Personal Podcast App Tug of War

I have been going through a tug of war trying to figure out which podcast app to use. One week, I’ll use Pocket Casts, the next week I’ll switch back to Apple Podcasts. Occasionally, I’ll look at Overcast and just wonder, “What the hell am I doing here? The web app is too basic and I have never liked how the mobile app works, this is a waste of time.” So I jump back and forth, have to mark lots of episodes as played across both apps, and live in a world of indecisiveness. I think, though, that I finally have everything straightened out and have actually settled on where I will be in the future.

Spoiler warning: I’m sticking with Pocket Casts.

Why have I been struggling so hard with this? Turns out it was actually a bit of self sabotage, but we’ll get to that shortly. Numerous times I have made a pros and cons list of each app in my head, and always found that what one was lacking in, the other had available, which is what caused me to keep jumping back and forth between them. 

Apple Podcasts


  • Comes preinstalled on iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS
  • Windows support via iTunes
  • AppleTV App
  • Free
  • Handoff
  • Excellent AirPlay support, including on MacOS and Windows
    • Allows you to pause a podcast playing on your MacOS through AirPlay on your phone or directly on a HomePods
  • CarPlay
  • Easy offline play on MacOS and Windows
  • Play Stations in Manual Show Order
    • Organize your Shows in what you consider a priority, and the episodes in a station sort that way for playback
  • Subscribe to show by URL


  • Syncing isn’t always reliable
    • Especially AppleTV. What is played never syncs there
  • Up Next doesn’t sync
  • Windows app, iTunes, will not play at higher speeds
  • Can no longer set limits of episodes to keep on MacOS and iOS (lack of auto-archive)
  • If you are playing from a MacOS through AirPlay, the podcast play position gets weirdly out of line if you pause for a while, resulting in many minutes of silence while it catches up at the end of an episode
  • Stations do not allow you to define if you want only episodes that are download to show up
  • Sometimes, new episodes that are in the feed do not show up at all
  • Automatic downloads on iOS and iPadOS are not working in the background
  • Apple Watch syncing barely works
  • No way to select multiple episodes at once on mobile

The syncing is honestly the biggest thing for me. If you’re not going to actually do the single most basic thing that I need you to do, then what the hell is the point? This isn’t 2007. I’m not listening to podcasts on my iPod where the only way I have to sync them is to hook up to my computer. I need over the air syncing to be reliable and fast. But the Handoff, and the AirPlay support, I have AirPods in most every room, I play to the majority of them all day while I’m working so I can walk around and listen to everything. It’s so great, and I do it from my MacOS so I’m not killing my battery. That means, if I get a work phone call and I’m in the kitchen, I need to be able to easily pause my audio. 

I get sick of having to mark some weekend episodes of my daily podcasts played, because I never listen to them. If I could just set an episode limit like I used to be able to, then that wouldn’t be a problem. I also have some actual play RPG podcasts I listen to when I have time, and I don’t want the episodes showing up in stations if they’re not downloaded. I want to be able to just put the podcasts in a station, then only see the downloaded episodes, so I can keep a few around to play when I’m caught up on everything else. Not with the Apple Podcasts app, though, you mush see all 90 unplayed episodes, or you don’t get to add them.

Even with that list of cons, why did I keep coming back to it? Mainly because of Handoff and AirPlay. Since automatic background downloads weren’t working for me with Pocket Casts, I just didn’t see the point in choosing it. If my shows can’t just be there, I was willing to take the extra quality of life improvements of those two features over everything else. This is also where my self sabotage came from.

Pocket Casts


  • Available on iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, Windows, Android
  • Lightning fast and reliable syncing
  • Up next syncs across all devices
  • Granular speed controls
  • Trim silence on mobile
  • Volume boost on mobile
  • Skip intro/Skip outro settings
  • Ability to upload your own files
    • Great for DRM free audio books!
  • Fine control over Auto-Archive settings
    • Maybe too fine, see Cons
  • Filters can only show downloaded episodes
  • Apple Watch app actually syncs and downloads
  • Intelligent playback resumption on mobile
  • Subscribe to podcasts by URL
  • Good AirPlay support on mobile
  • Mark as played button in the CarPlay app on the Now Playing screen
  • Sort subscribed shows into folders
  • Ability to automatically add episodes of shows to up next


  • Not free
    • For me this is not an issue. I bought it before the subscription model so have Pro for life.
  • No easy offline playback support on MacOS or Windows
  • Filters are not available in the MacOS or Windows app
  • No Handoff
  • Lack of AirPlay support in the Windows and MacOS apps. 
    • Yes, you can AirPlay to one HomePod from the MacOS app and you can tell it to pause and do all the other stuff, but I want to play to multiple. This is not Pocket Casts fault, this is Apple’s for not allowing this in MacOS
  • Setting up auto-archive can be time consuming because the global setting only allows removing episodes after a period of time, and won’t let you globally limit the number of episodes per show
  • Automatic downloads on iOS and iPadOS are not working in the background
  • Playing a Filter in CarPlay will not result in continuous playback of the entire filter
  • MacOS app lacks AppleScript support

The pros of Pocket Casts clearly outweigh the cons, and the pros of Pocket Casts put it light years ahead of Apple Podcasts! But that background download not working, and lack of AirPlay support just keep biting me in the ass. 

I tried to take care of AirPlay to multiple HomePods at once by purchasing an app called AirParrot. It kinda works. Sound drops constantly. Sometimes you can a howling feedback scream through the HomePods. The HomePods just won’t show up. It seems to be better on Windows than MacOS, but I rarely listen on Windows, so I don’t use it there very much. I found another app that lets you do the same thing, and it’s called AirFoil. It works a lot better than AirParrot, allows you to create groups of speakers so you can transmit to multiple ones at once with a single click, and even has an iOS and iPadOS app that allows you to control AirFoil on your Mac from your mobile devices. However, it will not allow you to play or pause unless you’re sitting at your computer.

Not being able to play or pause was the biggest issue I had, and why I kept going back to Podcasts. If Pocket Casts on MacOS had AppleScript support, it would be easy to create a script to run via Alfred to pause and play shows in Pocket Casts. Since it lacks AppleScript support, that wouldn’t work. Then, one day, my Google Fu proved productive enough for me to find an Alfred workflow that would call the Play/Pause and Forward/Back which I could then add to the Alfred Remote app on my iOS and iPadOS devices, and allow me to remotely control playback. 

Lots of workarounds, but it all worked. Still, no background automatic downloads.

Turns out that was entirely my fault. I looked at the Pocket Casts FAQ to see if I could figure out what was going on. Backgroun app refresh was turned on. They suggest having notifications turned on as well to help with background refresh, so I made sure I had notifications turned on, because they had actually been off. My download queue filter was set to automatically download. Everything should have been working, but I never received a single notification of new episodes. I thought this must be the culprit, but I could not figure out why I wasn’t getting notifications.

After turning them off and back on, changing how they were delivered, and messing around with them in multiple different ways, I finally decided to just delete the app, reinstall, and start over from scratch. When I go into the app and turn on notifications, I am presented with the usual popup asking if I want to allow notifications. I tapped allow. Then I had a think.

Even though I had been jumping back and forth between the apps, I was not deleting them. I know me, I knew what I was going to do, and I didn’t want to have to fight with setting up specific show settings all over again, especially since I had stupidly gone through all of my podcasts and set them to limit to a certain number of episodes instead of just thinking about how often the show comes out, setting the default amount of time for what most are, then setting the one offs to be specific, like I tell my customers to do all the damn time when setting things up for their warehouses in our WMS, but I digress. I must have hit don’t allow when I installed Pocket Casts forever ago. I try to keep notifications to a minimum. I don’t want my phone controlling me, I want to control it, and notifications are the worst. But I can have them delivered silently.

The next time a feed refreshed, I received a notification of a new episode, I had them set to be immediate at first for testing purposes, and I checked and the episode had downloaded. It was me. I’m the problem.

Sure, I have to do some workarounds to make everything work the way I want it, but that’s fine, because I am finally happy with my choice of podcast player.