As Apple eats its lunch, third-party apps like Castro can't help but struggle to survive

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The App Store can be pretty great. It's where we download apps for our iPhones and iPads and in some cases, Macs as well. It's full of great apps from wonderful third-party developers and while yes, there are some bad actors out there, I like to think that the majority are making great apps for their users. But it's getting harder and harder to do that, as rumors of one popular app's imminent demise prove.

Castro is a podcast app that's been around for a long, long time. I used it years ago before switching to other apps like Pocket Casts and now, Overcast. It was pretty great and it was a gorgeous app at the time. In a world where more and more apps are starting to look the same, having something a little different is no bad thing. But Castro has problems, it seems.

Those using the app today have reported issues getting it to work over the last few days. The people behind the app have confirmed that there is an issue and that they're working on it, but a new report suggests that even if this issue is fixed, the app isn't long for this world. And it's easy to see why, with Apple Podcasts continuing to go from strength to strength. And when it's the defacto podcast app for so many iPhone, iPad, and Mac buyers, is it any surprise that it's so popular? Building on that, it shouldn't be a shock to anyone that competing with Apple Podcasts is harder than ever — and it isn't just podcast apps, either.

Life support

While I haven't used Castro for years it's always been an app that I've kept an eye on here and there. So when I saw Six Colors report that "Castro may be dying," I took note.

The story goes thus. Castro's cloud database is broken and it needs to be fixed, something the Castro team says it's trying to do as I type this. But amid the questions asking when service would be restored — people can't even migrate away from Castro while it's broken — was a comment that will chill the veins of every one of its users. Former Castro developer Mohit Mamoria posted on X to say that "Castro is being shut down over the next two months." That's quite the bombshell.

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Castro, nor its current owner Tiny, have commented on the current rumors. But Six Colors' Jason Snell says that when he started to ask questions "a couple of knowledgeable people told me that they’d heard Castro had been put on life support a few months ago and was unlikely to get any technical attention going forward."

That doesn't quite equate to the app going away, but it does suggest that there are no plans to take Castro further at the very least. And that's just a short stone's throw away from closing Castro altogether.

The Apple problem

The thing is, the number of people using third-party apps like Castro must be vanishingly small besides the number of people that use Apple Podcasts. It's the same across other categories, too. How many people use Apple Notes compared to other apps that do similar things? Apple's Calendar app, too?

The thing is, Apple's apps are better than ever and the recent round of iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma updates added yet more features that make these apps real options for everyone, including the power users that would normally turn their noses up at them.

This isn't the death knell for the App Store, its apps, or the developers that create them. But it's another sign that competing with Apple, on its own platform, is increasingly difficult. That's bad for kids looking to get into the app business and if they turn their attentions elsewhere, it's bad for those of us that would use the apps they'd go on to build, too.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • naddy69
    "But it's another sign that competing with Apple, on its own platform, is increasingly difficult."

    No it isn't. It's a sign that this app has not kept up with the competition. Because:

    "Castro is a podcast app that's been around for a long, long time. I used it years ago before switching to other apps like Pocket Casts and now, Overcast."

    Neither of which are Apple products. Seems like they are doing OK. This is also a very crowded field.

    Phone developers generally love Apple. They make around 75% of their money from Apple apps, even though there are FAR more Android phones in use world wide.

    Because the vast majority of Android phones in use are very cheap phones and the owners aren't interested in spending money on apps.