I'll confess something. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I nearly always avoid using my Windows Phone to do so. Why? Because I've used and enjoyed Pocket Casts on other platforms so much over the years that I could never feel as comfortable with something else. And there are some good apps to choose from.
Now, Shifty Jelly, has brought it to Windows Phone for the first time. It was teased a short time ago but as of today it has officially launched in the Windows Phone Store. And it's a good 'un.
So, what makes it so good? We'll start with the developer's own description:
"This is the simplest and most powerful podcast app on the Windows Phone platform. The app draws on Windows Phone design principles while maintaining the familiar Pocket Casts UI."
"Pocket Casts delegates podcast parsing to our online servers. Other clients spend time at launch checking each subscription one-by-one to see if there are any new episodes. Pocket Casts makes one call to one server and receives many results at once. Thanks to the server based parsing, Pocket Casts can refresh hundreds of podcasts in only a few seconds, so you can start listening sooner."
Part of the big appeal of Pocket Casts is cross-device syncing. Be that multiple Windows Phones, iPhone, iPad, Android, the web, or a mixture of all, you can take your podcasts pretty much anywhere and keep everything perfectly synchronized. It requires a free sync account, but once you've done that, you need never worry again.
It doesn't just sync your subscriptions, either. Your favorites and even current progress can be carried across from device to device. And that's all pretty sharp.
Since your subscriptions can refresh on their own, Pocket Casts allows you to set latest episodes to automatically download when you're on a Wifi connection. It works as well as advertised and means you've always got your latest listens ready and waiting, especially when cellular connectivity is going to become an issue. The default setting will check for new episodes every hour, but you're able to change this to between 30 mins and 12 hours at some set intervals. Or, just check manually. Your call.
"Users can create episode filters to match whichever criteria they'd like. Want a list of every downloaded but unplayed episode? How about a list of video episodes that you haven't downloaded yet? Easy with these filters. "
It doesn't forget the basics, though. And that is, it's a good podcast listening app. If you want to listen at reduced or increased speed, not a problem. There's a sliding scale between 0.5x and 2x to change listening speed that you can apply to specific, or all of your podcasts. If you missed something, tap a button to go back 10 seconds at a time. If you want to skip on, no worries, a tap will punt you forward 45 seconds. Or, you can just scroll, as you can in any good music player app.
Better still, you can change those defaults of 10 and 45 seconds. Customize to your own liking. Just like you can tell Pocket Casts to stream or download by default.
The rich experience continues with support for full show notes and an "Up next" queue to create a constant playlist. And for those that will ask, yes, you swipe between the headings, no taps required.
So far, it's all been about the listening experience. But Pocket Casts is also pretty handy when it comes to finding new shows to listen to. It's got a fantastic Discover section which has a whole host of shows to recommend to you. There's three headings: Featured, Trending and Most Popular. All pretty self explanatory, but all well worth browsing through if your library needs freshening up. Or you can just search, as you'd expect.
So, what's it like to actually use when you put all this together? I'm fortunate enough to have been playing around with it for a few weeks now and I'm not at all disappointed. This isn't some half-baked 'port' for Windows Phone. This is the real deal, the proper Pocket Casts, and it's excellent. Shifty Jelly has done some fine work, and if you're a cross-platform device user, this is definitely the one to have. Even if you're not, it's up there with the very best podcast apps Windows Phone has to offer. There are a couple of things it doesn't currently support, like the import/export of OPML files (though it is something Pocket Casts deals with elsewhere, so it's possible for the future) and there doesn't seem to be any current support for video podcasts.
And it's only just arrived. But if you've been looking for something to devour your podcasts and haven't yet found something that feels right, check out Pocket Casts. Because it could be the one you've been waiting for.