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Do You Use It? TidBITS Readers Prefer Overcast to Apple Podcasts

Apple’s bundled apps are generally pretty good, and many command a substantial share among TidBITS readers. A whopping 87% of respondents to our poll asking which Web browsers you use voted for Safari (see “Do You Use It? Safari Ranks as Top Mac Web Browser,” 6 October 2023). Similarly, our poll about weather apps was dominated by Apple’s Weather, with 60% saying it was their main weather app and another 15% using it alongside other apps (see “Do You Use It? Apple’s Weather Leads a Wide Array of Popular Alternatives,” 11 September 2023).

What about Apple Podcasts? Given Apple’s dominant role in the podcast world thanks to its extensive catalog of podcasts, I expected Apple Podcasts would lead last week’s Do You Use It? poll asking about preferred podcast apps. After all, it’s a fully featured podcast app that Apple beefed up recently with the addition of automatically generated transcripts.

However, Apple Podcasts not only failed to top the poll results, it wasn’t even close to the overall leader, Marco Arment’s popular Overcast, which garnered 43% of the vote. Apple Podcasts ranked a distant second, with only 25% of the vote. Overcast fans regularly praised its Smart Speed option, which speeds up podcast playback by intelligently removing silences.

Do You Use It? poll about podcast apps results

The rest of the podcast apps we included in the voting fared much worse, gathering only single-digit votes. Pocket Casts led the way with 6%, just ahead of Downcast with 5%. Castro managed 2%, and Mimir and Spotify only 1%. The main option we didn’t know about when building the poll was BBC Sounds, a free app that provides access to BBC podcasts, radio stations, and music, although iCatcher also received a plug.

The comments make it clear that inertia plays a non-trivial role in the choice of podcast apps. It seems that once people figure out the niceties and quirks of a particular app, they’re unlikely to want to go to the effort of recreating their subscriptions in some other app unless something goes terribly wrong. Choosing a podcast app is much more of a commitment than a weather app or even a Web browser. Even if Apple Podcasts is pretty good now, one bad experience years ago, such as when it featured a reel-to-reel tape playback interface (see “Podcasts App Breaks Podcasts out of Music App,” 2 July 2012), would have been enough to make someone look elsewhere.

I was also intrigued to see that a fair number of TidBITS readers aren’t interested in podcasts as a medium. “I don’t listen to podcasts” ranked third with 15% of the vote, the only other option that broke double digits. Even the number of people who voted in this poll was lower than most others we’ve done. The TidBITS audience skews older, and podcasts may appeal less to people with long-held media consumption habits.

To present a similar example, I’ll admit that I watch YouTube videos only when they’re recommended or when I’m looking for something specific. Although I gather that videos from a single creator who does things like hatch birds or rebuild a ghost town are wildly popular, they don’t compete well for my undivided attention. In contrast, I’ve found a handful of podcasts that fit perfectly into certain interstitial spaces in my life, such as when driving, doing yard work, and biking. While most podcasts aren’t far off from Tonya’s long-ago joke about “blathering into the Internet,” it’s not hard to find well-produced podcasts that are interesting, enjoyable, and educational.

So, if you’ve never quite gotten started with podcasts or dislike your current podcast app, try one of the other apps. It will be a bit more effort in the short term but may be worthwhile. You’ll probably like Overcast; if not, the poll comments explain what people appreciate about their preferred apps.

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Comments About Do You Use It? TidBITS Readers Prefer Overcast to Apple Podcasts

Notable Replies

  1. I recently (6m or so) switched to Castamatic (from Overcast) since Castamatic includes more “Podcasting 2.0” features like support for individual episode artwork; chapters; chapter art (i.e. changes to reflect the current topic on some of the podcasts I listen to); “value for value” payments to support podcast creators directly; strong Apple Watch & CarPlay support; and more. I highly recommend it.

  2. I haven’t heard of Castamatic before. That said, FWIW, Overcast has long supported chapters, discrete chapter art, and (IMO) has strong Apple Watch and CarPlay support. (I use it with both with some regularity.) And I’m not sure about individual episode artwork, but I think even that I’ve seen with Overcast. (I should say it’s not often I am looking at my phone while podcasts are playing, so this is not a requirement for me, but I understand wanting it.)

    But I will take a look at Castamatic, thanks.

    Also, Marco Arment has said on his ATP podcast that he is currently working to completely change the app. Most of what he is doing, I believe, is switching most of the code from Objective C to SwiftUI and Swift, but he’s also mentioned some UI/UX changes going forward.

  3. I’ve tried several times to switch from Pocketcast to Overcast, but am always turned off by the latter’s favoritism for downloading over streaming. I don’t have a large storage phone, plus I choose content capriciously in the moment, so I don’t want perennial background downloading of new episodes.

    Has this improved any? Anyone else out there prefer streaming, and doing ok with Overcast?

  4. I want everything downloaded, but there is a Setting in the “Downloading” section that gives you the choice between “Stream When Played”, “Download on WiFi”, or “Download on WiFi or Cellular”, so I would think you could set it to stream everything.

  5. Thanks. Yeah, that was there from the start. You can, literally, stream podcasts. But I found during everyday use that Marco obviously downloads, so streamer flow was rocky (in ways I can’t remember now). I should really just try again, maybe that’s been smoothed out.

  6. I must admit that I couldn’t wait to find an alternative to Apple’s Podcast app when it was first introduced. I found it to be incredibly confusing to use, and I didn’t appreciate the emphasis on recommendations, etc. It was just confusing as hell for someone who just wanted to see a list of their subscribed podcasts and a list of episodes when clicked.

    Overcast is awesome in this respect. And the web-based database of my podcasts makes it a great replacement for Apple’s Podcasts app. I used it for a few years.

    But at some point Apple updated the Podcasts app and I gave it another try. I suddenly found it much easier to navigate and find what I wanted. And like most all of Apple’s apps, I really love the integration with the rest of the macOS/iOS universe.

    I’ve fully switched back to Podcasts app, but I still appreciate Overcast for what it is… which is an outstanding option for listeners.

  7. I very much enjoyed Overcast as a paid user for years. But recently I experienced major data loss on all platforms (all history including saved episode data gone).

    I received no response to my support request asking if there is a way to try to recover the lost data. I’ve experienced such lack of support from the developer a few times before over the years.

    Data loss is bad enough, but no support for a paid user, and apparently no way to recover the data, makes it hard for me to trust Overcast again, sadly.

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