I’ve become quite fond of listening to podcasts while I do boring, mindless household chores. I put my earbuds in and get lost in an interesting episode from one of the many podcast series to which I subscribe. But I had a problem I had to overcome: most people, including myself, talk too slowly to hold my attention in a podcast. My mind drifts.
When I produced podcasts myself, I found that, when speaking normally for me, I also frequently had pauses between words or changes in ideas that just felt too long. At times I would even have pauses that felt a beat or two too long between words. So, when I edited the final product, I would always go through the recorded audio and cut out those beats of silence to pick up the pace. (I would also cut out those annoying “um”s and other vocalized stalls.) Pacing matters to me, especially as a listener.
And then I discovered the podcast app: Overcast1 . I love this app! It’s standout feature, in my mind, is what the developer calls Smart Speed. The user can adjust the speed of the spoken text to their liking. The speed adjustment can range from slower than the speaker is actually speaking to up to 3x the speed the presenter is speaking. It does this while dynamically reducing silences, and maintaining the normal pitch of the speaker’s voice; so, the person talking doesn’t sound like a chipmunk.
I find that I listen to podcasts typically about 1.5x faster than the speaker actually was speaking. That pace is brisk but, to my ears, sounds like a good pace that allows me to process what is being said without feeling the angst of “Get on with it already!”. It’s noticeably faster but feels and sounds rather natural to me. So, if I’m doing my math correctly, listening to a one hour podcast only takes about 40 minutes of my time, and the speaker has still effectively communicated with me.
Now, if I were listening to plays, dramatic readings, or other artist expressions in which pacing is an integral part of the presentation, perhaps this would harm the nature of the experience. But I don’t. I listen to people sharing ideas, thoughts, and perspective about current and cultural events, history, policy, legal matters and the like. So Smart Speed is a matter of simple expediency for me: hear more in less time while avoiding daydreaming.
And I’ve noticed incredible attention to detail with the feature set. For example: When you pause and then return to listening, Overcast skips back a bit; so, you have a brief moment to get plugged back into the context of where you left off. Okay, and yes! Thank you!! When you use the skip ahead button, Overcast never lands in the middle of words. It begins playing from a split second of silence. Clever finishing touches!
Another feature I love: the developer provides an Watch app. I can control Overcast directly from my watch face when my phone is nearby or in my coat. I can skip forward or go back, pause or play, even stream without my iPhone at all. And the skip forward and back controls, on all platforms, can be individually adjusted in the app to your liking. I have mine set to skip back 10 second but to skip forward to 30 seconds. Remember, this man can not abide advertising.
If a podcast series always has the same intro and ending segments, you can tell the app not to play the first 30 seconds (or whatever amount of time you choose in 5 second increments) and stop playing just before that repetitive 1 minute ending segment (This time is also adjustable.). These settings can be assigned to each individual subscription.
Overcast also features Voice Boost to keep all of the podcast subscriptions and episodes to which I listen remastered to the same audio level. You don’t have to increase the volume for presenters who are speaking more softly or turn it down for those that speak loudly.
The app lets you download podcasts for offline listening. A premium subscription even lets you upload your own podcasts! And there are numerous other convenient features: Car Play and Sleep Timer to just name two. But, finally, the developer says “Overcast has great privacy, with no third-party analytics, ad services, or tracking code.” Refreshing. I have in no way covered all of the features, just the ones I love the most.
Overcast can be used through your desktop browser, on your iPhone, iPad, or Watch. Screenshots from the App Store are presented below.
Overcast is the product of a single developer, Marco, who actually uses his product. So, I don’t mind renting it from him. (He does frequent updates.) But, if seeing visual ads that support his app development doesn’t offend your sensibilities or you don’t need to upload your own podcasts, you don’t have to pay him a subscription fee. But the fee is a nominal $10 per year.
If you’re looking for a better way to listen to podcasts – the best way if you ask me2 , I highly recommend this app, and I’m not alone. He has earned great reviews and ratings from a variety of techies and individuals.
For my time, Overcast is hands down the best podcast aggregator out there.
A reminder: I never have nor ever will accept any requests or payments of any kind for my endorsements or negative comments. I buy the products I write about just like everyone else, actually use them, and I report my own personal experiences with them. All opinions are my own. Your opinions and experiences may vary.