The best podcast player apps in 2023

The best podcast player apps in 2023

In 2002, two years before the word “podcast” was coined, I stumbled upon an iTunes station that sounded like an amateur talk radio show. A couple of friends got together every week, recorded an hour or more of their conversation, and published it under the title The Great Radio Tiki Experiment. (The show is long gone, but the archive(Opens in a new window) still available.) It was one of the earliest podcasts and I was hooked.

It took another decade for the medium to become widespread, and now it seems anyone can create a podcast. Today, the podcast market is so saturated with content that the only way to find the shows you love, organize the episodes you want to listen to, and listen to them is to download a dedicated podcast app.

After testing about 25 podcast players, I’ve selected the ones that offer a great overall experience or something unique. These include some of my personal favorites.

Almost all podcast apps have some features in common. You should always be able to subscribe to a show to receive new episodes in your podcast feed. It should allow you to control how much content your device downloads, either manually or by limiting the number of new episodes you can download from each show. Some apps also allow you to limit the amount of storage you can use.

Most apps have an audio enhancement feature that automatically enriches human voices. Many, but not all, have an air deflector that automatically cuts out silence longer than a breath or two when turned on.

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Any podcast app should allow you to create playlists, such as a list of shows you listen to each morning or a separate list of shows saved for the weekend.

With that in mind, these are the best podcast apps on the market.

Castro is an iOS podcast app that’s pretty average if you’re using the free version. However, if you upgrade to Castro Plus, you get the Sideload feature, which lets you upload whatever content you want to play to the podcast player, from audiobooks to conference calls you find on the web. The rest of the Castro’s features are average, including a button to eliminate the listening experience, a volume boost setting, customization of settings for individual shows in the feed, and a dark mode. I do not recommend the free version of this app; if you’re interested in a Plus account, you can try it for a week before you have to pay.

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Castro is free, and Castro Plus costs $2.99 ​​per month, $18.99 per year, or $29.99 per year for up to six family members. Available on iOS.

If you’re looking for an Android podcast app that requires you to pay only once (i.e. no subscription), DoggCatcher is your best bet. This app has some standard features like variable playback speed, offline playback, customizable playlists, and the ability to automatically delete played episodes from your device. But the real selling point is that it’s a reliable podcast capture and player app that doesn’t require a subscription for any special purchases, ad removal, and so on. Some users have complained recently that the app hasn’t had an update in years and some features are buggy, but we didn’t experience any issues during testing.

DogCatcher It costs $2.99 ​​and is available on Android

Downcast is one of the best podcast apps for iPhone and Mac. It also works with Apple Watches and CarPlay devices. You pay once for the app and own it forever, with no subscription fees. It’s easy to subscribe to podcasts, whether you browse, search for them, or add them via a URL feed. Rich settings let you automatically start your favorite shows within a set number of seconds or end them sooner, so you can bypass long intros or ads. The list view includes the shows you’ve subscribed to or downloaded, with details like how many episodes are in the queue, when the last episode debuted, and an icon to indicate if you haven’t signed up to automatically download the next edition. If you’re just an Apple user and don’t need a web console, Downcast is one of the best podcast apps out there.

Downcast costs $2.99 ​​for the iPhone version and $4.99 for macOS.

Downcast (for iPhone) review

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Luminary launched in early 2019 with a beautifully designed podcast capture and player app and a controversial battle cry to remove ads from podcasts. How it works: Pay a monthly or annual fee (which has dropped significantly since the original launch) to access the original programs. The original shows feature celebrities such as Trevor Noah, Lena Dunham, Roxane Gay, Karamo Brown and more. The problem with Luminary is that some podcast networks are withholding key shows from Luminary’s platform, including The Daily. The New York Times.

Luminary is free to download, and the paid version, which gives you access to all shows, costs $4.99 per month or $34.99 per year. Available on Android, iOS and the web.

Overcast is an iOS-only app (compatible with Apple Watch) with a few unique features, the highlight of which is clip sharing. Clip sharing lets you tell someone about your favorite podcast by sending them an audio or video clip of up to one minute. I also like that you can create playlists of podcast episodes so that each new episode is one in the list (called a Smart Playlist) or a playlist of episodes you want to hear. The free version contains ads and has such significant feature limitations that I don’t recommend using the app unless you’re willing to pay $9.99 a year for Premium. Unfortunately, Overcast doesn’t offer a trial period for the update either.

Overcast is free or $9.99 per year for Premium. Available on iOS.

Many readers of this article have commented that they swear by Podcast Addict, a free podcast player app for Android. In testing, I found the interface to be a little cluttered, while the features are light. For example, you can create an active playlist, but not multiple custom playlists that automatically reset every day. So if you want a Morning News playlist that repopulates every morning and a separate Dog Walk playlist, you can’t do that in Podcast Addict, but you can in most other podcast player apps. Does this mean Podcast Addict works and is free to use? Yes. However, it is not the most sophisticated compared to other Android apps.

Podcast Addict is free, the Premium version costs 99 cents per month or $9.99 per year. Available on Android.

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One of the most popular podcast player apps, Pocket Casts is free for Android and iOS. Available on Amazon Echo, Apple CarPlay, Apple Watch, Android Auto and other platforms, some of which are limited to Plus members only (macOS, Windows, web player). This app has a neat interface and great features. You can easily see what’s on your subscription list, as well as which episodes you’ve started but haven’t finished yet. You can increase or decrease the audio speed in 0.1 steps, so you can fine-tune the tempo. Paying members get access to some platforms that free users don’t get, as well as cloud storage and exclusive app icons and themes.

Pocket Casts is free, the Plus version costs 99 cents per month or $9.99 per year. Available on Android, iOS, macOS, web and Windows.

Stitcher isn’t just a podcast app, it’s a podcast network. It hosts more than 50 original shows, including Comedy Bang! Bang!, The Dream, The Sporkful and others. Some shows are exclusive to Stitcher, but you can access and listen to many from other podcast players. Stitcher doesn’t have the most robust feature set or settings for playing podcast episodes. Still, it has the basics, such as a sleep timer, forward or back buttons at different intervals, and several options for playback speed. Plus, you can listen almost anywhere with the Android and iOS apps and the web player. You can also play Stitcher content on an Amazon Alexa device, as well as in cars using Android Auto, CarPlay or directly from a smart audio system. A one-month free premium trial is available.

Stitcher is free, the premium version costs $4.99 per month or $34.99 per year. Available on Android, iOS and the web.

Beyond Podcast Apps

For podcast recommendations, check out our Best Podcasts story, a list of our staff’s favorite shows in 11 categories.

If you’re thinking of starting your own podcast, read our reviews of the best USB microphones to make sure you get the best sound possible.

Meg St-Esprit contributed to this article.

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