Pocket Casts ($3.99) by ShiftyJelly PTY LTD is one of the best podcast apps that you can find on iOS, now optimized specifically for iOS 7. If you have been on the fence about Pocket Casts before, now is the time to switch over.
I love podcasts, especially of the tech nature. Podcasts can be informative, funny, and just downright fun, making them a great way to pass some time on your commute or just whenever you get a chance. For a long time, I’ve been a user of Instacast, but this is about to change now, thanks to the release of Pocket Casts 4.
Pocket Casts 4 has a brand new design that has been reworked from the ground up to fit alongside iOS 7. Gone is the dark background of days past, as it has been replaced with a bright white background for most of the screens. However, the dark colors stay when you search through the directory, or when you play an episode. The font has been replaced with a thinner Helvetica option, matching your new OS. The final touches to make it blend in perfectly with iOS 7 are the translucent header bars and subtle text and playback screen colors that match the podcast artwork. These were the things that drew me in to Pocket Casts 4, and I’m not regretting my switch. It’s a beautiful new redesign that adds a bit of personality to it, rather than just be all white and standard-looking, which makes it stand out from other iOS 7 apps.
Pocket Casts 4 makes use of Shifty Jelly’s own syncing service, rather than relying on the sometimes-problematic iCloud. If you’ve been a user of Pocket Casts, just sign in with your account. If not, making an account is as easy as entering in an email and a password, and then tapping “sign up.”
Once you’re in, you’ll find the main screen, where all of your podcasts will be displayed in a grid format, showcasing podcast art. If you are new to Pocket Casts, then tap on the + button to access the directory of podcasts, which will sport a gorgeous dark gray background and red header bars.
The directory is split into five tabs along the translucent menubar at the bottom: Featured, Top Charts, Search, Networks, and Categories. I rather enjoy the Networks view, because most of the podcasts that I listen to are pretty much on one or two different networks, so it’s nice to have it all available in one place. Searching for a podcast is done by the name or feed URL. You can add a custom podcast by entering the custom URL into the search box, and it will get added in to your list.
No matter which view you’re in, when you tap on a podcast, it will bring up a new popup, with when the latest episode (and title) was, a brief summary of what to expect from that show, and a subscribe/unsubscribe button. While this popup is active, it also blurs the background, which is a nice touch. There’s a slick, fluid transition animation when you get rid of the popup as well.
When you’re done adding podcasts to your collection, just tap on the one you want to browse, and it will take you to a new podcast detail screen. This screen will always look different, depending on what podcast it is. The header bars, buttons, and text colors will have a subtle color change, but it’s very noticeable once you look at different shows. You can refresh and check for new episodes at any time by performing the pull-to-refresh gesture.
By default, Pocket Casts 4 is set to download each episode with the button, but this can be changed to streaming in the options. Tapping on an episode in the list will bring up a popup with the show notes, a large button for either download or streaming (this changes depending on your setting), and five options in a toolbar: download (or stream), Play Next/Add to Playlist, Favorite, Mark as Listened/Unlistened, and Share (link to episode). Downloads will show the progress underneath the button off to the side, though there’s not a progress bar, just telling you the megabytes so far. You can also share shows with others by creating a link to the show and sharing through Message, Mail, Twitter, Facebook, reading list, link copy, or even AirDrop.
Once an episode is playing, you’ll be greeted with a customized playback screen that adapts to the podcast artwork. I’ve mentioned this already several times, but it really shows the most on the playback screen. The background color is darker, but the audio scrubber, menu buttons, and text colors all feature the show colors, and stand out more to the eye. I wish that the actual playback buttons (pause, rewind, skip forward) would also be in custom colors, but it’s not a big deal.
The two buttons at the top will feature show notes with tappable links, and then the play queue. I rather love the play queue, as it reminds me of Rdio. You can continue to add episodes to play later, just as you add music for later in Rdio. Once the current episode finishes, you will automatically move on to whatever you have added next. The bottom will feature playback speed, volume, sleep timer, and share buttons.
Pocket Casts 4 will also feature Episode Filters, which can be viewed on the screen prior to the All Podcasts view. You can only show Unplayed, Downloaded, Video, or Downloading episodes. There is also the ability to create your own episode filters, so you can get just what you want. These filters can be customized with an icon, color, playing state, status, episode type, selected podcasts, starred episodes, and how new episodes should be displayed.
The Settings for Pocket Casts are accessed from this main screen as well, with the cog button at the bottom. In Settings, users can toggle sync, change playback settings, default download or stream, get push notifications for new episodes, sound, automatic downloads, and more.
I’ve thoroughly been enjoying Pocket Casts 4, and it’s booted Instacast off of my home screen. I’m in love with the natural iOS 7 design, subtle custom colors, transparencies, and intuitive interface. Plus, the syncing is easy and fast. This is what an iOS 7 podcast client should be, and I’m glad Shifty Jelly made it.
Pocket Casts 4 is a free update to existing users of Pocket Casts. New customers can get it for $3.99 in the App Store as a universal download. This new version is iOS 7 only.