Tired of sitting at home and rewatching your favorite Netflix shows for the billionth time? (Did someone say New Girl?) Perhaps it’s time to finally get into podcasts. Even if you just want to use a sleep podcast to help you drift off at night, it’s important to have the right app for listening and organizing.
Editor’s note: this list of the best podcast apps was updated on November 13, 2020, to address an FAQ about Tidal.
The best podcast app is Pocket Casts
Pocket Casts has a nice user interface: once you follow a show, its cover image gets added to the app’s home screen, placing all of your favorite shows into a grid. You can choose whether or not you want notifications when a new episode of any particular show is posted. As for playback control and customization, Pocket Casts has the most features of all the best podcast apps. It has a playback speed adjuster, silence trimmer, volume booster, adjustable skip buttons, and a sleep timer that you can adjust to end playback after a certain amount of time or at the end of the episode. Additionally, you can program the app to always skip the first few minutes of a certain show if you don’t like listening to the host’s rambling.
If you like reading stats, Pocket Casts has got you covered. It tells you how much time you’ve spent listening, as well as how often you’ve skipped segments or removed silence from episodes. It also tracks your listening history, and you can archive completed episodes if you don’t want them to clutter your screen. You can favorite episodes to keep track of them, and download them for offline listening to conserve data usage. If you want to share a specific timestamp of an episode with a friend, the best podcast app enables that as well.
The drawback of Pocket Casts is that you can’t make playlists of your favorite episodes; that feature is only available on Spotify. Additionally, Pocket Casts offers a paid subscription for $0.99/month, but it’s unnecessary. However, if you want the desktop version of Pocket Casts, or the ability to use standalone Apple Watch playback, it might be worth considering.
What you should know about the best podcast apps
Useful playback features to look for
When listening to podcasts, you’ll want slightly different playback functions than when listening to music. A silence trimmer will cut out silences in conversations that unnecessarily elongate episodes. A speed adjuster can make for a more comfortable listening experience if you’re someone who can’t stand slow talkers, or needs a bit of a slow down to absorb all of the information in a science podcast. Another good feature to look for is offline listening. Especially if you commute and don’t want to use up your data, the ability to download episodes is essential. Also, if you want to skip the fluff and get to the good stuff in an episode, the ability to auto-skip the first few minutes of a show is really helpful.
Lookout for cross-platform support
Most podcast apps are supported on by all operating systems (mobile and desktop), save for Apple Podcasts. If you’re someone who recently switched from Apple-everything to a Samsung Galaxy S20, you’ll have to pick one of the best podcast apps that isn’t Apple’s. Fortunately, each app stands out as a great streaming service tailored for different types of users: the stat-obsessed should probably stick to our top pick Pocket Casts, while budding creators may want to make room for Anchor.
Google Podcasts is the best podcast app for Android devices
If you’re comfortable with the Google interface, you’ll like Google Podcasts. On the Home page, your subscriptions show up as icons on the top of the screen, below which are the new episodes released from each show, starting with the most recent. Once you finish listening to an episode, it’s marked as completed and disappears from the Home page. The episode is automatically moved into the History tab, making for easy organization with the built-in queue. Of course, you can manually queue things as well.
Google Podcasts has an extremely diverse library, so it’s likely that the only podcasts you won’t be able to find are those that are exclusive to Spotify. Google Podcasts’ playback features include a speed adjuster, adjustable sleep timer, forward and backward skipping, and a silence trimmer. The Explore page recommends shows based on your listening history and also organizes shows by category. Google Podcasts lets you to download episodes for offline listening, but you can’t save episodes without downloading them. Additional drawbacks are that you can’t make playlists or bookmark your spot in an episode on your Home page—unless you’re subscribed to the show.
If you’re using this app on a Google phone or with a Google speaker, you’ll be able to use hands free voice control to play a show. You won’t be able to select a particular episode with just your voice, but you can tell your smart speaker to skip episodes if you don’t like the one it’s currently on. And even though Google Podcasts is the best podcast app for Android, if you have an iPhone rather than an Android device, this app will still be available to you.
The best podcast app for iPhone is Apple Podcasts
If you have an iPhone, Apple Podcasts was probably installed on your device the minute you got it. The interface itself is a little confusing. However, if you are comfortable with Apple Music’s interface, Apple Podcasts will probably be second nature to you, making it the best podcast app for iPhone users. On the Listen Now page, you can select for notifications to be turned on or off for particular shows and for recommendations based on your listening history. Below this is the built-in queue of shows, with the one you most recently listened to at the top. If you completed one episode from that show, it will have the next episode queued up. There’s also the option to manually queue episodes, and that queue can be found underneath the player itself.
Apple Podcasts allows you to save an episode to your library and separately download an episode for offline listening. When you mark an episode as played, it removes it from your library completely. The player has adjustable playback speed, but there are only three speed options, and there is no silence trimmer. The Browse page has many categories and features shows based on their popularity as well as their relevance to current events.
You can search for podcasts by keywords mentioned in episodes. If you want to subscribe to a podcast but it isn’t available on iTunes, all you have to do is find the RSS feed URL for that podcast, and paste it into the search bar. This expands your library to pretty much everything. Apple Podcasts is only available for iOS, so if you have an Android you’ll have to make a different selection. Additionally, you can submit your own podcast to Apple Podcasts, but the process isn’t very easy. We recommend Anchor for creators.
Spotify isn’t just for music
If you’re an avid Spotify user for listening to music, it will be very convenient to start exploring Spotify’s podcast features. Spotify has a diverse library of podcasts and there are many shows that have exclusive deals with with service, such as The Joe Rogan Experience starting later this year, The Michelle Obama Podcast, and more. If you go into the Podcasts page of the app, you’ll see featured themes, an extensive list of categories, and featured podcast episode playlists. Once you follow a podcast, it shows up under the Podcasts tab of your library, and it is easy to navigate the episodes you have yet to hear, episodes you’ve downloaded, and an overview of the shows you follow.
Unfortunately, if you listen to an episode of a podcast without following it, it won’t bookmark your place in your Podcasts library. And when you mark an episode as finished, it disappears from your library. There isn’t an easy way to save episodes you liked, but you can add them to playlists which is a feature unique to Spotify. Its podcast playback features include a speed adjuster and an adjustable sleep timer, but it lacks a silence trimmer.
If you want a clean and organized interface for viewing only podcasts, Spotify probably isn’t the option for you because it is cluttered with music. Unlike other apps, it doesn’t recommend podcasts based on listening history in the same way it recommends music. In other words, you won’t feel like Spotify knows you better than anyone else in the same way you do with its music suggestions. Additionally, you need to purchase Spotify Premium to enable ad-free listening and the ability to download episodes for offline listening.
If you want to make your own podcast, you should download Anchor
When you open the Anchor app, you are prompted with four options: “I want to make a new podcast,” “Tell me more about podcasting,” “I have a podcast I want to import,” and “I want to listen to podcasts.” It doesn’t actually matter which one of these you click because you will have access to all of the features regardless.
To create a podcast, you can record directly into the app with your smartphone’s microphone. This allows you to create segments of audio that you can label and flag in certain places if you want to edit them later. You can also upload externally recorded audio files as well as add voice messages that listeners have submitted, and you can invite friends to record live with you over the app. Additionally, the app has sound effects and interludes that you can place into your podcast anywhere. You can add any music from Spotify, but doing so will prevent you from being able to publish your podcast to any external listening platforms or monetize it in any way, and it will only be available for listening on the Anchor app.
Anchor enables you to create a trailer for your podcast, and the tools are all very easy to use. Once your first podcast episode is finished and you’ve created a cover photo and description for your show, you can submit your show to be published on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Spotify, and more. If you sign up for sponsorships and your show starts to gain an audience, Anchor will propose a sponsor to you, which you can always decline. But, if you choose to work with them, they will help you monetize your show by having you record ads.
Anchor provides lots of information about how to make a quality podcast, and once your podcast is out there, you’ll have access to analytics about your listeners. If you have a podcast already and are feeling bummed that you didn’t know about Anchor before, there’s no need to worry. You can switch your podcast’s host to Anchor very easily through the Anchor website just by inputting your RSS feed URL. The only downside to Anchor is that their library and playback features for listening to podcasts are limited, but that’s not really what we’re here for anyways.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Nope, if you want high quality music and exclusive artist content, Tidal is great, but it does not have any podcasts.
Not specifically. Some apps provide anonymized information about the number of devices that have been used to play a podcast episode, such as Apple Podcasts, but podcast creators won't be able to see who owns these devices. It creates analytics so creators can view the success of their show across different audiences. Similarly, if you create a podcast with Anchor, you'll be able to read analytics about your listeners.