Later this summer will mark the 12th anniversary of the Podcast, Apple’s iPod contribution to on demand audio, video, PDF, and ePub syndicated programs. The definition has grown somewhat more broad since the first Podcast in 2004, but despite the withering of the iPod generation, the Podcast has become a mainstay for niche-casting audio and video programs delivered over the internet?
From my perspective, Podcasting has three basic components. Producing the Podcast. Delivering the Podcast. Listening to or viewing (and even reading, if the broader definition is used) the Podcast. Mac, iPhone, and iPad users have many different methods to receive and play a Podcast. iTunes and various apps on the Mac, plus a variety of iOS apps, including Apple’s own Podcast app.
My favorite tool to manage both audio and video Podcasts is Downcast, one of very few such apps which run on Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and sync Podcasting subscriptions using iCloud.
Downcast for the Mac looks and works much like a typical RSS reader. Subscribing to a Podcast is simple enough. Just add the URL, or download Podcasts automatically. Downcast saves Podcasts for as long as you want and makes it easy to search and browser through older episodes (retention settings can be global or per-Podcast). Downcast is a good OPML citizen and will import and export Podcast feeds, and lets you setup smart playlists (which sync between devices).
Podcast episode details and show notes can be viewed from within Downcast. The app will auto updated Podcasts feeds based upon a schedule and download them to your Mac automatically. All the basic settings– subscriptions, episode details, playlists– can be synced between Macs, iPhones, and iPads using iCloud.
Downcast for iPhone and iPad works much the same way as the Mac. Differences between the two are nominal and include headphone remote control, Lightning connected devices, GoogleCast capability, and playback controls for external devices. Like the Mac version, iOS apps will subscribe to Podcasts, download them in the background, and displays the same kind of episode information and settings.
Both Mac and iOS versions give you video and audio playback controls, chapter support, and streaming ability. I find it easy to use Downcast for the Mac to listen to a specific Podcast while working, and pick up on the same Podcast on my iPhone or iPad when traveling.
Interestingly, there’s a Downcast app for Apple Watch, and though it’s a bit slow, it works. I’ve tried it a couple of times and it’s easy enough to control and listen to audio episodes but the value of the workflow (listening to anything from my wrist) escapes me.
Generally speaking, Downcast is my favorite Podcast app but only because it handles audio and video, and works well on all devices; Mac, iPhone, iPad. That said, the iOS version works better than the Mac version and that is reflected in the App Store Reviews; mixed for the OS X Downcast, mostly favorable for the iOS version. The problem I’ve had the most is syncing settings between Mac and iPhone. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t and I can’t tell if it’s an iCloud issue (often slow to sync) or something inherent in Downcast for the Mac.
Still, if there’s a better more fully features Podcasting app for Apple’s gadgets I haven’t found it yet. The apps are priced right and work as expected (except for the occasional syncing problem).