I looked at Instacast a couple days ago and while it was good enough to know I’d no longer need iTunes for podcasts, there were enough hiccups to make be look at an alternative, so I picked Downcast. It’s $2 and is universal for both iPhone and iPad.
Like Instacast, it has the features I require:
- Sort all podcasts from oldest to newest so I can play the oldest first
- Syncing between devices
- Podcasts can be downloaded to the device
- Keeps track of unplayed episodes
- Handles password protected podcast feeds
- Can play podcast at double speed (or triple speed, or some fraction in between)
Then it has the features I like but are just nice to have:
- Can stream without downloading
- Mixes video podcast in the same list and in the playlists list
- Supports multiple playlists
- Has a sleep timer which also works when Downcast is playing in the background. So it doesn’t prevent me from using my alarm clock app.
- Highly customizable – each podcast or playlist can have it’s own settings or use the global settings
Things I Miss:
- Nothing – not sure what other features I would want
- Granular Settings – this is really only a problem during the first 24 hours, but the large number of settings and my experimentation led to some unexpected results.
Compared to Instacast
I found the interface more intuitive. I only had to read the online help once when I misunderstood the “Sync Episodes” setting. (It syncs the episode status – not the files themselves). The rest was pretty obvious although like many i-device apps it takes some tapping and swiping to find everything. Almost all the interface elements are labeled or pop up a menu when pressed, making it easier to know what’s happening.
I didn’t spend much time with the iPad app, but the interface was much easier for me to use than Instacast. It was functional and made sense.
Instacast is a simpler interface with fewer options and settings. Fewer options isn’t always a bad thing.
The Initial Experience
I emailed an OPML export of my podcasts to myself and then imported them into Downcast. Unlike Instacast it couldn’t read the Music app for my podcast list. I didn’t have any of the bugs or problems that I had with Downcast. My only problems came about when I changed around settings, especially sync settings.
I liked the ability to create playlists more than I thought I would. I also liked being able to assign settings per podcast. I listen to some podcasts at double speed, while others are always regular speed. I can set the defaults for each podcast but change them on th fly if I want to.
I’m keeping both apps on my iDevices, but I’ll be using Downcast until it gives me a reason not to.