Podcast mobile app Pocket Casts is now free. Once a $3.99 download, the service is switching to a free model for mobile use and is introducing a new Plus subscription to replace the $9 version that previously unlocked desktop and web listening.
"In today's rapidly evolving audio landscape, it's important we stand for free and open access -- not walled gardens -- to grow the medium while delivering the world's best listening experience," Pocket Casts CEO Owen Grover said in a release.
Starting Wednesday, Pocket Casts is available to download free. There is an option to upgrade to Pocket Casts Plus for 99 cents a month, or a $10-a-year lump payment. The Plus level offers desktop apps for macOS, Windows and the web -- features that were previously part of Pocket Casts' $9 version. The paid level also includes cloud storage for custom audio and video files and exclusive app icons and themes.
The newly free version's features include the option to play individual episodes without subscribing, automated file downloads, audio playback at variable speeds, a "trim silence" feature and light, dark and super dark themes. It also lets you sync your listening across platforms, including iOS and Android, Amazon Echo, Sonos, Carplay, Android Auto and others.
Pocket Casts launched in 2010 and was bought last year by public-radio heavyweights NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ and This American Life. iHeartRadio veteran Grover took charge of the company as part of the sale. Combined, the new owners are responsible for nearly 200 million podcast downloads every month.