Friday, 27 May 2016

10 Of The Best Podcasting Apps

10 Of The Best Podcasting Apps

Sarah Dobbs finds all the apps and programs you need for everything podcast-related

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment when podcasts went from being a niche interest to a standard part of the media landscape. Was it when President Bush’s radio broadcasts got an online feed in 2005? When Ricky Gervais launched The Ricky Gervais Show in 2006? When Kevin Smith launched his SModcast in 2007? It might even have been as recently as 2014, when Sarah Koenig’s Serial became the new thing you had to keep up to date with in order to keep up with the conversation in the pub.

Whenever it was, though, it’s definitely happened. Someone with headphones plugged in on the train or at the gym is as likely to be listening to a podcast as to music, and it’s a safe bet you know at least one person who hosts their own online show. Podcasts, like TV boxsets and Netflix originals, are now a pretty essential part of your media diet – which means you’re going to need some podcast apps!

The apps listed here are separated into a few categories: for listening to, discovering or making your own podcasts. You won’t need them all – at least not immediately. But if you need a better way to organise your podcasts or you’re considering taking the plunge and launching your own, here are the apps you should be checking out…



Platform: iOS, Windows
Price: Free

It’s obvious, but iTunes is a pretty good place to start listening to podcasts – assuming you want to listen on an iOS device or on your PC. iTunes’ Podcasts tab lets you browse and search for podcasts, and then you can listen, download or subscribe to them. You can also choose to sync podcasts to your iOS device in a couple of different ways, so you can either manually choose which episodes you want to load up, or you can let iTunes handle it, automatically adding new episodes and removing ones you’ve listened to.

iTunes has been around long enough now that you’ll probably know whether you want to use it or not; it can be temperamental, especially if you’re syncing between more than one computer. But it does aggregate most podcasts out there, so whatever you’re looking for, you’ll probably find it in the Store, and it’s easy to see what you have and haven’t listened to. Handily, it will also automatically stop downloading new episodes of a podcast you’ve been neglecting, so you won’t keep storing up hundreds of unwanted episodes of something you’re unlikely to want to listen to.


Platform: iOS
Price: Free

Beyond iTunes, the next best podcast app for iOS devices is Overcast. It’s a cloud-based podcast app, which syncs with iPads, iPods and Apple Watches so users can access their podcasts on the move. New episodes are auto-synced, and the app also keeps track of what you’ve listened to, so you can switch between the browser version and your phone on the commute home without missing anything.

There are all sorts of other advanced features, including the ability to create a prioritised list of podcasts you’re interested in, a normalising function to level out the volume in shows (pretty handy, considering that most podcasts aren’t professionally recorded and often have participants who speak more loudly than others!) and even the ability to truncate silences. All of that means Overcast users can make sure they’re always listening to the podcasts they’re most interested in and that they’re actually getting to hear better versions of them than everyone else too. And if you’re a podcast newbie and need some recommendations, Overcast has that covered too.

The only downside, really, is that there’s no Android version and never will be: developer Marco Arment says he’s not interested in non-Apple platforms. Sorry, fellow Android users.

Pocket Casts

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows
Price: £2.99 for the iOS app; £2.49 for the Android app; £2.69 for the Windows app

Google just added a podcast function to its Play Music app, but only for users in the US and Canada at first, which means Android users will have to look a bit further afield for the time being. It seems strange that Android is so underserved for podcast-related apps in comparison to Apple users, but that’s a battle for another time. For now Android, iOS and Windows users alike can use Pocket Casts.

Like Overcast, Pocket Casts is jam-packed with features aimed at making your podcast-listening life easier. It has silence removal and voice-boosting functions; you can set podcasts to auto-download when you have a wi-fi connection, to save you using up your data allowance; and it even has a sleep timer built in so you can drift off listening to a podcast and let Pocket Casts turn it off for you.

It’s so feature-rich, actually, there probably isn’t room here to discuss everything it has to offer. But it is worth mentioning that it has a few special features for handling video podcasts – you can set them to audio only if you’re listening in your car or throw them to your TV if you have a Chromecast. The main drawback is that it isn’t free but, in fairness, it’s under £3 whichever platform you want to use it on, which probably won’t break the bank.



Platform: iOS, Android, web
Price: Free

The Spreaker app lets you download and listen to podcasts, of course, but it’s also very much geared towards helping you find new things to listen to. You can search, but Spreaker also has its own editorial staff who make recommendations and put together regular playlists, sorted by category. So if you’re looking for a new technology-related podcast to listen to, you can check out the Tech channel and maybe find a new favourite there.

The Spreaker platform also allows for live broadcasts as well as pre-recorded episodes, which makes the whole thing feel a bit more current and exciting, and it’s also interactive, with the app encouraging listeners to leave feedback. There’s a definite community feel to this app, and the most popular podcasts are also highlighted for your convenience. Basically, instead of searching for podcasts and making your own playlists of episodes, you could just pick a topic and let Spreaker do the legwork for you. Maybe you won’t like everything it shuffles up, but at the same time, it’s a great way to discover new podcasters and hear stuff you might never otherwise have come across.

If you’re feeling inspired. Spreaker also has a ‘Create’ tab, where you can make and publish your own podcasts.

Platform: Android, Kindle, web
Price: Free (for now) could have been included under the Listening section here, because it’s a pretty good alternative for Android users. But like Spreaker, the reason it’s here instead is because of its emphasis on discovery. Via either the app or the website, you can find podcasts on various topics, from fitness to personal finances to bedtime stories (yes, really). You can also check out what’s currently popular or what’s trending; you can also filter by country and language, in case you’ve ever wondered what South African podcasters make of the news or if you’re learning a new language and want to listen to some native speakers.

Again, you can let the app do the discovery work for you by picking a topic and letting it put together a playlist; reckons it has more than three million podcast episodes available, which ought to keep you going for a while. It’s another cloud-based player, so you can sync to various devices seamlessly and also only download the episodes you want when you want them. Do watch out if you’re downloading over your mobile data connection, though: unless you have an unlimited package, you could run into trouble downloading too much audio.

Although it’s already pretty good, is planning to launch a Gold version of the app later this year; it’ll be a paid upgrade, with even more features available.


Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle, web
Price: Free

Another option is Stitcher. Founded in 2008, it’s one of the longest established and best known podcast platforms, and again it has plenty of options for discovering new content. You can see lists of the top podcasts and their top episodes through the website or app; you can subscribe to curated playlists (or make your own); and Stitcher will also recommend new things for you to listen to based on what you’ve already listened to and what other people with similar interests have gone on to download. The lists of recommended content go into truly niche interests; there’s one for vegan-friendly podcasts and another of recommended listens for ‘people who don’t get podcasts’.

Again, it’s a streaming model, though you can’t download episodes onto your device, just stream as you go – so again keep an eye on how much you’re downloading and what kind of data connection you’re using to do it. On the plus side, Stitcher also aggregates live radio shows, so there will always be something new to listen to. Not that it’s likely you’d ever get to the end of the thousands of hours of audio it’s already got lined up for you.

Making Your Own


Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
Price: Free

Okay, so you can’t use Audacity on your iPad or Android phone. But if we’re talking software for recording and editing podcasts, we can’t not mention Audacity. It’s free to download and available whatever operating system you’re using. You can record directly into Audacity or import recorded files in to edit. And while audio editing might seem terrifying and complicated at first, it’s actually pretty simple. Audacity has plenty of power under the hood, but you can just ignore the options you  don’t need and just stick to cutting bits out and adding bits in, if that’s all you want to do.

If you do want to do more, there are plenty of effects that you can add or tweak. Most useful for making your podcast sound good are the options for fading audio in and out, normalising the volume across the entire podcast (yes, some of the listening apps will do that, but it’s probably best to get it sorted before you upload your audio!) and removing background noise. Because Audacity is such a widely used piece of software, you can also find tutorials and instructions for doing anything you might want to do all over the internet. Audacity is pretty ubiquitous in podcast editing circles and for good reason: it’s just so good you’re unlikely to ever want to pay for another option.

Ferrite Recording Studio

Platform: iOS
Price: Free for the basic version; £7.99 to upgrade

If you really do want to edit your podcast on a mobile device (and you have an iPad or iPhone), then Ferrite Recording Studio might be your best bet. Recording is straight-forward and on-screen recording meters should flag up any volume issues. (Professional podcasting types will tell you that you need a proper microphone to record, but if you’re just making something for fun, the microphone on your iPhone should be good enough, assuming everyone’s in the same room.)

Editing, too, is pretty simple. You can zoom right into parts of the waveform for snipping out mistakes, rearrange clips and mute bits as necessary. You can also add bookmarks to flag up specific parts of the audio, which is handy if you want to remember at which point you said something particularly brilliant.

Downsides? Well, the basic version of Ferrite is free, but to get unlimited recording space and extra editing features, you’ll need to pay £7.99 to upgrade. And there’s no Android app. Grrr.


Platform: iOS, Android, web
Price: Free to download; pricing plans available

Once you’ve created a podcast, you’re going to want to share it with the world. Maybe the easiest way to do that is via Soundcloud: it’s free to sign up for a basic account, and that lets you upload up to three hours of audio before you’ll need to pay to upgrade (£75 a year gets you unlimited upload space).

Basic accounts also have access to basic listener statistics, so you can see how many people have listened to your podcast through Soundcloud; you’ll need the Pro  version for more detailed stats, including how many people have listened through an RSS feed. That’s annoying, because it gives an incomplete picture of your stats to casual visitors. But it is pretty straightforward to get your podcast listed in iTunes, which is probably where you’ll need it to be to get it the most attention.

Another niggle is that you can’t upload audio via the iOS app, and you can only upload audio recorded in the Soundcloud Android app via the Android app. Otherwise, you’ll need to upload your podcast through the web interface. Still, it’s worth a bit of a faff to get your podcast up and available, with a clean, straightforward interface, and all the interactive bits like sharing buttons and comments all handled for you.


Platform: iOS, Android
Price: Free to download; various pricing plans available

The final app is almost an all-rounder: you can use Podbean to listen to, discover and publish podcasts. And it’s available for both iOS and Android devices, which is  nice! The only thing you can’t do is edit your podcast, but that’s what Audacity is for.

Podbean is probably for serious podcasters rather than dabblers, because while the app is free, you need to pay if you want to upload your own content. Prices start at $3 (about £2) a month and go all the way up to $79 (about £54) for podcasts that need a lot of bandwidth (i.e. those with thousands of listeners). But for your money, you do get a swish-looking site for your podcast, detailed analytics and the ability to monetise your podcast.

Yup, Podbean lets you create private podcasts or add exclusive premium content, to make money off your listeners. It also has a crowdfunding platform built in, so you can ask your fans for donations to keep your show on the road. This is where it gets really real, then. It’s probably not worth jumping on board if you’re making your first episode and not sure how serious you are about keeping up with a regular broadcast, but if you’re getting established and want to make a proper go of it, Podbean might be a good bet.

Happy Podcasting

Downloaded any of these apps yet? If you’re not already listening to at least half a dozen podcasts on a weekly basis, it’s time to catch up; and if you are, maybe it’s time to think about making one of your own? Podcasts are basically yet another example of the way the internet has democratised media, making it possible for anyone to publish their thoughts, get their art seen – and make their voices heard. Have fun!