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Recommended Podcast Apps

Why Would I Want a Podcast App?

Listening to podcasts on websites is just about the worst way you can do it.  You have to remember to manually check for new episodes, jumping forwards or backwards is a pain and if the browser crashes you've lost your place.  

Podcast apps solve all that and can give you more control over your listening experience.   With the right app you can enjoy what is effectively a talk radio station of stuff just for you.  

There is no 'best' podcast app.  It all depends on what you're looking for, so here's what I recommend based on who you are:

 

I'm new to podcasts and looking for shows to listen to

Overcast is for you.  It's simple without being limiting by making some decisions on your behalf about the best way to listen.

Overcast really shines with its friendly 'starter kits' of shows on topics of interest.  Just hit 'Subscribe to all' and you're on your way.  Plus if you're a Twitter user Overcast will recommend more podcasts based on what the people you follow also listen to.

Overcast is also free to download.  There are a few pro features you can unlock with an in-app purchase, but you can use the app for free without feeling restricted.  

If you're just starting in the podcast world click here to get Overcast.

 

I listen to lots of podcasts and want lots of options

Downcast is for you.

This one is for the pros.  Downcast lets you make playlists of podcasts based on almost any criteria so it's easy to sort and categorize a huge list of shows.

Also, with apps for iPad and OS X in addition to the iPhone version you can listen anywhere and Downcast syncs the shows and your spot.  Each device can have separate options so you can have your Mac download everything, while your iPhone streams everything and your iPad only downloads your favorite shows.  

(I hope you like settings.  There are ten more screens like this)

If you want absolute control and don't mind complications, click here to get Downcast.

 

Those apps look like too much work and I only listen to a few shows

Castro is for you.  

Simplicity is this app's selling point.  You'll never find yourself lost in a settings screen or unsure of what to do next.  Just a straightforward list of your shows and the episodes in them.  

This is pretty much it.

If ease-of-use is what you want, click here to download Castro.    

 

I'm still not sure.  Just pick one for me.

Get Overcast.

I Have Died Many Times

At a recent dinner, my wife and I realized we've known each other for ten years. This, naturally, led to our reminiscing of what we were doing ten years ago and discussion of what we might do ten years hence. The answer: 'we' won't be doing anything. We will be dead.

Not in-the-ground dead but, dead in the same way our decades-younger selves are dead. The death of no longer existing.

We're grateful for the decisions our younger selves made. Their marriage in the desert led to our dinner by the river, but though their lives are connected to ours by a string of contiguous days, they are not us. They are no more.

Like the Ship of Theseus your mind replaces itself one small part at a time. Memories fade, memories exaggerate, the new pushes out the old. It happens slowly, but it happens, until your mind is an new inhabitant of an old skull.

This is why we so often look back at the thoughts and actions of our younger selves with incomprehension. Who was that person? Just who did all those stupid things? Just who had those foreign thoughts? Someone else did.

This is more difficult to perceive in adulthood: often a span of years less and less differentiated. But the further back you go the more undeniable it is. Would you and your 20-year-old self agree on career decisions? Would you and your teenage-self get along?

What have you in common with your ten-year-old self? Though he may share some basic traits and he may look like you, is he you? Would he make any of the same decisions as you? Like what you like? Think what you think?

No. He's dead.

Go further: that baby in the photograph isn't you. He isn't even anyone. Though, through the power of accumulated days, he will become someone. His brain grows and prunes itself daily. As does yours.

This slow death is what allows for change: take control of it, encourage it. Murder yourself to make room for yourself.

You can thank or curse the dead past-yous for the decisions they made, but it's meaningless. Your past-selves are like The Peloponnesian War: necessary for the shape of present-day Europe while also completely irrelevant to it.

Your decisions affect the landscape of the future-you: where you live, your family, your work. But when making decisions, make them as though for a stranger: if the change is big enough or the time long enough, that is exactly who you will be to your current self.

The present-you is all there is, and the future-you is built daily on his ashes.

The Internet Never Forgets

The Internet archives all things as soon as we are old enough to hold a phone -- even earlier -- given the number of baby photos posted by over-sharing parents. Every embarrassing photo, every ill-thought-out comment: preserved forever.

For me, in the pre-social-Internet world, the great benefit of going to college was leaving high school. What a freedom, what a unique opportunity.

I picked my college, in part, because only one other person from my high school applied -- and I took great joy when learning of their rejection. Total isolation was oxygen for the pyre. The slow-burn of time would have killed high-school me eventually -- but I wanted high-school me to die faster.

And so he did. And so my life was greatly improved.

As an adult, teaching in a post social-Internet world I saw my students carry with them an ambient high school. Their friends and followers a public popularity meter. Their photos the foundation of who they are.

How does this affect their ability to grow, to change?

I worry.

The proportion of the population with their lives exposed (voluntarily or not) for all to see only grows. The Internet is like a forest that never gets cleared of debris: the lack of fires seems better for the trees at first, but it's worse in the long run.

What does it mean to a forty-year-old when their whole previous life is searchable? When every partner, every friend, every boss can see their timeline exposed. Are they always held to account for the sins of their past-selves? Do their past friends, always ambiently present, continue to reinforce who they are as who they will always be? Does an unforgeting Internet make it harder for people to change? I suspect so.

Perhaps we need a new cultural norm: decade death. To treat information about a person from ten years ago almost as though from a different person. Though I doubt this will come to pass -- it's too easy to view others as monolithic, unchanging.

But that's not our nature: we are all the phoenix.

I have died many times, and so have you.