It has to be among the most unwieldy workarounds in tech history. A friend of mine recently confided that he had taken to carrying around his old iPhone everywhere, in addition to a newly purchased 12 Pro, so that he could listen to podcasts in an Apple app untouched by the latest, and arguably most disastrous, iOS update ever. After seeing so many complaints from outraged tweeters about the confusing layout, un-deletable episodes, and the scuttling of certain files into the podcast ether, my friend voluntarily regressed to the era of needing both a phone for phone stuff and a separate device for audio entertainment.
It was the only way he could think of to preserve all the painstakingly chosen podcast episodes he’d merely clicked on but not downloaded—episodes that would otherwise disappear upon updating—besides manually entering them all into his new phone. This solution may sound a bit excessive, but desperate times call for desperate measures. For those feeling scorned by the many other negative qualities of Apple’s recent sucker punch of a podcast app update, though, the only way to future-proof one’s phone against whatever further torments lie in store next time is to jump ship to a new podcast app altogether.
Here are six alternatives to help break free of the redundancy, clutter, and impracticality of Apple’s podcast app now and forever.
While Apple seems content to take for granted iPhone users’ podcast loyalty, Spotify has been investing hundreds of millions into the project of eating up their marketshare. Aside from the exorbitant sum it spent to become the exclusive home of Joe Rogan’s eerily popular program, the audio giant regularly rolls out its own original podcasts, including one about itself. All of these exclusives and originals, both of which now feature a transcription option, are available to stream for free, alongside thousands of other shows, with a paid subscription offering an ad-free experience and the ability to download rather than stream. Other features include a focus on curated collections, an odd but accessible fusion of its music and podcast offerings, and the ability to make podcast playlists for your next multiday road trip.
Since podcasts are a gateway drug into the world of audiobooks, it makes perfect sense that listeners should be able to go to the same place for both. (If only DVD commentary tracks were available there as well.) Premier audiobook platform Audible realized as much years ago and began beefing up its platform to make it attractive to podcast devotees as well. Audible has recently expanded its library with a parade of members-only originals—including Coupledom With Idris and Sabrina Elba, and the scripted narrative series Total Switch Show starring Lea Thompson and Zoey Deutsch—to entice potential users into paid subscriptions. Considering the breadth of audiobooks available at the $7.99-per-month tier, along with many of your favorite podcasts, Audible is an ideal option for avid aural readers and podcast-lovers alike.
Now owned by SiriusXM, Stitcher is the exclusive home to the vast back catalogs of all Earwolf podcasts, along with those from Exactly Right Media, the network launched by the team behind My Favorite Murder. (As long as users subscribe to its Premium service, for $4.99 per month.) Stitcher is also the purveyor of dozens of originals, both in the comedy space and beyond, including Literally! With Rob Lowe and Levar Burton Reads. The app lets users search for individual episodes, rather than just the titles of shows, and regularly offers themed, curated collections of podcast playlists. The premium version is also where listeners can get an access window for shows like the critically acclaimed Blowback well before they’re available anywhere else.
This innovative pod platform bills itself, memorably, as “a normal business,” founded and operated as it is by one person, programmer Marco Ament, rather than any large corporation. Overcast pioneered the increasingly popular “trim silence” feature with its Smart Speed setting, removing milliseconds from all the barely perceptible silences on your favorite shows, which adds up over time. The platform is ad-supported, entirely with ads for other podcasts, but the price for going ad-free is $10 per year. Additionally, Overcast pulls in titles from users’ Twitter feeds for discovery, even if it doesn’t yet seem capable of parsing the context of why a podcast was mentioned on Twitter before recommending it.
The main elements Player FM has going for it are discovery and categorization. Its library has more than 20 million show episodes organized into more than 500 hyperspecific categories—such as biohacking, classic sitcoms, and college basketball—and lets users customize their own categories to organize their podcasts any way they like. The multiplatform app lets users play shows on a laptop, phone, car stereo, or even TV, with the help of Chromecast. The premium version that starts at $3.99 per month does away with ads, improves discovery even further, and includes the ability to create playlists.
More than a podcasting app, TuneIn Radio offers a mixture of on-demand and original series, along with live radio from around the world—including music shows and, crucially, sporting events. For $7.99 per month, users get fewer ads altogether, ad-free access to breaking news channels, and the equivalent of a sports package (access to dedicated NFL, NBA, and MLB networks and more). Plus, the subscription includes a library of 40,000 audiobook titles, thanks to a deal with HarperCollins and Penguin Random House. (Look out, Audible!)