App Review: Downcast for iOS

One of the most used apps on my phone and the app I use second every day is Downcast. This app allows you to download or stream podcasts, both video and audio, to your phone. I have a commute between 30 and 60 minutes and I use that time to listen to the Wall Streeet Journal and assorted technology-related and management podcasts. Downcast allows me to have a collection of podcasts that I can put into different groups. For instance, I have a group of podcasts that I listen to every day and another group that I listen to once the daily casts are complete.

Downcast allows me to put different podcasts in these different groups or I can listen to multiple episodes of the same podcast by going to the podcast within the app.There are several features within Downcast that i really like. The first one is that I can choose various playback speeds for my casts. There are options to listen at 1/2x, 1x, 1 1/4x, 1 1/2x, 1 3/4x, 2x, 2 1/2x, 2 3/4x, 3x speeds!

You can set these speeds on the fly or you can specify the speed you want to list to certain podcasts at as a default. For instance, I listen to The Wall Street Journal at 2x speed, but I listen the podcasts from David Allen at 1x. I can set these within each podcast and the app will automatically set the speed to the appropriate setting when that podcast comes up for play. You can also set a volume adjustment to compensate for high or low volume recordings.  I recently started using this particular setting on specific podcasts, which has saved me from having to adjust the volume from podcast to podcast. Also, some podcasts are not recorded using the best equipment and boosting the volume within the app causes some distortion.  I like to have the volume boosted +1 overall, but dropped down to zero for others.

Login for membership podcasts is also available as well as sort settings (do you want to listen to the oldest first or the most recent?) You can define how many episodes of a particular podcast you want Downcast to keep. This is nice for the daily news podcasts, where a more recent podcast will push the old one out. There are even more settings that I don't even use!

So what makes this app one that puts it on the top of my list for listening to podcasts? I can set it to automatically download on a set schedule and it is easy to re-order the play list to my liking. This way I know that I have my daily casts on the phone when I'm ready to leave home or the office.  You can also easily download new episodes by just pulling down on the podcast list, which will start a list refresh. The app can also display the cover-art as a large graphic, which is my preference, or the app can display show-notes. You can double-tap the screen to play and pause what you're listening to as well as swiping to do a quick rewind or fast-forward, which is great if you want to skip past commercials! This is especially nice in the car when you pull up to the drive-thru ;-) It is easy to select the device you want to broadcast to if you use a bluetooth or AirStream device. The app has the option to disable the automatic screen lock, so if you're plugged in, you can leave the screen on, for instance. Again, this is very useful in the car, where you don't want to have to unlock the phone to fast-forward past a commercial or rewind to hear something again.

Downcast also does a good job of making it easy to find new podcasts for those who are looking for new material to listen to or watch. That's right - it supports video podcasts equally well as audio podcasts and you can even watch these at the various playback speeds. I really like this feature, as there are a few that I like to watch (of course, not in the car), but zip through a little faster than intended.

All in all, a very strong app that deserves your consideration if you listen to podcasts.

The app is available for $1.99 from the Apple App Store and in my opinion, is definately worth the 2 bucks to make my commute more bearable. Enjoy.