Picking a podcast app is serious business. With a ton of options available offering loads of features, it can be a hard choice to make.
There are three main features to consider when choosing a podcast app:
- How easy is it to discover new shows?
- What kind of playback options are available?
- How easy is it to create playlists?
We’ve narrowed the selection down to four of the best podcast apps available for both iOS and Android users. Taking a look a the features they offer in all three of these categories, we’re going to figure out which of these apps is right for you:
- Pocket Casts for Android ($4) | iOS ($6)
- Stitcher for Android | iOS (Free)
- Podbean for Android | iOS (Free)
- Spreaker for Android | iOS (Free)
The Best Podcast App for Discovery
The natural place to start with listening to podcasts on your phone is where to discover new episodes and shows on the go.
Pocket Casts has a curated Discover tab with featured, trending, and most popular podcasts. Users can browse podcasts by networks, as well as by category or region.
Android users can also search for what other nearby Pocket Casts users are listening to. While this is a nice concept, it only works if you’re close to other Pocket Casts users who also have the feature enabled.
While the Discover tab is a great source of new content, Pocket Casts falls short in two ways. The biggest issue is that you can only listen to episodes of podcasts you are subscribed to. This means that if discover a new podcast, and want to sample an episode or two before subscribing, you can’t. This seems like a significant oversight for a podcast app.
The other major drawback drawback to using Pocket Casts is the inability to search for individual episodes.
Stitcher’s Browse Shows tab offers a place to discover trending or new shows, as well as browsing shows by category. They even have a category specifically for Marvel-related content.
Each category has subcategories within it: New & Noteworthy includes curated picks, popular, and recently added podcasts. Popular & Trending includes top shows, top movers, and most shared.
With Stitcher, you can search by episodes or shows.
The Podbean home screen opens up to the Discovery tab. You can see the top 100 podcasts, browse by category, by station (major news outlets), and more.
You can also browse shows by popularity. Recommended shows, top episodes, featured picks, and daily popular shows, along with categorized lists, are all here.
When searching in Podbean, you can filter search results by episode or show.
Spreaker’s Channels tab offers up theme-based stations: public radio shows, comedy shows, news, sports, religion, music podcasts, and more. This is useful because if you find a show you like, you might find more on that channel.
The Explore tab includes manually curated content, as well as lists by popularity, and by category. It also offers up a list of Spreaker’s most downloaded shows and live shows.
Spreaker’s curated lists include something for everyone: recommended by news outlets from The New York Times to CNET, podcasts for entrepreneurs and women, best story-telling shows, and more.
Searching on Spreaker yields results that include shows and episodes.
Discovery Winner: Spreaker has the most curated lists and suggestions of any of these apps, and that makes it the best podcast app for discovering new shows.
The Best Podcast App for Playback
When it comes to playback, you’ll find pretty similar features across the board. Thus, this probably won’t be a deal breaker for any one app.
You can skip forward 30 seconds or skip back 10 seconds as you listen to your podcasts. Pocket Casts also lets you trim silence, boost voices, and change the playback speed anywhere from half to triple the normal.
You can save individual episodes for offline listening, and choose to automatically download new episodes on podcasts of your choice. The app also allows you to limit downloading to only when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
Pocket Casts offers phone and desktop sync, but this requires purchasing a premium account for a one-time fee of $9. Once you’ve signed up, you can go to play.pocketcasts.com, and pick up where you left off. Pocket Cast is also offering access to its new web beta, but it doesn’t sync with the app yet.
The app also includes Chromecast support.
With Stitcher you can choose a custom length of time (between five and 60 seconds) to skip backwards and forwards. You can snooze playback, slow it down to half speed, or double its speed.
For offline listening, you can choose which of your playlists automatically download (we’ll look at playlists shortly). And you can limit downloads to Wi-Fi only.
If you want to download just one episode, you have to go to the podcast page, tap All Episodes, select the name of the episode, and choose Save Episode.
You can limit downloaded content in Stitcher from 1GB to unlimited, and it’s easy to clear all downloads with the tap of a button. Stitcher also offers a web interface to keep up with your podcasts from your browser.
If you have a Chromecast-enabled device, you can throw the audio to your smart TV or speakers.
With Podbean you can choose to skip backwards and forwards 30 seconds. You can also snooze playback, slow it down to half speed, or speed it up to 2x.
Podbean also has a volume boost for voices and an intelligent speed feature, where it trim silences in episodes. It also offers users a sleep timer, and has Chromecast support.
You can download individual episodes on each show page, can automatically download new episodes of your favorite shows, and limit downloads to Wi-Fi only.
Spreaker is the lightest of these apps in playback features. You can skip back 10 seconds, or forward 30 seconds. It also offers a sleep timer and adjustable playback speed.
The app has Chromecast support. You can also automatically download episodes from your favorite shows, and limit those downloads to Wi-Fi only.
Playback Winner: This is pretty even, with all four offering the most important features you look for in a podcast app. Pocket Cast and Podbean are slightly ahead of the game with their volume boost and silence trimming features, while Stitcher gives you a little more in the way of customization.
The Best Podcast App for Playlists
One of the most important features in any podcast app is the ability to create custom playlists. So how do each of these apps handle that feature?
With Pocket Casts, you can create custom playlists using filters. These filters include playing state (unplayed or unfinished), episode type (video or audio), how recent the episode is, and its download status. You can also limit your playlist to specific podcasts.
Let’s say there are three podcasts you love to listen to all the time. You could create a playlist of all the new, unplayed episodes from those three podcasts, and it will automatically update with those parameters.
You can also choose to automatically download all episodes of your favorite shows, and can set it so those downloads happen only when you’re on Wi-Fi.
Pocket Casts also offers up a handy feed of all the new episodes of shows you’re subscribed to, which isn’t available in all the apps listed here. It’s hands down the best podcast app for playlists.
With Stitcher, you create stations rather than playlists.
Stitcher’s stations give you quick access to the latest episode of each show. As mentioned above, you can automatically download entire stations, and restrict those downloads to when you’re on Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to access more than one episode per show in each station. However, you can save individual episodes from any show, and then access that list under the Saved Episodes tab.
Podbean places more emphasis on the individual episode rather than the show. You can add individual episodes to your playlists.
When it comes to keeping up with your favorite shows, you can follow individual podcasts, and filter each podcast by downloaded and played/unplayed status. The app also provides sorting by new to old or old to new.
You can download individual episodes from these shows, and batch download or batch add to playlists.
With Spreaker, you can add podcasts to your favorites, and choose to automatically download new episodes (on Wi-Fi only if you prefer). You can also turn on notifications for new episodes of favorite shows.
When it comes to individual episodes, you can add them to your Listen Later and Like playlists, but there’s no way to create custom playlists.
If you start playing a podcast episode from that podcast’s list of episodes, you can skip to the next episode.
Playlists Winner: If you want as much control as possible, Pocket Casts is the best option. If you’re more focused on individual episodes rather than shows, give Podbean a try.
The Best Overall Podcast App
The winner in this list is Pocket Casts.
While it is a paid app, it’s the most feature rich. Those features make it easy to overlook the inability to test drive podcasts. After all, it’s just as easy to unsubscribe from a show if you decide you don’t like it. You can also use the beta web version to try out podcasts before adding them to your subscription list.
PocketCasts’s playlists feature is the clincher. The app does a great job of managing your podcast subscriptions.
The automatically updating playlists require no effort on your part, beating out options that require you to manually add episodes or shows. And seeing all the new episodes from all your subscriptions in one page is a must-have for a regular podcast listener.
If you can’t or don’t want to pay for a podcast app, the free offerings are also great. We recommend Podbean as the best choice out of the free apps.
Many More Options for Podcast Apps
These apps are available for both Android and iOS users, but users of every operating system have some solid options worth looking into. iPhone users have plenty of podcast apps to choose from, and Android has its own set of awesome podcast apps.
No matter where you listen to podcasts, check out our tips for managing your podcast collection.