Downcast - a nifty podcatcher for iOS

I recently did a review of Downcast from Jamawkinaw Enterprises on Allison Sheridan’s NosillaCast (Episode 346).

Here's the problem to be solved. I'd like to download and listen to my subscribed podcasts without having to sync with iTunes. Before Downcast I had to download all the podcasts using iTunes and then plug in my iOS or iPod device to sync the podcasts to the device. This meant that I had to lug a Mac along on my trips just to listen to the latest podcast releases.

There are a couple of podcast downloaders and playback applications available in the iTunes store. My criteria was pretty simple:

  1. subscribe, download, and playback podcasts (including video podcasts),
  2. handle password protected podcasts, for example the Mac Geek Gab Premium podcast, and
  3. most importantly, it must be a universal app, that is one which runs on both iPhone and iPod touch as well as the iPad.

Downcast fulfills all three criteria perfectly, and is available from the iTunes app store for $1.99.

Here are the features I really like:

  • Subscribing - you can search or paste in a URL. You can also enter a user ID and password for protected URLs. There's a list of top podcasts by genre as well.
  • Podcast check and refresh - when at the top of the podcast list, simply swipe down on the topmost item and release.
  • Playlists - collect a number of podcasts together
  • Playback control - Playback speed - 0.5x to 3x. Slow to ludicrous speed!
  • Gestures - swipe to go back / forward 30 seconds. Mark podcast as listened, and navigate to next previous podcasts
  • Priority - assign priority to podcasts to have them automatically sorted. You can also override by doing a manual sort, for example if you've got a podcast you're listening to and want it to go to the top.
  • Schedule - Timed checking and downloading. However, Downcast will schedule checks based on the time you last did a manual update.
  • Data option - avoid using your 3G data plan, or include it. Wifi is always used to download whenever it becomes available.
  • Volume control - set volume boost or reduction for podcast playback. This lets you equalize the volume between the podcasts so they're about the same loudness.
  • Chapter support for AAC podcasts - lets you skip to appropriate sections.
  • URL browsing for podcast information which includes links - neat for checking out references while listening.
  • Import / export via OPML, which stands for Outline Processor Markup Language. You can export the current podcasts from iTunes and import them into Downcast this way. There are a bunch of good podcast tips at Apple's page (http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/)

There are much more features than those I've listed. Here’s an iTunes store link to Downcast.

Some features I'd like to see in future releases are:

  1. being able to set the exact time to download podcasts, and
  2. secondary podcast sorting - presently Downcast uses the priority number first and then alphabetically sorts the podcasts which have the same priority.

I can now travel light - just the iPad and iPhone, and not miss any of the podcasts I listen to. The iPad is subscribed to all my video podcasts while the iPhone handles the audio ones. You can only guess which of my podcasts have priority one...

Here are some screenshots from the iPhone version:

IMG_0552
Podcast List

Playlists
Playlsts

Custom Mac Playlist
Custom Mac Playlist

Playback controls
Playback Controls