Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: Podcasts, Instacast, Downcast, and more!

Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: Podcasts, Instacast, Downcast, and more!

The best podcast apps for finding and subscribing to new shows, keeping your shows in sync, and enjoying them on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad no matter where you are.

Look for the best iPhone apps or best iPad apps to keep up with your favorite podcasts? Depending on who you ask, podcasts are either fringe media for geeks, the future of radio and television, or something in between. Apple embraced them years ago, providing an entire section in iTunes dedicated to making podcasts easy to find and easy to follow. They also created the iPod, and then the iPhone, and the iPad, making it just as easy to listen and watch podcasts anywhere and everywhere you go. Whether you're trying to get our podcasts - iMore show, Debug, Iterate, Review, The TV Show, Vector, or ZEN & TECH - or any of the other great internet shows, the most important question is what podcast app should you use?

Podcasts

Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: Podcasts app

Podcasts is Apple's own podcast app. It doesn't come pre-loaded on iOS, so you have to download it separately, but it is functional and it is free. Podcasts lets you browse the iTunes podcasts catalog, subscribe to shows, and listen to or watch them. You can also create custom stations, and on-the-go playlists so you've always got something ready when and where you want it. It's quick and easy to use, however it doesn't scale well if you have tons of shows and episodes to manage.

Because it's free and relatively simple, Podcasts is a great choice for anyone just getting started with podcasts, or anyone who wants a no frills app to manage a small set of shows.

Instacast

Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: Instacast

Instacast keeps re-inventing itself which means you do have to re-buy the app more frequently than others, but you also get some significant updates each time. Most recently Instacast switched from iCloud sync to their own service. It does require a free account, but it's rock-solid. Instacast includes its own directory and rankings, and a slew of power-user features, though it keeps them accessible and easy to use. There's also a Mac version, so you can have Instacast on all your Apple devices.

If you want to keep your podcasts perfectly in sync from iPhone and iPod touch, to iPad, to Mac, Instacast is one of the best options available.

Downcast

Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: Downcast

Downcast is both easy to get started with, but also full of power features for power users. The interface is straight forward and direct, so it's easy to find, subscribe to, and play what you want. However, Downcast also provides a large amount of settings you can tweak for everything from gesture shortcuts to skip backwards and forwards, to how long and what to keep locally on your device.

If you subscribe to a lot of podcasts and want to micro-manage everything from how they're stored to how you navigate through them, get Downcast. It's available for the Mac as well.

Pocket Casts

Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts is not only functional, but has an amazingly striking interface. However, Pocket Casts' real magic is on the server side. They maintain their own directory, and do a lot of things to ensure the quality and reliability of their catalog. That might not sound like it makes a big difference, but it really can. In addition to instant refreshes, you can also share podcasts, episodes, or even positions within episodes.

If you've ever been frustrated by lack of curation, out of date listings, or any other problems with raw podcast feeds and updates, Pocket Casts is worth a look.

iCatcher!

Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: iCatcher

iCatcher! is a sleek and easy to use podcast app that features background app refresh, downloads over wifi and cellular, and much more. You can also password protect specific podcast feeds if you want or need to. Anything you add to iCatcher! you can manage as well as AirPlay to other supported devices.

If you want a podcast app that's fully customizable, doesn't skimp on feature set, and shows a lot of information at a single glance, iCatcher! is a great choice.

Castro

Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: Castro

Castro is one of the best looking podcasts apps I've ever used, aside from Pocket Casts. It's simple, easy to use, supports swipe gestures, and lots more. It doesn't offer a lot of the bells and whistles other podcast apps offer but for casual listeners, the minimalistic design and the experience the app provides makes up for it.

If you're a casual podcast listener who wants a hassle free experience and you don't care about iPad support, you want Castro.

Pod Wrangler

Best podcast apps for iPhone and iPad: Pod Wrangler

Pod Wrangler is by the same developer of the popular RSS app Feed Wrangler, which is also one of our favorite RSS apps for iPhone. If you use the Feed Wrangler service, you can tie your account right into Pod Wrangler as well. If you don't, you can still use Pod Wrangler. Just like Feed Wrangler, Pod Wrangler features a super clean interface. You can subscribe to up to 5 podcasts for free and can unlock unlimited subscriptions via in-app purchase if you need to.

If you already have a paid subscription to the Feed Wrangler service, Pod Wrangler is a no brainer.

Your favorite podcast app for iPhone or iPad?

While there are lots of podcast apps available in the App Store, these are the ones we've found that offer the best service for the most people. Everyone's personal taste, and use case, varies, however, so if we missed out on including your favorite podcast app, make sure you tell us all about it in the comments!

Note: Originally published July 2013. Updated June 2014.

Allyson Kazmucha

Editor for iMore, Potter pundit, and the ninja in your iOS

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There are 47 comments. Add yours.

Rakhmad Azhari says:

I have used Instacast and Apple's Podcast app but I found that Downcast is the winner, full of power in a simple interface.

Quintus says:

+1 for Downcast! Simple and Elegant yet Powerful!

Christozoid says:

I'd like to set Downcast to automatically refresh everyday at sunrise. However it will only refresh by GPS (when I enter or leave my home). Anyone been successful in setting Downcast as a channel in ifttt (if this then that)?

ThisBrian says:

You really don't even need Downcast to do it for you, if you turn on Background App Refresh for Downcast it will learn your habit. I just opened the app for a few times and it learned to download my podcast every morning before I go to work, been doing it like that since iOS7 came out, works great. I don't leave Background App Refresh on for many apps as it will effect the battery, but I don't notice it burning much battery for just Downcast now Facebook and Twitter is a different story.

steviet02 says:

icatcher for me.... Should add that one to the list next time you do a podcast review.

kvanh says:

I use iCatcher. I like the smart playlists you can build and control over each podcast.

I looked at Aural. It has a very nice interface but is lacking a lot of features. I'll checkout future updates for improvements.

sgillila777 says:

I'm a Downcast guy. That said I have very little experience with other apps so I could be missing out and wouldn't know. Downcast has never given me a reason to jump ship though so that's something.

Sent from the iMore App

zerog46 says:

You guys never have icatcher been using it since it came our and love it.

Sent from the iMore App

takata says:

I was originally a huge fan of Instacast. However, after the numerous paid upgrades (in-app purchases, separate iPad app, fresh buy new versions), I got sick of them. Not that I felt cheated for having to pay for features that used to exist, but the constant UI change in every diff version drove me nuts. I switched over to Downcast and have been very happy since. I even wish I had a way to pay Downcast more than just the $1.99 they charged for the universal app...

JaxBearsFan says:

PocketCasts for me. I've tried all the apps on this list plus a few others. Used Instacast on iPhone for 2 years, but am beyond happy with PocketCasts. I do use Downcast on iPad as its the only app I've found that will allow video playback at higher speeds.

stuntmonkey says:

Downcast all the way. CGPGrey mentioned that he used it, and that was recommendation enough for me. Have not been disappointed.

Rene Ritchie says:

New version of Pocket Casts looks incredibly promising.

RicoTrevisan says:

Apple's Podcasts can do 1/2x, 1 1/2x, 2x video.

The feature I love the best is the switching between video and audio-only. There was a great app on Windows Phone (7? 8?) that did a great job switching between the 2. It would stream only the necessary: if you were watching the video, then closed the screen, the audio kept on playing, but it would continue downloading only the audio track. When you switched to the video, only then it would start downloading the video track.

Feck says:

A year or two ago I bought Downcast for two reasons: a couple of people who I listen to on podcasts (jsnell, marment) said they used it, and I liked the option of 1.5x speed playback (2x is just too fast when listening to some people). But it's a little complicated/confusing, and the features are generally overkill for my needs.

I *really* like the fact that Instacast lets you sync with Mac and iDevices, but I'm not prepared to pay a total of $25 for the Mac/iOS apps.

Derrick4Real says:

Downcast. I've used the others. Prefer downcast.

GlennEU says:

Downcast is also working on a OS X version, they should be releasing this any moment now.
Info on: www.facebook.com/DowncastApp
When the OS X version is released i can finally view podcast on all my devices and they are always/everywhere in sync!

KattDaDon says:

I used to use Instacast but now I use Apple's Podcast

CORYK333 says:

Used icatcher a few years ago, then I stopped listening to podcasts. Over the last few months I started again & was using pocket casts.....now I'm giving Apples own Podcasts app a whirl.

cwtong says:

Anybody have sync problem with Instacast and Apple's Podcasts app?
I switched between them multiple times, messing up the subscription list, play list, playback position from time to time.

I am currently using Downcast.

JNGold says:

Yep, had the same issues consistently with both of the Instacast and the Podcasts app. Instacast would work like a champ for a week or so before become totally out of sync and unusable. I experienced double episodes, and sync would just stop working. Podcasts app was a bit better but eventually progressed into podcast position sync issues and listen status would not be updated.

I have been using Downcast for weeks and not a single issue on either the iPhone or iPad. I think the dev nailed iCloud syncing.

ThisBrian says:

That's why I stopped using Apple's Podcast App, got tired of it not downloading the podcast I subscribe to. Downcast has never failed me and I listen to podcast EVERY morning on the way to work.

MsLoveTech says:

Where's all the free ones

Sent from the iMore App

kbmac says:

I've tried Apple Podcast, - looks nice but limited. Downcast, iCatcher, I really like both; especially the ability to touch anywhere on the screen to play/pause. This is *very* helpful for use in the car, exercising, etc.
To me, Instacast looks the best. I love the clean layout. However, trying to press the little play/pause button is maddening. (no full screen play/pause) It's the only app I've ever used where swipe does not equal delete. Swipe equals other functions I don't use. Very unintuitive. Sometimes hard to tell if podcast has downloaded. Nice that it syncs with OSX version of the app.
I'm looking forward to Pocket Casts for iOS. Android one looks awesome!

pictor says:

I paid the $5 for Instacast, and by and large I am happy with it, but at the same time I don't feel it earns its price tag. It lags when opening it up, and there are still a few clumsy menu navigation hiccups. I did try Downcast, and it was good...but ultimately I went back to Instacast. It was a close call, they are both very competent, but one or to quirks of Downcast ultimately drove me away.

Haven't tried Pocket Casts. I might. $2 is still a nothing price, no loss for me, and may be worth simply exploring it.

Chris Meyer says:

Do any of the podcast apps let you download single episodes without having to subscribe?

Thanks.

MidMoMonkey says:

Apple's podcast app does that.

Sent from the iMore App

Geo Jet says:

Downcast for OSX was released today in the Mac App store introductory price $9.99. The iOS version is also on sale for $0.99.

gdpiatt says:

Hi Rene,
Next time u review podcast apps please look into which app downloads vs streams the feeds and whether the app will accept 'paid' custom URLs... I've been listening to podcast for many years and actually subscribe to two 'paid' feeds. I still use Apple's iTunes which downloads the the episodes. On my 160gb iPod it always works flawlessly but when I try my iPhone & iPad using Apple's Podcasts they get all screwed up.

Crystal Earls says:

I've never used any of these podcast apps. I'm just looking for something so I can listen to my college text books while I'm on the go. Any suggestions for that?

djwhite077 says:

I completely disagree with your assessment of the Apple Podcast app, other than the fact that it is free. And I believe you are doing people a disservice to say that it is functional. It is not functional at all. Well...it is so marginally functional that we might as well say it isn't at all. I wish I had never let the folks at my local Apple store talk me into downloading it as I was looking for a way to keep the podcasts on my iPhone and iPad in sync because it did not accomplish that and five of them couldn't even figure out why!! In fact, downloading it just made a big mess for me overall because when they were still available within the music app, I never had a problem with them (they were automatically removed from the music app and ported into the podcast app as soon as I downloaded it). And I've been listening regularly to podcasts for years prior to this. Please look at the latest review of it in the App Store; and look at the CNET post on it written in January 2013. Again, you do people a huge disservice by promoting or suggesting the Apple Podcast in its current form in any way whatsoever. And frankly, in my opinion, this damages your own credibility as a tech forum. Again, please just look at the reviews in the App Store itself. And perhaps consider revising your recommendations. Thanks.

7Anthony says:

I actually don't mind Apples podcast app. It's given me no trouble. I switch between that and Pocketcasts.

djwhite077 says:

Thanks for your comment. With the multiple updates Apple has done since I first posted this, it is now OK again and usable. In fact, I pretty much use it everyday. I'm not familiar with Pocketcasts so thanks for that tip. I will check that out, too. Is it in the app store?

Ja Koe says:

I want an iTunes like program for my pc ONLY for podcasts/videocasts. ITunes layout is nice and allows searching for podcasts, BUT it's slow, constantly updating which always makes it worse, and video quality isn't that great. I don't use it at all to sync since I don't watch anything on my little phone. I use a different app for audio podcasts. iTunes would be fine, if I could go back to a better version. Last update caused me to uninstall it - again. Since it is the only Apple product I've used, I'm not at all impressed with Apple and would never buy their products if iTunes is representative of how things work.

emjayess says:

A must-have feature in a podcast app for me is the ability to skip back or ahead in various increments. That's why Apple's native app keeps getting deleted and I stick with Downcast, despite the fact that the native app is better in other ways. Oh well.....

Keldog says:

After struggling with the native Apple Podcasts app, I downloaded Pocket Casts and haven't looked back. Great interface, awesome features, and rock solid reliability. One of my favorite features is the podcast subscription sync built in to the app. I recently had to restore-as-new, and all I had to do is log in to the app, all my favorite podcasts were instantly there.

bdegrande says:

Downcast is by far my favorite, but most of the apps in the article are quite good. One advantage of PocketCasts is that there is an Android version.

Milenkod says:

Love downcast simply for the gesture based skip FF and skip REW. Do any of the others have a gesture FF & REW for audio and video podcasts?

tylerpond05 says:

I like that downcast and instacast both have apps for iOS and Mac OS. I have about 5-8 podcast apps that I have used trying to find the right one. Downcast is the one that won my heart in the end. I did purchase PocketCasts when I bought my moto g, but once the wife took it when her phone died, i went back to Downcast. I currently own:

Podcast (Apple)
Downcast (both iOS and Mac OS
TuneinRadio (not dedicated podcast app, but worth checking out)
Stitcher
Pod Wrangler
Instacast (both iOS and Mac OS)
Sound Cloud (again not a dedicated podcast app, but lots of podcasts use it)

CanadianMacFan says:

I was happiest when I could listen to podcasts with the Music app. All I want to do is listen to episodes on my iPhone when I'm out and on the computer when I'm home. I download the podcasts on the computer and sync them to the iPhone.

I hate the Podcasts app. It doesn't delete episodes that have been played even though the settings tell it to so I have to manually delete them to free up space on my phone. For some reason it tries to download episodes though I've set it up not to. Plus I'm that big on the UI.

I just wish there was another app out there that would sync up with iTunes. I don't want to download episodes on both my computer and my iPhone and have to manually sync what I've listened to.

ransonju says:

I've used an app called PodCruncher for a couple years now and have never needed to look further. Doesn't get much love from the press but the reviews on iTunes are great. I recommend people check it out. It blows the apple podcast app out of the water but I haven't compared to anything else.

Sent from the iMore App

Allyson Kazmucha says:

I didn't include it because updates to it are so stagnant. iOS 7 update in May = not best by any means

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ransonju says:

Fair enough. The wait for the update bugged me too.

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streamlined says:

If you want louder volume from your podcasts, Instacast is the one for you. I had a pair of bluetooth headphones and it was too difficult to hear my news over the sound of all the treadmills and noise in the gym with the Apple Podcast App. But with Instacast, I can hear it better. The max volume is significantly higher.

Rancid88 says:

I just use stitcher for podcasts works like a charm for me

zuntax says:

Downcast for me. +1

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