Castro — Play and Share Podcasts ($4.99) by Supertop is the brand new version of Castro that emphasizes a new perspective on podcasts for enthusiasts: triage. If you enjoy listening to podcasts on a daily basis, but aren’t satisfied with other top-notch podcast players out there, such as Overcast, then you should definitely give the new Castro 2 a try.
Though I’ve fallen quite behind on my podcasts as of late, I still enjoy listening to podcasts whenever I have the time to, whether it’s a long road trip or a commute through the city. I enjoy podcasts because of the interesting discussion that the hosts always bring up, and it’s great to just find shows that discuss topics that you’re interested in, rather than listening to whatever may be on the radio or something. I’ve gone from Pocket Casts to Overcast ever since Marco Arment released his feature-rich podcast player (love that Smart Speed), but that doesn’t stop me from checking out the competition. And now that Castro 2 has launched, I had to check it out for myself to see if it can work as my daily driver for podcasts.
In terms of visuals, Supertop has knocked it out of the park. While I love Overcast, the problem with that app is the fact that it looks engineered, so it’s not the prettiest thing to look at when it goes head-to-head against other apps in terms of design. Castro 2, on the other hand, has a gorgeous design that you’ll love to look at while you go through your podcasts. The main screen area for Castro has rounded corners that take me back to the Palm Pre days, the white and light gray day theme looks sharp, and there’s an easy-to-access night mode (various shades of gray) with just a two-finger swipe down (or up to go back to day mode). Whether you’re in day or night theme, the thumbnails of podcast art contrast nicely against the background, and the icons for the queue, inbox, archive, and discover are easily recognizable. The app has subtle but fun and smooth transition animations as you switch views, change themes, or bring up menus, and everything flows together perfectly. The playback screen lets you check show notes without any fuss, and the floating buttons make it easy to perform an action if needed. The playback button bar at the bottom of the screen gives users plenty of space to touch the buttons they need. Not surprisingly, Supertop has done a great job once again with the finer details in regards to the design of Castro 2. If you like functional but beautiful apps, then this is not one to be missed.
When you launch Castro 2 for the first time, there will be a brief introductory tutorial that shows you the ropes. It’s quick and simple, and the app itself is pretty straightforward anyway. Since Castro 2 is a new app, you’ll have to export your existing podcast subscriptions from the original Castro or any other podcasting app (there are instructions in the app) and import them into Castro 2.
Another option is to start over, and you can use the Discover tab to browse popular shows in various categories or just search for the shows you want by name or URL. When you find a show that interests you, just tap on it to view the show details, and see what their latest episode was and what that episode is about. Castro 2 also shows the oldest episode available, but you can also tap on the middle break to view all episodes that are in-between the oldest and latest. While you can subscribe to a show as you normally would, there are also individual options that you can trigger by tapping on individual episodes. These options include Play Now (no need to subscribe), Add to Queue as Next, Add to Queue as Last, or Favorite, which adds favorite show episodes to the inbox automatically.
So what is the inbox feature? When Castro’s servers detect a new episode of your subscribed or favorited shows, it will put the latest episodes in the inbox for you. The shows appear in a small ribbon that you scroll horizontally to view more of your favorites. From here, you can go through them to determine what you want to listen to by adding it to the queue or play now, and then archive the rest. The archive will show all of the podcasts of the shows you subscribe to, so you can browse older episodes, see starred episodes, and view your complete listening history. While the process of triaging podcasts may not appeal to everyone, it does let those who prefer to assign a sense of urgency and priority to their podcasts do just that.
When you are playing a podcast, you’ll see the currently playing episode represented by a small icon of the artwork in the bottom right corner, where the playback bar is. Tapping on the icon lets you view the show notes, and you can use the buttons to pause, rewind, and skip forward (the rewind and forward increments can be changed in the app settings). There is also an arrow button in the playback bar that lets you expand the Now Playing view. In this more detailed Now Playing screen, you’ll be able to set a sleep timer, adjust the playback speed, and have a nice audio wavelength scrubber, in case you want to go back to a certain part of the show. You can also access the Share Sheet from this view to share a Castro link to the episode through a myriad of options.
For those who prefer to fine tune their podcast players, the settings for Castro 2 can be accessed through the cog icon that appears in the four main sections. There are options for toggling day or night mode (though the two finger vertical swipe is easier), opening links in Castro’s browser or Safari (even Chrome if it’s installeD), notifications and badges, toggles for queue downloads (if it’s off you stream only), and playback settings, which include continuous play, streaming on cellular, and the rewind and forward intervals.
I’ve been testing out Castro 2 this morning for this review, and I love what Supertop has done for Castro’s revamp. As someone who has less time for podcasts these days, I like the triage system because it lets me check the description for each new episode and this determines if I’m going to listen to it or not. Plus, the app itself looks great, it’s easy to use, and the Now Playing view focuses on useful features and doesn’t waste space to prominently display podcast art. Still, I’m a bit torn between Castro 2 and Overcast, due to my love of the Smart Speed feature — it’s hard to go back once you’ve saved over 100 hours with it, after all. Despite this, I think Castro 2 is a solid update to an exceptional podcast app and definitely worth checking out if you’re a podcast enthusiast looking for fresh new takes on podcast management. Hopefully an iPad version is in the works for those who prefer their iPad for podcast listening.
I recommend giving Castro 2 a try for yourself if you were a fan of the original Castro, or aren’t satisfied with the other podcast apps on the market. Castro — Play and Share Podcasts is available on the iPhone App Store for $4.99.