¶ Downcast | Review

With iOS 6 likely due out in the next couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to talk about podcasts. If you, like me, are a podcast listener, things are changing in iOS 6.

Traditionally, I’ve used podcasts the Apple way: subscribe via iTunes and sync episodes over USB or Wi-Fi to my iPhone, and then listen to them from the Podcasts tab of Apple’s Music app. It is certainly a process full of friction. It keeps your iPhone tied to your Mac, still, even though iOS 5 made significant inroads to making iOS independent from iTunes.

I take several long-weekend trips every year, and this past year I gave serious consideration to just leaving the Mac at home. A couple times I did, and regretted that I wasn’t able to reload on podcasts. So the past couple trips, my Mac has made the trip with me for that very reason.

In iOS 6, podcasts are being removed from the Music app. Apple’s new way is for users to use the already available Podcasts app. I’ve tried to use it a couple times to preemptively get on board before the big switch. But honestly? Don’t use this app as it stands today.

Apple’s Podcasts app is slow, buggy, and lacks the typical polish and refinement we’ve all come to expect. This app does not feel like something Apple made. It doesn’t even use iCloud to sync the subscription list between your iPhone and iPad, instead making you go through the subscription process twice.

So here’s what you should do. Buy Downcast. It is every bit the caliber you would expect Apple to make, but Apple didn’t make it.

Here’s a rundown of what makes Downcast awesome:

  • It syncs your subscription list, the download and play status of episodes, and app settings — all through iCloud (and it takes little iCloud storage, since it just syncs the status between devices).
  • The episode list is sorted between Unplayed and Played or Empty.
  • You can change the sort order of episodes within a podcast between ascending or descending.
  • You can toggle continuous play, deciding whether you want the next episode to play at the end of the previous, or to just stop entirely (this was the main sell for me).
  • Adding podcasts is a breeze. If you need to download multiple episodes, you can tap the Edit button, mark a bunch of them, then toss them in the download queue.
  • You don’t have to download episodes if you don’t want to. You can add some to the list for streaming. Most podcasts I want to have downloaded, but there are a couple that I have marked for streaming, which I can convert to download if I want.
  • You can set the app to download only on Wi-Fi, so as to not wreck your data plan (something Apple’s Podcasts app does not give an option for).
  • If an episode has linked show notes, Downcast pulls those in for your perusal while listening.
  • It has background geofence support. So you could set a geofence around home and work, and set Downcast to check for new episodes and sync playback when you arrive.

I could go on, there’s much more. The bottom line is this is the sort of full-featured podcast client you want.

I highly recommend that you switch to Downcast before iOS 6 comes out (rumor has it September 19). Downcast is a universal app and runs a whopping $1.99 on the App Store.

Also, I noticed Downcast’s Twitter feed mention they are working on a Mac app.