Pocket Casts, a popular podcast app, received a major update for its Android app bringing it to version 4.0 this week. More than just a feature update, the new Pocket Casts app has been completely rewritten and redesigned from the ground up for Android 4.0 and newer using Google's design guidelines. The result is an attractive and feature rich app that is one of the nicest podcatchers that we have the chance to use, but not without its shortcomings.
Server-side management can save data and bandwidth
Pocket Casts supports both audio and video podcasts, and has discovery and playlist features to manage your downloaded shows. It can download new episodes automatically (though some users may bemoan its lack of location-based downloading features), and you can listen to or watch an episode before it has fully downloaded if you are in a hurry. The Discover tab features access to recommended shows, top trending shows, and categories for a variety of topics. A large number of popular podcasts are available in Pocket Casts, and you can add other, more obscure subscriptions by pasting URLs in the main search box. Pocket Casts actually uses server-based podcast parsing, which is designed to save bandwidth and time when checking for new episodes.
The app's playback features are well-rounded — Pocket Casts lets you read descriptions of each episode, stream or download episodes, share links to shows through email or other apps, variable speed playback, and easy 10 second rewind and 30 second fast forward buttons. Pocket Casts doesn't handle incoming notifications well, however, as it will abruptly stop playback for longer than the notification sound lasts. Additionally, the older versions of Pocket Casts let you access previous episodes of a show, but the new version lacks that feature. It also lacks the option to save a specific number of episodes in a show, requiring you to delete old episodes that have been automatically downloaded to reclaim storage space on your device. Pocket Casts does have playback controls in the notification area to let you pause and fast forward shows that you are listening to without going into the app itself, but it does not feature a homescreen widget.
A decent option for Android users
Pocket Casts isn't a perfect app — there are a handful of missing features for power users and its odd bugs are annoying. But compared to iOS, there aren't many quality podcatching apps for Android, leaving users with few choices on their hands. Shifty Jelly, the developer of Pocket Casts, does plan to release an updated version of its iOS app at some point in the future, but it says that it chose to focus on the Android one first because its Android userbase outnumbers its iOS one by a ratio of five to one. Additionally, it sees more growth for podcast apps on Android than iOS thanks to a lack of a native solution. (Though, most iOS users would say Apple's native Podcasts app is less than perfect, to put it lightly.) Another option for Android is Podkicker Pro, which costs slightly less than Pocket Casts and offers a similar level of features, but doesn't quite match Pocket Casts' slick design. Those using devices with Android 4.0 or newer can download Pocket Casts 4.0 from the Google Play Store for $3.99 now.
Update: Version 4.0.2, available in the Play Store now, provides the option to play all of the old episodes of a podcast.