The Power of One Feature

I listen to more podcasts than is probably healthy, and while Apple has done a good job building a full suite of podcast apps, there are a number of great third-party options that really excel in several different ways. Make no mistake: Podcasts on iOS is finally a solid app for basic listening and organization, but like most of Apple's apps, it's aimed squarely at the mainstream user. Indie developers have done a great job defining options outside of that band, both in terms of aesthetic appeal and powerful features.

I've used almost every major podcast app out there, including Instacast, Downcast, Castro, Pocket Casts, and now Overcast. With Pocket Casts' recent 5.0 release, it's leapt to the head of the pack in terms of design, usability, and syncing. It's a really spectacular app, and I almost feel guilty not using it every day. But despite everything that's great about Pocket Casts, I can't seem to leave Overcast behind. The reason? Smart Speed. Marco Arment's app includes a brilliant feature that, rather than just speeding up audio, actually slices out silent sections of the episode. The result is a fluid listening experience that moves by quickly without distorting the audio and harming the listening experience.

It's interesting to me that this one feature could hold me in this app when Pocket Casts really excels on so many other fronts. But in the world outside of that mainstream user band, individual features matters, and every user is going to weigh each of them differently. For all of its polish and refinement, Pocket Casts is lacking what has become the single most important value-add I look for in a podcast app. It just goes to show: not all features are created equally.