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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.

Overcast shows chapter markers at the top of an episode’s show notes when one swipes up from the logo in the individual podcast episode playback view. They’re also displayed above the main playback interface as a centered text label with separate back/forward buttons. This works, but it’s a little wonky to discover and use. A way to switch to chapters or show them by default would help.

Version 2.5 reworked the “equalizer” visualization during playback, which in version 2 showed an actual representation of the distribution of frequencies in the currently playing audio within the podcast art/show notes area. The revision minimizes the distraction and battery usage by showing it in more compact fashion within the Pause symbol.

While Overcast remains an iOS app, you can also switch back and forth between a modest web app version which uses the login for your sync account, which is free. In version 2, Handoff support was improved. With a podcast playing in iOS, choosing the Safari Handoff icon in OS X brings up the web app version, which starts playing where iOS left off while pausing the iOS player. In testing, syncing back the other way either wasn’t accurate or quick enough after pausing in Safari in OS X.

Patrons of the app can use their website account to upload audio files directly, such as for audiobooks, downloads, ripped audio, and test episodes of podcasts before they’re released. Files may be up 1GB and donors can store 2GB total. Uploaded files sync to the app or can be played from the site.

Unfortunately, the 2.5 app as released lacks a link or other information that directs users to the Web site URL, which is https://overcast.fm/uploads. And one must first be logged in. This may have to do with Apple’s App Store restrictions on external links, although that doesn’t seem applicable here. The interface for uploading and the Web site is very spare; and could be spiffed up to better mirror the app.

Overcast 2 also includes 3D Touch actions and a watchOS app.

Bottom line

As a long-time podcaster—and current host of the Macworld podcast—I appreciate any tool that makes it easier for people who want to listen to shows and find new ones. Overcast 2 is a significant step forward for the app in big and small ways without redesigning its approach, and 2.5 carries it a bit further.

There’s no financial penalty to try and then adopt Overcast 2 and some features may be compelling enough to encourage you to switch from an existing app—especially away from Podcasts. Users new to podcasts can get their feet wet with Overcast and, if it doesn’t fill their needs, turn to several modestly priced alternatives that take different approaches to similar tasks.

 

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