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Review: Overcast – now the iPhone’s best FREE podcast app

Having gained some new features and lost its price-tag, Overcast is a no-brainer download for podcast fans

Price: Free
Size: 4.6 MB
Version: 2.0.2
Developer: Overcast Radio, LLC

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On its original release, Overcast attempted to rethink various aspects of podcasting apps. Driven largely by developer Marco Arment’s love of tech podcasts, it offered features to improve playback clarity and save you time. Voice Boost adjusted EQ, enabling you to more clearly hear what was being said; Smart Speed shortened silences – not something you’d want for comedy, but handy for listening to talky shows. Coupled with the finest speed-up playback on iOS, it’s easy to see why it grabbed people’s attention.

Smart playback features are Overcast's major draws.

Smart playback features are Overcast’s major draws

Overcast wasn’t without its problems, though, and many of these have been fixed in this latest release. The app now boasts streaming playback, rather than forcing you to download podcasts prior to listening. Local storage could quickly become an issue with the app, and although this is lessened by the streaming option, you can now also delve into a storage screen in the app’s settings and quickly delete the most weighty podcasts.

Getting started is also much improved, for two reasons. First, the app’s podcast directory is no longer curated by the developer. Instead, it’s based on Overcast users’ taps of Recommend buttons found on podcast episode info screens. This button isn’t hugely discoverable, and the recommendations do still skew towards tech and geekery, but they’re nonetheless improved and more variable; also, searching for what you want to listen to works perfectly well anyway. The second big change: the app’s now free, meaning that the aforementioned playback features are no longer behind a paywall. Now, everyone can enjoy them. (The app’s IAP is now a patronage model. Essentially, if you really like the app, you can choose to pay $2.99/£2.29 per quarter to say thanks, and encourage future updates.)

The revised recommendations are an improvement.

The revised recommendations are an improvement

Otherwise, the app remains much as it was before. The interface is broadly usable, quite orange, and boasts excellent playback support. Yet it somehow feels a bit busy compared to the super-refined Pocket Casts, which remains our favorite podcast app, despite lacking the playback trickery Overcast provides. Still, this is no longer a direct comparison, given that Pocket Casts comes with a price-tag, and among the free podcast apps for iOS — including Apple’s own — Overcast is definitely the best there is. And even if you own and enjoy using Pocket Casts, Overcast is worth a punt for those shows that you enjoy yet take a bit too long to get to the end of!