Overcast Impressions

Overcast came out today, and I think I have already found my new favorite podcast app. I've recently been going through a lot of different podcasts looking for inspiration for work, as well as ideas for the Southern Fried Security Podcast. One of the better ones I've found has been the Accidental Tech Podcast, and one of their members, Marco just released his newest app, Overcast.

Now, there are lots of options for podcast apps. There's Apple's terrible one, as well as the one I recommended in an earlier post, Downcast. And those are just the ones I've used. There are tons of things that each of these apps do to differentiate themselves, but Overcast immediately stands out in a crowd.

Why? Because of these settings right here: Voice Boost and Smart Speed. I don't know what insane wizardry that Marco did to get this stuff to work, but it's magnificent.
Basically, Voice Boost is what it sounds like, at least as far as I can tell. It takes the audio playback and accentuates the frequencies that most speech falls under and boosts them. As the site says,

Boost and normalize volume so every show is loud, clear, and at the same volume.

That in its own is pretty cool, but when you start pulling in the Smart Speed feature, this app really shines. My test case was, of course, the most recent episode of the SFS Podcast, and the difference was night and day. The podcast is something we do for fun, but by pulling out the little silences that tend to sneak into conversations on podcasts, Overcast manages to make a couple of people talking on Skype sound like professionals. It's weird to explain, I suggest you check it out.

There's also a really neat recommendations service. Most apps tend to pull in leaderboards in categories, but that's not that case here. These lists are cultivated, I believe by Marco himself. Additionally, you can link your Twitter account with the app to pull recommendations from there as well. It can't post for you, but it will look through your tweets for any podcast episodes that might have popped up in your timeline lately. I'm not totally sold on this feature, but it's a neat option.

Which brings us to pricing. This app is free to try. Yep. A beautifully designed, incredible app with fantastic features is free to try. Subscribe to podcasts, listen, stay up to date, all that is totally free. That said, if you want to be able to download podcasts over cellular data or take advantage of more than 5 minutes of the Voice Boost or Smart Speed options, that'll cost a measly $5.

Now, it's not perfect. For one thing, there is no Overcast iPad app. I don't listen to many podcasts on my iPad, but I'd like the option. I have heard there is a web client that works pretty well on the iPad, but I don't think I count that as the same thing. Also, no video podcasts. I kind of liked checking out stuff like iPad Today on video, but I hadn't listened to it in a while, so I'm not that beat up over it. Also, minimalism is nice, but it does require a little trial and error to find out what all the buttons do. And I guess there's no Android support, so you Android folks are out of luck.

But those are minor nitpicks. Marco has quite the résumé, so I expect that more features will be added as time goes on, and that bugs will be nailed down pretty quickly.

In the meantime, I highly recommend that if you're on the iPhone and want a really nice way to listen to podcasts, check out Overcast. It might still have some bumps, but it just came out today, so give it a little time. What it does now is provide an excellent listening experience for podcasts in a way that looks great.