Theres been a huge amount of press about the new podcasting App called Castro. First coming into the light via Jim Dalrymple of Loop insight fame, Dan Benjamin and then Gruber it seems that everyone is raving about this new podcasting app. So we asked for a review copy and they gladly obliged.
There's no shortage of Podcasting apps out there and Apples very own offering isn't so bad so why should you put down the &iOS%20App%20Reviews>£1.99 / $2.99 for Castro? Quite simply the refinement to keep the features in you only really need just works.
What makes a good podcast app?
Well for me it's a combination of things which thankfully make reviewing apps like this a little easier
Adding and searching for podcasts should be easy and allow the casual click onto something that looks interesting. Quite a few of my podcasts just happen to be through something catching my eye of content that out of the blue interests me. So it's good not only to have your own favourites that you've no doubt built up if you even know what a podcasting app is but also for those discoveries.
The interface should be "walking thumb friendly". Ever been walking down the road trying to use an app but had to stop dead because you keep missing the touch targets? Annoying isn't it and that's just for the basics of trying to select your podcast.
Advanced playback controls can often be another source of frustration. Scrubbing through timelines to get to the point you want or just simply skipping commercials or as they are called these days "sponsor reads" have lacked in usability and ideas for sometime. This brings things back to the "walking thumb friendly" design considerations.
Finally content management. I'm just lazy at managing my cast collection. Just recently I was trying to synch up some tv shows with my phone reporting no space left. Turns out there was a whole host of "other" data was occupying my free space. This I put down to the legion of casts downloaded that needed deleting one, by time-consuming, one.
Other apps have come close to meeting this but always were just shy of the mark and choosing a preferred podcasting app mean choosing what I'd compromise.. Right up until Castro came along.
Adding and Discovering Content
Castro is really aimed for those who know what casts they want to subscribe to and not discovering new ones as in the Apple podcast offering. You can argue that most discoverable casts are in the top 10 anyways but we all know that you shouldn't solely rely on Apple to promote your show. There are no categories or presets to scroll through but you do get results based on searches. As you start to type Mac Review Cast the list populates based on text entry.
In searching for podcasts you get the first glimpses of how touch friendly and almost "designed for your thumb / thumb walking friendly Castro is. It;s obvious the design throughout leans heavily more towards the iOS 7 stylings but not blatantly copying throughout. So many apps both for iOS and the Mac rip the design instead of taking inspiration but that's for another post.
One click tap on a show and a notification drop down from the top later it's added to your subscription list. Rather oddly there's no swipe from the left to right to head back to the list of casts. Instead the up arrow type icon gets you back to the main screen.
The main screen that was once empty at the start is now full of your subscriptions and like most apps worth their ilk a pull down from the top performs the refresh. Update progress is shown by the smallest of lines right the podcasts / episodes labels at the top.
What you won't find is a number of shows or any sort of count in either this screen or in the show list which is another reminder the focus seems to be on quick visuals that purely just "make sense".
Settings are spares and done with a per stream basis rather than an overall application wide-set of choices. Due to my poorest of poor podcast management I have 700+ casts to catch up. News mode there to help with just that although I'm not entirely sure how many old casts it will keep.
By far the playback screen must be a developers and a designers nightmare. How much real estate do you give to different objects, control or album artwork? The standard seems to be settling on big artwork, standard controls at the bottom. Castro does it's own refined spin on this.
Any other screen than that of the playing screen will show the cast down at the bottom always giving you a way to get back to what's playing when browsing around feeds.
[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last]Advertising is the main revenue income for TV and Radio and pod crafting is no exception. Thankfully podcasting revenues tend to be more focussed, catering to the distinct market of subscribers but that doesn't stop us wanting to skip past them
Castro has the defacto standard 30 second skip forwards and backwards along with the time line scrubber. Scrubbing controls don't shout out at you yet doesn't stop it being fiendishly clever.
To scrub you simple pull drag from either side of the audio controls, those controls move aside elegantly sliding up a progress bar to show where you are in your listening.
As great as this touch is there the fine scrubbing element missing. Fine scrubbing happens when you move your finger further away from the playing time line. The further away you are the shorter finer the scrub. Castro scrubs in 6 second increments on the time line and has the 30 second forward, backward skip.
Castro takes full advantage of the transparencies offered within iOS 7, almost theming your playback window based on the art work of your podcast. It's a subtle and non charing change making it feel more personalised and somehow warmer than other apps out there. [/two_third_last]
Castro Conclusion - A New EssentialMac App.
If I was at Apple I'd be kicking myself as this is the podcasting app I bet they wished they had released. Castro steers itself away from being a "simple player" to having just the right amount of feature set you'd actually need.
That being said I really do miss being able to download on 3G as I have unlimited data and it's way faster than my home wifi. Finer scrubbing is less of an issue for me personally but seeing as most other attempts at this rarely work.
Looking for a simple, no fuss but elegantly styled podcast app? You won't go wrong with Castro.
Castro — High Fidelity Podcasts - Supertop Is available from the app store for £1.99