I’ve been using Downcast for listening to podcast episodes for such a long time that I hardly remember the point in time when I started. The funny thing is that over time haven taken a lot of similar apps for a spin and none of them stuck.
Now Overcast is out, and I gave it a try.
First things first: It’s a relieve that the new podcast client Overcast supports the manual reordering of playlists. This is a feature I just can’t live without.
Some of the more prominent podcasts clients (Instacast, Pocket Casts) don’t support this which is precisely the reason why I wouldn’t consider naming any of them my preferred podcast client.
Sure, there are other mechanisms provided by these apps to created ordered playlists but it turns out that these mechanisms just don’t work for me the same way that the ability to manually reorder does.
Overcast comes with two distinct sound effects, the ability to simply remove speaking pauses from the episode stream (dubbed as Smart Speed) and Voice Boost (which is, as far as I understand, basically a dedicated equalizer preset that amplifies the typical voice frequencies).
Smart Speed is nice. There are no audible decreases of voice quality and I really don’t mind being able to listen to more content in shorter time. In my experience, there are some shows (for me, the most prominent example is This American Life) where Smart Speed tends to have a negative effect on the experience.
But overall, I can’t help giving Smart Speed a thumbs up.
I’ve had mixed experiences with Voice Boost. There are shows where it just sounds terrible. Only in a few cases I had the impression that the feature actually improves the sound quality. Pro tip: turn the volume down significantly before activating Voice Boost.
The play screen differentiates from the competition in that it features a real-time “spectrum analyzer”. Frankly, I tend to call this a nice idea, wasn’t there this nagging feeling that my battery probably isn’t very excited about that gimmick.
Marco says it’s only active while the the play screen shows. He should know.
I like the way how progress is displayed on a bar rather than by just a thin line (where it is much harder to recognize). The same bar can be taken as a scrubber.
Personally, I don’t really care for Overcast’s discovery features. I’m already subscribed to way more podcasts than I will ever have the chance to actually listen to.
Let’s get back to Downcast for a moment: the only issue I have with app is that it will eat a some portion of the battery life even if it is not playing. Therefore, I usually kill Downcast when I stop listening and launch it again when I want to continue.
The downside is that the app will not be aware of its status before I killed it and so I have to select the episode I want to listen to and start playing.
With Overcast, I have the impression that it is behaving differently in this regard. As far as I can see, there is next to no sizable effect on battery life and that makes indeed a difference for me.
The summary of my first weeks with Overcast is that, despite the occasional bug here and there, I don’t miss Downcast nearly as much as to feel compelled to switch back to it. Something happens that I’d not though possible before I had the chance to get hands on with Overcast.