Overcast makes it fun to listen to Podcasts again
After reading a lot about a new podcast app called Overcast created by Marco Arment, famous for creating Instapaper I downloaded the app just to check it out. I love Instapaper, an app that really has made me appreciate long form journalism, so I thought I’ll try to see if Overcast could make me interested in listening to podcasts again, something I haven’t done in a while.
The Overcast app
The app is free to download from the AppStore, but have in-app purchase for some extra features. I normally hate to buy something in-app, but I can understand his thinking when Apple and others have free podcast apps available. You can try out the extra features that you get by the in-app purchase for five minutes inside the app to see if you like them, but the features aren’t a must, so you can continue to use the app for free if you like. But after trying the extra features I decided to buy it.
The added features are:
- Cellular downloads
- Variable playback speed
- Smart Speed
- Voice Boost
- Per-podcast effects settings
- One-by-one playback option
- Sleep timer
- Unlimited number of playlists
- Unlimited episodes shown in playlists
The two features that sealed the deal was Smart Speed and Voice Boost.
This feature analyses the podcast your are listening to and when there is a silent gap, or “dead air”, the app shortens it, thus saving you time and makes the podcast seem more professionally produced. I have it turned on all the time, but I guess it wouldn’t be the best choice if you listen to a lot of comedy podcasts. It will probably do horrible things to the comedy timing. But for the podcasts I listen to, it works great.
This feature adds some EQ and compression so that less then stellar recordings of voices sounds more consistent. This makes it easier to listen to podcasts in cars and noisy environments. Yet another feature I have on all the time.
My concern with the added features was that my old iPhone 4 would run out of battery quickly while listening, but the app really shines. It doesn’t suck the batteries dry, even when all the audio processing is activated, which is impressive. If you have a iPhone 5 or newer, you get a beautiful spectrum analyzer displaying during playback, but it’s wisely turned off on the iPhone 4, saving battery life and screen real estate.
Not a Universal App
This app is made for the iPhone only. For me this is not a problem, because I always listen to podcasts on my iPhone anyway.
The first time you start the application, you have to register. This might seem a bit odd, but there’s a good reason for that. The app doesn’t have to constantly check for new episodes of podcast feeds because this is handled by the sync servers. If you add your Twitter account (read only), you can get recommendations for podcasts from people you are following as well. Very handy.
The recommended section in the app is a bit thin right now, and it is very US centric. But it’s easy to add an URL to other podcasts you like to follow.