Pocket Casts

01 Feb 2019
author: João

Prologue

You've been procrastinating all weekend on YouTube instead of doing what you were supposed to do. You wish there was a way to consume the content you know and love, while being able to remain productive in some way. You turn on the television. "Since when do I own a television?" - you think to yourself briefly, before being distracted by the ongoing news report. The reporter is talking in the typical commanding-slash-robotic tone that reporters seem to acquire after years of watching others in the tv industry speak in this primitive and unnatural manner:

— "and it seems like cloning technology is still a dream many decades in the horizon for most huma--"

You sigh and switch the channel. It's an ad. The narrator pauses mid-speech, as if noticing you tuning in, and then resumes speaking:

— "Well, lucky for you, the third wave of podcasting has arrived, and it's here to stay! It's the best way to make use of the mindless time you spend filling up the dishwasher, watering your plants - or pets! - and even going for that 11pm run, that has made your next door neighbor suspect you're a serial killer for the past couple months. How can this be possible, you ask? Just download Pocket Casts, available on any of your favorite app marketplaces!"

That was easy.

Don't Spotify and Google have podcasts?

You may know that Spotify Google used to do this in their app, now it's a separate appand Google  both offer you the ability to listen to podcasts on their apps. It's also entirely possible that you had no idea. And there is a simple explanation for this:

When big companies do something really well, there's a big chance you will hear about it. The media machine starts spinning and hoards of articles are spit out one after the other, until the next big thing comes along.

When big companies do something really terribly (or terrible), there's close to a 100% chance (if not more) that you will hear about it.

But when big companies do something that is, let's say, not very good, not bad either, a bit underwhelming, like lukewarm tea, then you might not hear about it at all.

Spotify and Google's podcast integration... works. That's about it. It is not something they specialize in, nor something they put a tremendous amount of effort into getting right. The Pocket Casts team, however, did. And it shows.

So, why Pocket Casts?

I have borrowed from minimalism in some aspect of my life. I like simple, beautiful and intuitive interfaces (see Material Design[link to vid 2.0]). I'm all for decluttering my phone, and I will not usually download an app if I already have one installed which can do what I want. Pocket Casts is the model exception to this rule. It simply offers so much more functionality than what Spotify or Google would allow me to do in their apps, that there is no contest. Here's some of them:

  • arguably much better UI
  • more information at a glance
  • variable speed
  • trim silence
  • per podcast settings
  • theming
  • mind blowing stats

Let's get a more in-depth rundown of some of them.

Information, useful information

One thing you will notice after using Pocket Casts is that it is a highly functional app. In general, apps tend to lean on one side of the elegant-functional fence. Pocket Casts, I'd argue, strikes a remarkable balance. In the main page, you are shown a grid-view of all the podcasts you are subscribed to:

And here you can see, without having to go into any of them individually, how many episodes remain it's the little number in the top right corner of each podcastunheard . This is useful for more reasons than one. For example, if you are up to date on a podcast, you will know when a new episode came out. Additionally, there is both:

  • an individual 'New Releases' tab in the side menu
  • an option to enable receiving notifications whenever new episodes come out

Plenty to choose from.

Dive into a podcast, and you will get the list of episodes. You decide how you want to sort them:

  • Oldest to newest
  • Newest to oldest (maybe its a podcast about current subjects and you want to stay up to date and wont necessarily start from the first episodes)

Unplayed episodes come first, then the played ones are shown. Now, here's where it gets smart - episodes yet to be downloaded show you a download button with the total size of the download for the episode; downloaded episodes show you the length of the episode, right under the 'play' button. Maybe at this point you stop reading and think to yourself:

"What is this guy nerding out about? This is exactly what is supposed to happen."

But it simply does not. For example, Google displays the length of the episode, and hides the download size, requiring an extra click to know this piece of info. Spotify does not show it at all. And as for the buttons, while Spotify does let you download from the episode list, cancelling a download for whatever reason is a pain, requiring going in menus. As for Google, it defaults to streaming, as opposed to downloading. This means you're going to be doing lots of trips in and out of episodes in order to get episodes downloaded for later.

The takeaway here is: just because you technically offer the same functionality doesn't mean the end result (the user experience) is going to be even remotely as satisfiable.

Settings per podcast