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How to listen to your favorite podcasts over the holidays

Holiday season is coming to a close and those days off will be a great time to catch up on your favorite podcasts. Here are some of the best podcast apps available for Apple's iOS.




Whether you still need to listen to that season finale of Serial, or you're looking to discover some new tech podcasts, there are many great apps to subscribe, download and listen. There are too many to mention here, and a majority of our suggestions are paid apps, but there will be a free option to help new podcast subscribers to start listening right away.

Pocket Casts

With the most upfront cost for podcast apps, Pocket Casts is a universal app available on the iOS App Store, Android and offers cloud syncing for $4.99. Once users purchase the app, there is no fee for the cloud syncing service and no in app purchases to unlock additional features.




Like any podcast app, users can search, discover and subscribe to podcasts and have new episodes download automatically.




Pocket Casts offers granular control over your subscribed shows, auto-deleting after an episode is marked as played, only keeping the last 2-3 episodes, and more. Users can also create custom playlists that filter unplayed episodes, most recent, downloaded, in progress, and more.




Show notes are beautifully displayed in both the episode lists and the play screen. Swiping to the left while playing an episode reveals show notes while swiping to the right reveals the "up next" episodes. Users can choose to queue other episodes of any podcast they're subscribed to for continuous playback.




Two stand out features for Pocket Casts is the ability to set a start time per podcast, and their cloud player. Users can choose to start playing episodes 10, 20 or more seconds into a podcast in order to skip over intro advertisements, or other content.




Signing up for a free Pocket Casts cloud subscription will sync your podcasts and play progress across devices, even Android phones and tablets. They also offer a free web player where users can listen right where they left off on any device.

Overcast

Developed by Marco Arment, Overcast is another universal app that is free to download in the App Store with a $4.99 in app purchase to "unlock everything." The free version allows users to subscribe and download podcasts over wifi, while unlocking the full version opens downloading over cellular data and Overcast's unique audio features like Smart Speed.




The major drawback of Overcast is the inability to stream episodes without downloading them first. This makes the $4.99 in app purchase almost necessary for listening on the go. While Overcast doesn't have as many features as Pocket Casts, there are several audio effects not found anywhere else.




For those that enjoy listening to podcasts at faster speeds, such as 1.5x or 2x, Overcast gives users even more options between 1x and 2x, but it also has a Smart Speed option. Rather than just speeding up a podcast's playback, Smart Speed will shorten silences to create a continuous flow of speech.

There is also a Voice Boost option that can be very useful on some podcasts that are recorded at a lower volume. Voice Boost will raise the volume and EQ the show for easier listening and sounds good most of the time.




Overcast also includes a proprietary cloud syncing service and a basic web browser player that will sync your progress between devices.

Instacast

Another powerful client for iPhone, iPad and the Mac, Instacast is a free download in the App Store with numerous in app purchase options.




Instacast gives you many of the granular controls of Pocket Casts, but features like search are a $0.99 in app purchase.




Two major benefits of Instacast are the ability to bookmark times within an episode and it's native OS X Yosemite app. Bookmarks can be added in any episode of any podcast and users can title them for future reference. These bookmarks also sync across devices using Instacast Cloud and can be exported for backup.




Instacast for Mac is a powerful desktop podcast app but costs $19.99 for new users and $4.99 for those upgrading from version 1.0.




In addition to the iOS and Mac apps, Instacast cloud has several payment options for membership. Features such as data syncing (podcast subscriptions and bookmarks) and push notifications are free, but advanced features are also available.




Instacast is definitely the most expensive option, but for the power podcast listener who spends lots of time on a Mac, the native OS X Yosemite application and cloud syncing is worth a look.

Podcasts

The always-free option is Apple's own built-in Podcasts app for iOS 8. For those just getting introduced to podcasts, the stock app will allow users to search, discover, subscribe and download episodes easily.




While you won't find some of the power features like Instacast or Pocket Casts, the Podcasts app will get the job done and is supposed to sync subscriptions between devices. From our experience, the podcast subscription and episode syncing is not flawless, but if users are mainly listening on one device it shouldn't be an issue.