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Overcast 2.5 review: Patron-backed podcast app gets more efficient and adds exclusive features

Glenn Fleishman | March 21, 2016
The original Overcast locked its best features away. It added streaming and Handoff in 2.0, and adds patron features and better battery efficiency for all in 2.5.

Discovery is grouped into categories and becomes more powerful if you link in a Twitter account, although that’s not required. Version 1 featured curation by the developer; version 2 is entirely driven by Overcast users’ use of the Recommend button that appears with each podcast episode. The app shows overall most recommended, most recommended by those you’re connected with on Twitter, and top shows in major categories, as well as “collections,” which are podcast networks. It’s handy. You can even tap to subscribe to all the podcasts in a set.

A maddening oversight in earlier versions occurs when you tap a show in the directory to view details and then tap to subscribe or download an episode: Overcast dropped you back into its main view. To get back to the same recommendation list and position or same search, you have to repeat your actions, which is frustrating when you want to add multiple items from the same area. This has been changed for subscriptions in 2.5, keeping you in the same position, but it remains for individual episode downloads.

Along similar lines, I find the “i” target to get information about a podcast in a list without playing it so small and precise that I constantly miss it. There’s no good “jump back” option in Overcast, so starting a podcast you didn’t intend requires navigating back to the previous one you were playing.

Play, pause, rewind

I confess I’ve never been a big playlist user in Overcast or other podcast apps, as I use my subscriptions as a playlist, and I pare down what I subscribe to rather than shift among lists. Other people I know, especially those with regular long commutes or frequent air travel, queue up different sets of what’s important to them in different places.

Overcast’s playlist support is quite robust. Tap the add playlist button (a square with a plus and a list in it) in the main view, and you can set up a list that features specific podcasts, and choose one or more of those to always sort at the top, no matter your chronological sort-by choice. You can also drop in episodes outside of the selected podcasts and exclude ones from those shows you’ve picked to truly customize. After the list is created, you can select it, tap Edit, and re-order episodes; the new positions are retained.

Version 2 added chapter markers, which let podcasters—and creators of other kinds of audio files, like books and recordings of speeches and the like—insert flags in a sound file with text labels and other information to allow a listener to see a table of contents and jump to that point. While a straightforward concept, multiple implementations for different file formats prevented widespread adoption until last year. Arment once resisted this feature and not all podcast apps support all the styles. (The single-purpose Chapters app can create MP3 chapters, while Rogue Amoeba’s Fission has long had AAC chapter support and recently added it for MP3.)


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