I like listening to podcasts and have been regularly doing so. Podcasts have almost become my go-to source of entertainment during my commutes or non-working lone times. If I can focus on what’s playing, I listen to podcasts. Music is only for the times when I don’t want people to disturb me and concentrate, mostly during work.
It’s no surprise, then, that the podcast-listening applications, or podcatchers, are few of the most used, and so most important, apps on my phone. And because I interact with these apps very frequently throughout the day, I look for a frictionless experience while using them.
When Marco Arment launched Overcast I was highly excited. I was waiting for this app since he first wrote about it. I knew Marco would have a different take on how we consume podcasts. I had high expectations while I downloaded the app.
And Overcast did deliver. Almost.
Perfect, except while downloading
Overcast gives a different spin to almost every aspect of the podcast listening experience. Just the first impression promoted the app to my home screen, even my dock. There were so many things that impressed me.
Overall look, user interface and experience of the app has a refreshing feel to it; even the colours and fonts used are easy on eyes. Playlists management and playback controls are simple and intuitive, equally powerful at the same time. Voice boost does assist in making podcasts more audible in a car/bus.
Smart-speed, the silence killer, is brilliant. It’s just been 20 days since I started using this app and this feature has already saved an extra 3 hours on my podcast listening time. This feature alone is sufficient enough to make Overcast my default app. It even did for 2 weeks.
However this smart feature was clouded by the data-unfriendly behaviour of the app while downloading episodes. And this was a huge minus for the app.
I feel most of the shortcomings during downloads are due to the misguided assumption on Marco’s part; that a user either wants every episode from a podcast automatically downloaded or wants none. The belief, it seems, is one would never decide whether to download an episode, manually, only when it arrives.
Well, that is not true for all. Some of us do like to be notified when an episode of our favourite podcast is released, read what would be discussed and then decide whether to download it or not.
Overcast struggles to do either of it.
You can either “Subscribe to All New Episodes” of a podcast and be notified/not notified when a new episode is released or just disable the subscribe option. There is no way to just be notified, but not download the episode.
Reading about an episode is not easy too. I assumed initially, and accidentally do so even now, that clicking on the episode should expand its description. Rather it starts downloading it. I have to target the (i) and click it to read the description. Not friendly, really.
Even when the download begins, the options visible to take actions are not really intuitive. First of all, there is no information on the data size of the episode. It is especially important to display this information when one has to decide whether to download it over the data connection or not.
Anyway once the download begins, the button changes to something with a pause symbol in it. First of all, as can be seen, the ring around the pause button is no indication of the download status.
Secondly, the pause button does not actually pause the download. It stops it, discarding the already downloaded data and begins re-download from 0% on ‘resume’. I understand the limitation that Core Audio puts while storing partially downloaded files, but least I expect is not to show a pause button at all if it does not.
All these issues with download manager really make it difficult for me to use Overcast. Marco does say he builds apps which cater to him first and solves the problem he faces. So he, may be, did not foresee the way the podcasts are actually consumed, especially in non-first world countries.
He, also, may say that Overcast is not for me and I should try the other independent apps he, so earnestly, showcases in the settings menu.
However I really like Overcast’s episode management and playback features and would want to use them. I would miss them in the other apps.
But as long as the app does not value the importance of data, I am afraid it will stay in my backup folder, waiting for the appropriate update.