I <3 PocketCasts

I was a committed DoggCatcher user since December 2011. I’ve posted several times on Google+ suggesting people use it. However, many people also loved PocketCasts, which I was reluctant to try because according to claims DoggCatcher was too configurable, and users were lost in all the settings dialogs. I don’t mind those kinds of dialogs, and am able to navigate them, so I was happy to claim that DoggCatcher worked well for me.

A few weeks ago I hit a bug with DoggCatcher that erased the feed list from my phone, resetting it to the default. The only advice from DoggCatcher support was to have had a backup to begin with, a manual process. If I had to configure the software from scratch, I decided it might as well be with another product, and purchased PocketCasts.

Before we make this about bashing DoggCatcher, remember that it was just a bug. I didn’t leave in anger, it was just an opportunity to try something else.

The first couple of days with PocketCasts felt like a typical, irritating, adjustment period, as I tried to figure out how things worked, and set it up just as I wanted: How do I auto-download all episodes from all podcasts? How do I disable auto-delete? Which podcasts are listened to, and not deleted? How do I tell it that I want to manually download an old episode, but wait until the device has a WIFI signal?

It turns the difference isn’t about configurability, it’s that PocketCasts configures things in a nice and useful way. The power lives in their Smart Playlists, which are not immediately obviois out, but boy, are they great. I have one Smart Playlist that is merely responsible for automatically downloading all new episodes. I have another Smart Playlist that shows all finished, and not deleted, episodes. One Smart Playlist for NPR shows, and another one for Doctor Who podcasts.

DoggCatcher has a variable speed playback feature, but you have to purchase it. I’ve always been happy listening to podcasts at 1x speed. Well, it turns out when variable speed is available for free, it’s super useful. In fact, PocketCasts lets you set a playback speed for each feed, so by default, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History plays at 1.2x speed.

On DoggCatcher, initial durations for fast-forward and reverse were the same. PocketCasts set them to different values. (I can’t remember: was it 10 seconds for reverse and 30 for fast forward?) Either way, the important thing is that they realize the power have having different initial values (if you don’t see the value, try measuring 4 gallons of water with a 3 gallon pail and a 5 gallon pail.)

PocketCasts also supports synchronization, if you like that sort of thing. It doesn’t do much for me, but if you find it useful, I’d like to know how you like it. Can you put down one device, pick up another, and continue from where you left off? How much customization do you still need after getting a new device? By comparison, DoggCatcher has Cloud Sync in limited Beta.

It’s not all sugar and roses with PocketCasts, but the problems are relatively surmountable. For instance, the full list of feeds appears as a grid of icons, when an ordered list would be simpler and easier to comprehend. For crying out loud, they don’t even put a border around each icon, so the images bleed into each other.

I’ve also noticed a problem where rewind is not instantaneous when used with variable-speed playback. So, for instance, if rewind is set for 10 seconds, it might take the app 1.5 seconds just to execute the rewind. So suddenly rewinding 60 seconds takes almost nine seconds of time. Worse, the repeated presses on the rewind button are ignored until prior rewinds complete, so it requires my attention for the full nine seconds.

Another thing about variable-speed playback is that the slider isn’t to easy to control. I like playing things at 1x, 1.1x and 1.2x speeds, and that requires careful nudging of the slider.

PocketCasts support is excellent. I dropped an email to pocketcasts@shiftyjelly.com and received my reply an hour later. By comparison, DoggCatcher uses a forum, which means Yet Another Password To Remember.

PocketCasts just wins. I haven’t looked back.

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