After several days of experiments, I think I’m ready to move away from Pocket Casts, which no longer meets my podcasting needs. That said, this is an app choice I’m going to keep evaluating moving forward, as I believe there are some changes coming that could make me rethink things yet again.
First, let me just get this out of the way: For now, I’ve chosen a solution called Castbox that appears to offer everything that I used to like about Pocket Casts. It’s clean and simple, and it works well. It automatically downloads new episodes and then automatically cleans up—and clearly denotes—those episodes I’ve already listened to. It found all of the podcasts I listen to (where many podcast apps did not) and it syncs them, and my progress, via the cloud.
It also works everywhere that matters, including on Android, iPhone, and the web, key for a person like me who is always testing platforms. (Castbox also works with Amazon Echo/Alexa, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Apple Watch, and there’s even a PWA!)
I know. It seems like most of that—if not all of that—should be true of any podcasting client. And yet, the latest version of Pocket Casts really messes up the basics, and it’s become unbearable to me to use it any further. Plus, there are new bugs, including one that impacts me every single day: The Google Cast/Chromecast icon that lets me play podcasts through a smart speaker just disappears from the Now Playing screen.
And sure, Pocket Cast may eventually get its act together. The latest update to the app notes that the firm has received a lot of negative feedback about the latest version and that it is committed to improving it. But Pocket Casts 7 has been in beta since last Fall, and they should never have shipped the update in this state. I’m happy to look at it again, but like a lot of Pocket Cast users, I feel really burned by the way this terrible update was pushed through despite all the obvious problems. (Just look at all the reviews from long-time users. It’s a shit-show.)
I may also go in a different direction. If Google Podcasts would just pick up automatic episode downloading capabilities, a key and obvious feature, I would consider that. OK, that and support for a Dark mode. And support for iOS; this app is only on Android.
And I will continue testing other solutions. I’m open to changing my habits and using a music-based app, like Spotify or Google Play Music, for podcasts. Readers have sent me dozens of app suggestions, and I’ve tried most of them, and I will keep looking. Plex is a possibility, and I feel like that’s something I should be looking at again anyway.
Ultimately, what this episode has reminded me of is that different people have strong preferences for different kinds of apps, and that, on the flip side, we all tend to get bogged down by what we’re used to. There are plenty of people who have no issues at all with the latest version of Pocket Casts, which still sort of amazes me. And there are plenty of people who don’t—and won’t, know that they’re found out about it—like Castbox, for any variety of reasons. (The big one is that some key features, like the ability to bypass the Discover page and use your Library page as the default view, require a 99-cent-per-month subscription. Which I’m not paying. I don’t mind paying for an app. But I don’t want to pay for this forever.)
But I do appreciate all the feedback. If anything, I was a bit overwhelmed by it: My initial post about this topic received over 100 comments, and I fielded dozens more on Twitter. (I probably missed more still, thanks to the nature of Twitter.) So thanks for that. I know that my choice will be polarizing, because these things are always polarizing, and because of the personal preferences I note above. But this was a healthy reminder to keep trying new things and not just accept that the current way I’m doing things is correct or ideal.
So I will keep looking. But that’s where I’m at right now.