Battle of the Podcast Clients: Overcast vs. Castro

I’m a big podcast listener and because of that, I like to have a podcast app on my devices that helps me manage my listening effectively.

For the last few years, I’ve switched back and forth between two different podcasts apps on my iPhone. I was a Castro user for a bit, then Overcast came out and I tried that for a while. Finally, Castro was updated to version 2 and that really became my podcast client of choice.

Castro’s triage and queue features were about pretty perfect for me, but when I added the iPad to my pile of computing devices, Castro’s lack of an iPad app and syncing led me back to Overcast.

Overcast offers a nice iPad version and syncing between devices, including Handoff support to seamlessly switch between listening on the go on the iPhone and then listening at home on the better speakers of the iPad Pro.

Features Compared

It’s really a very close battle between these two podcast apps. Along with a a beautifully designed interface that uses gestures in a really intuitive way, Castro really shines with its method of triaging podcasts and episodes into a queue. I really like how the inbox and queue work together with Castro.

Overcast has some little things that I find confusing (I occasionally delete what I think is a podcast, but what is really the subscription to that podcast) and its queue management is a bit less intuitive for me but vastly improved in Overcast 3.

Castro’s Inbox, along with it’s queue features make managing your listening really easy.
On Castro, podcasts come into the Inbox and you can either set them to automatically add to either the next, or bottom of the queue, or you can manually manage them into the queue.

Overcast’s Smart Playlists seem to be what I’m after in terms of getting episodes into a playlist. They allow you to pick one or more podcasts, have the new episodes put into a queue and also to select one or more as “priority podcasts” that hit move up to the next to play spot.

Smart Playlists on Overcast and the automatic next up on Castro are similar enough that I think Overcast will work for me. An “All Podcasts” playlist can do something similar if you want to manually manage a queue and episode playback order.

Similarities and Differences

Here’s a few other similarities and differences between the apps:

  • Castro lets you double-click and hold the Earpods remote and scan through audio. Overcast doesn’t do that, but the double and triple-clicks are configurable to give you good skip forward and back times.
    Chapter support in Overcast is stellar, especially when the podcast is from a network that takes advantage of it (like Relay.fm).
  • Overcast has extensive chapter support for podcasts with chapter markers including chapter artwork. Castro has none of that and I miss it when I try to use Castro.
  • Castro is ad-free, while Overcast has some ads (mostly for podcasts) in the directory and on the now-playing screen. I paid for the app originally, so the now-playing screen is ad-free even without the premium subscription). The ones in the directory don’t really bother me, but if I had to see them on the now playing screen, I think I’d be singing a different tune.
  • Castro has voice enhance and Overcast has vocal boost. Both will play at either a slower or faster speed and Overcast has a feature called Smart Speed that drops pauses. I don’t use either of those features in either app, but for users looking to get through podcasts faster, I think Overcast’s Smart Speed is the better sounding speed up feature.
  • Both apps have streaming support over cellular or wifi.

Subscription vs. One Time Purchase

The way these apps are monetized is also different. Overcast was originally a paid app like Castro, but when Overcast went free with in-app upgrades, Castro switched to a patronage model for a time. They went back to the one time purchase model since then and the app is $3.99USD.

Overcast has a subscription to a premium tier that makes the ads go away entirely, supports further development and also allows you to change the icon colour from the awful orange to a nicer blue/grey combo. And you can upload your own files and play them in the app. At $9.99USD per year, it seems steep, but even at $12.99CDN for us Canadian people, that’s just over a dollar per month for an app I use for hours a day when commuting.

Which One is the Winner?

I could be happy with either app as my player if need be, but because I have two iOS devices, Overcast is my pick at the moment. Another tick on the Overcast side is the chapter support which many of the podcasts I listen to (but not all) support.

If your are a single device user and if you like the triage model of Castro, then it’s a great pick. And with a one-time purchase model, it’s less expensive in the long term than Overcast if you want all the features unlocked.