The best podcast app on iOS gets a major redesign, leaving Apple’s app in the dust
The popular podcast app Overcast has been updated for iOS, bringing the first steps of a redesign to the home screen, alongside custom playlists, choices for different playback colors, ways to filter podcasts in three ways, and more.
Created by developer, writer, and podcaster Marco Arment, it's been the go-to podcast app for many who haven't been entirely happy with Apple's Podcast app. While Apple recently added some updates to help users manage their subscribed shows, Overcast has other features that make it a great alternative.
Called 2022.2 for this latest update, it lets you pin podcasts to the home screen and mark podcasts as played, which can save you from wasting cellular data downloading episodes you've already listened to.
With Overcast's significant update, we're wondering what Apple's own Podcasts app must do to stay competitive.
Analysis: Apple's Podcast app has always felt like a catch up
Podcasts have always felt as though they've been around as long as we've been able to send emails to one another. While they first appeared as a new medium in the early 2000s, podcasts arrived on Apple's platform in 2005 with iTunes 4.9. It was a way of subscribing to shows on Windows and macOS machines back then, which we would then connect our iPods to sync up our favorite podcasts.
That year, Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and then CEO, gave an impromptu demo of the feature at one of The Wall Street Journal's early All Things D conferences.
Once the iPhone arrived in 2007, podcasts would be part of the original Music app, but at the time, it was still a challenge to subscribe and download new podcast shows.
Finally, a dedicated app arrived in 2012 from Apple, and while there have been regular updates to it, alongside a macOS version that debuted in 2019, it's still playing catch up in features, especially when you compare it to Overcast.
Arment's app has long had an innovative feature called smart speed, where the app identifies silent pauses and speeds the episode up at those points. Once the host or guests speaks again, the playback speed returns to normal.
Having used the Overcast 2022.2 update on an iPhone 13 Pro, being able to pin podcasts, and, at last, change the colors of the controls, it's clear Apple has its work cut out for it.
Apple has introduced subscriptions and the ability to track listens for podcast creators to its own app, but the app still feels as though it's playing catchup.
Apple's take of a podcast app has the basics covered, but you can't pin shows, there's no smart speed, and links in show notes still don't show correctly. There's no hook from Apple here to tempt you to use its app – everything looks and feels run of the mill, a podcast app that does the basics, and that's it.
There's no killer feature like smart speed to tempt you away from Overcast, and in a way, that's only good news for Arment's alternative, especially in the last decade of Apple's Podcast app being available to download.
To catch up, Apple could buy Overcast – it won't – or shift how it updates the app and move from annual major updates to a once-every-few-months cadence. In this way, Apple's Podcasts app could build on what listeners and podcasters want.
For now, though, this is all wishful thinking. Overcast has been updated with a great redesign, and there are further plans to look into redesigning the Now Playing screen. While you can download Overcast for free, there is a yearly fee of $9.99 / £8.99 / AU$ 10.99 to get rid of ads and use a dark-themed icon. Apple's Podcast app is free.
With this substantial 2022.2 update, we can confidently say that it's worth the price if you're a heavy podcast listener.
- Our pick of the best iPhone deals in 2022 so far