Overcast: Podcast Player (iOS) review: Useful extras, but only if you pay for them

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Overcast: Podcast Player has a clean, intuitive interface for finding and listening to podcasts for free on iOS. If you pay, the app has quality effects, and smart playlist management.

The Bad It's more expensive than competing apps.

The Bottom Line With solid basic features in the free version, you should definitely give Overcast a test drive, but check out the competition before paying the higher price.

Free

8.5 Overall
  • Installation and Setup 9.0
  • Features and Support 8.0
  • Interface 9.0
  • Performance 9.0

Overcast: Podcast Player for iOS gives has a tidy interface for finding podcasts and several extras, but only if you pay an in-app purchase fee.

Wait a minute, though. Before you cry foul at in-app purchases, consider that the free version of Overcast has all the basics of a podcast player, including searching for and listening to whatever podcasts you want. It's only when you want to create custom playlists, adjust playback speed, or do smart skipping of silent moments that you have to open your wallet.

If you're a regular podcast listener, you already know that Apple's Podcasts app does a passable job on its own, but it lacks special features found in popular apps such as Downcast and iCatcher (both $2.99, £1.99, or AU$3.79). Overcast has all those features, and more, but at $4.99, £2.99, or AU$6.99, it might be more than you want to spend.

Finding podcasts

To get started, touch the plus sign in the upper right corner to look for available podcasts. A dialog box will ask you if you want to get recommendations from Twitter, and after you sign in, there will be podcasts listed across the top that people you follow on Twitter enjoy.

Below that are podcasts organized by category, such as tech, comedy, stories and variety, and public radio. Touching a category will give you a list of podcasts. When you select one that interests you, you can look at (and listen to) any of the episodes offered, without any commitment, or hit the subscribe button to add it to your personal list.

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Find podcasts by category and get recommendations from your Twitter friends. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Once you've subscribed, Overcast will automatically download the latest episodes of your favorite podcasts and keep only the three latest episodes stored by default so they don't take up too much space. You can go into the settings of an individual podcast to set how many episodes you want to keep available if you want to keep more or less than the default three episodes.

It's important to note that if you can't find a podcast in the list, a button in the upper right lets you add the URL directly, something that takes a few steps if you use Apple's Podcasts app.

Playback controls

One of the must-have features for podcast players is the ability to quickly skip back (if you missed something) or ahead (if you want to move on to the next section). Overcast has a good system for this, but you'll have to set it up to your liking. Downcast, which I mentioned earlier, gives you a few options for skipping forward or back onscreen, including 15 or 30 seconds backward or 30 seconds to 2 minutes forward in the podcast. It's definitely useful, but not very flexible.

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The playback screen shows the full graphic, and you get forward and back controls you can adjust in the settings. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

With Overcast you have just one forward and one backward button, but you can set the amount of time it goes forward or back in the settings. The app lets you choose from 7-, 15-, 30-, 45-, and 60-second increments for the buttons.

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