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Overcast 2 review: a freemium podcast app adds streaming and goes totally free

Glenn Fleishman | Oct. 21, 2015
The Overcast podcast app has switched from freemium to free, added streaming, and improved some of its custom audio settings—but it looks and works mostly the same.

Play, pause, rewind

I confess I’ve never been a big playlist user in Overcast or other podcast apps, as I use my subscriptions as a playlist, and I pare down what I subscribe to rather than shift among lists. Other people I know, especially those with regular long commutes or frequent air travel, queue up different sets of what’s important to them in different places.

Overcast’s playlist support is quite robust. Tap the add playlist button in the main view, and you can set up a list that features specific podcasts, and choose one or more of those to always sort at the top, no matter your chronological sort-by choice. You can also drop in episodes outside of the selected podcasts and exclude ones from those shows you’ve picked to truly customize. After the list is created, you can select it, tap Edit, and re-order episodes; the new positions are retained.

Version 2 adds a feature that Arment resisted, and which has uneven support and enthusiasm for: chapter markers. These markers let podcasters—and creators of other kinds of audio files, like books and recordings of speeches and the like—insert flags in a file with text labels and other information to allow a listener to advance to that point. A straightforward concept, there are multiple implementations for different file formats and a lot of incompatibility.

overcast2 shows chapter marks
Support for chapter marks allows you to move around to set, named points within a podcast.

But it’s a welcome addition, even if few podcasters have adopted them, because the tags have been largely ignored. With Overcast throwing its hat in the ring, it’s possible we’ll see a virtuous adoption cycle. Overcast shows the 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.

While Overcast remains an iOS app, with a sync account active you can also switch back and forth between a modest web app version. In this release, 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.

Overcast 2 also includes 3D Touch actions and a watchOS app, designed for watchOS 1. A revised version for watchOS 2 is coming.

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.


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