My Full Review of Pocket Casts 4

by David Loft posted March 10th 2013

File Under Mobile

Pocket Casts was recently updated to version 4, and it's an awesome update, to a great app.

For the average user or anyone new to podcasts, this app will do everything you need and more. The killer feature this app has is the custom built syncing engine that backs up your list of podcasts, listened podcasts and your current position within podcasts. If you listen to podcasts on more than one device, like a phone and a tablet, this is the only app worth considering.

Upon initial release, it lacked widget support, a deal breaker for many. But thankfully that was fixed in a recent update. The one major feature it does lack is Google reader synchronization. While Google Reader synchronization lacks some of the abilities of Pocket Casts, it still should be added as the majority of dedicated podcast listeners have their lists backed up with it. Anyone using BeyondPod or Dogcatcher would have a much easier time migrating if that feature was added.

At least you can export to the OPML file from your previous app and then load it into Pocket Casts. Unfortunately this process is fairly opaque. In the settings, there is an option to export, but not import. So when I made the move to Pocket Casts I had to add my podcasts one by one using the search and then mark the appropriate ones as listened. I later discovered that importing was possible and that it just required a file browser. Once in the file browser you had to click on it and then it would load into Pocket Casts. Unfortunately migrating from another app is not user friendly for the average user.

The app is nicely designed, and thankfully fully supports 7 and 10" tablets.

Unfortunately the UI is not the most intuitive. I guess I'm just used to BeyondPod which had 4 main areas with which you would swipe left to right through, categories podcasts, podcast episodes and player. Pocket Casts uses the latest UI design with a menu that slides out from the left. Within the menu you have three sections, podcasts, discover and playlists. At the bottom of the menu are refresh and settings.

Unfortunately settings is one of the biggest issues I have with the UI. The settings within the menu are the main settings, but it doesn't have all the settings. For example within podcasts there is another settings button with the option to change the sorting of podcasts. Then there are playlists settings, and each playlist has it's own settings. For the first day I thought there was no way to set podcasts to auto download. Within the main settings there was an option to set how often Pocket Casts would check for new episodes. I set it for every hour and every hour it would check for new podcasts, but not download them.

I eventually discovered that the settings for auto download were hidden in playlist settings.

I was happy to find the option but it was needlessly convoluted and I'm beginning to see a trend in hidden features. Especially considering if you had 'check for new episodes' set to manual in settings and 'auto download' set in playlists settings it would never auto download. Why those 2 settings were separated, I have no idea, but it's a terrible decision and it needs to be changed.

The other issue with the UI seems to be a scaling issue. Aspects of the app look off on the phone and and tablet. When on the phone in discover mode and looking at the popular podcasts it looks fairly cramped, it would work much better with a single column view. Just one slide over on the other hand the top videos and networks two column view works great. Again another issue with the phone is supporting landscape, it just doesn't work, especially on the player screen.

On a Nexus 7 it has a completely different set of issues. In portrait the popular podcasts in the discover tab works wonderfully as two columns on the larger screen. But the top videos and networks doesn't work with just two columns as there is too much white space, something a third column would fix. In landscape the opposite is true, but at least unlike the phone, landscape is usable on a tablet.

I know many of you are thinking that I'm being far too picky and maybe I am. But the podcast app is the one I spend more time in every week than any other. So I'm likely just unhappy to have not found the perfect podcast app. Thankfully the top few podcasts apps on Android are great, BeyondPod, Dogcatcher and yes Pocket Casts 4 can be added to that list.

Overall it's a fantastic app, and in the end the majority of my complaints are mere minor quibbles.

For the syncing feature alone, it has become my podcast app of choice. The app is stable, fast and smooth and does what I need. I can listen to podcasts on my phone while on the go and on my tablet once I'm home. If you like listening to podcasts this is the app you should check out first.

Score: 7.5

Download: Pocket Casts 4

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