched Overcast, which allows you to download and listen to podcasts, in 2014 for iOS only, to improve on the built-in podcast player for Apple’s ­iPhones.

It was originally a “free­mium” service, with a US$4.99 fee to unlock all the best features, but in 2015 he scrapped the model, and integrated all those extras into the free version, which is now funded purely by voluntary dona­tions.

What’s immediately obvious about Overcast is that the sound quality is high, especially if you turn on Voice Boost, which tweaks the audio to keep voices within a narrower range so you don’t need to keep adjusting the volume. There’s another handy feature called Smart Speed, which allows you to get through episodes at up to twice the normal pace, without distorting the sounds. Instead, momentary sil­ences are eliminated to speed things up.

While these are great features, it’s the attention to small details that also makes Overcast stand out among other podcatchers. I like being able to turn off cellular downloads with a single tap. This means if you have a limited data plan on your phone, the app won’t automatically start downloading new shows until you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

The only complaint is related to the app’s CarPlay feature, which allows users to listen to podcasts via supported car radios.

Some users have said when switching from one episode to another using this feature the car display fails to display the new podcast’s information. It’s a small flaw for an otherwise stellar product, that is now also completely free.

q&a tweaked for optimal use

Jessica Holland expands on the podcatcher app Overcast:

Has the app evolved since its first release?

As well as scrapping the price of the upgrade, many more improvements have been added since 2014. Most importantly, the initial version wouldn’t allow users to start listening to shows until the entire episode was downloaded. It’s now also possible to listen while you stream them, which saves storage space on your phone.

Any other nifty features?

I like the fact you can programme special shortcuts on headphone remotes and car controls, so that the “next track” button triggers the next podcast on a playlist, for example. Other features that show Overcast is designed by someone who listens to a lot of podcasts himself include being able to select priority podcasts to download first, and being able to filter shows by whether or not you’ve listened to them.

Does Overcast help you discover new podcasts?

Yes, there’s a few different ways to get going if you’re not sure where to start. Firstly, Overcast provides its own “Starter Kit” playlists in various categories, like tech, comedy and public radio. You can browse the dir­ectory, which pulls from the iTunes Store, and if you integrate your Twitter account, you can also see what shows your Twitter contacts enjoy.

Can you only use it on ­iPhones?

It’s now possible to download the app to iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches, but there’s still no Android version.


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