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The best podcast app doesn't come from Apple or Google

Podcasts have grown in popularity, and so have the ways to listen to them. The top podcast apps come with personalized playlists, offline listening, bonus content, and more. We compared five of them to determine the best app overall, and you may be surprised.
lena-borrelli-author.jpg
Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Allison Murray

Podcasts have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way for both artists and everyday people to communicate via the spoken word. From celebrity news to sports to religion, you can find nearly any type of podcast you are seeking. It is just a matter of finding the right app to give you access to the right podcasts for your interests. 

We've done the research and rounded up the best podcast apps to download today, so you can tune in and relax.  

Two smartphones with a podcast app on them against a red swirl background
Pocket Casts
Pros & Cons
pros
  • Works with multiple systems
  • Easy to customize
  • Personalized features
cons
  • Cannot make episode playlist
  • Limited to podcasts
More Details

Features: Compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay | Trim silence | Variable speed playback

Pocket Casts is a simple yet multi-faceted podcast app, making it our pick for the best podcast app. It offers hand-curated podcast suggestions to make it a simple matter to discover new podcasts and episodes. There is a seemingly endless database of podcast episodes, both new and old, with easy management of your favorite podcasts, so you can access them that much faster. Plus, there are extra tools like the ability to switch from dark to light background, plus several different modes, like Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture to simplify viewing. 

It is easy to build a playback queue to catch all your favorite moments with the ability to play between 0.5 and 3x. Even better, there is no need to subscribe, so you can enjoy your favorite shows in peace and without a financial obligation. Pocket Casts is compatible with multiple systems, including AirPlay, CarPlay, Chromecast, and Sonos. 

Spotify | Best free music service
Spotify
Pros & Cons
pros
  • Free to use
  • Expanded music library
  • Offline listening
cons
  • Must pay for extended features
  • More music-focused
More Details

Features: 3.6 million podcasts | Video podcasts | Download to listen offline

With all of its features, Spotify is best for audiophiles with its expansive music and podcast library. It is free to use if you don't mind the ads; otherwise, there is the option to upgrade to Spotify Premium if you want expanded access and features. Whether you are using your cell phone or a mobile tablet, there are thousands of podcasts you can enjoy. To help you find something new, you are able to search by both podcast and episode. You can also make your own shareable playlists to keep your favorites at the ready. 

If you lose your Internet connection, there is offline listening to keep things going. Depending on your membership, Spotify is available on your tablet, mobile phone, and computer. It is also compatible with your Apple Watch to give you even easier access on the go.

Audible
Audible
Pros & Cons
pros
  • Credits include free monthly plans
  • Expansive library
  • Discounted prices on purchases
cons
  • Limited free credits
  • Must upgrade for premium access
More Details

Features: 425,000 audiobooks and podcasts | Original podcasts | Free option

Audible may be known best for its books, but it offers podcasts, too. Audible is an app that makes it easy to organize your titles, whether they be written or spoken, in your own personal library. You receive access to exclusive podcasts, plus there are audiobooks and brand-new Audible Originals that you cannot find anywhere else. There is no membership or subscription required with plenty of free titles to keep you tuning in. The program is instead credit-based, issuing a number of credits directly to your account each month so you can tune in to all of your favorites. 

For unlimited listening, ditch the credit tracking and move to the Audible Plus catalog with no credit limitations to worry about. You have the option to listen without the requirement of pesky downloads, whether it is the latest episode of your favorite podcast or simply just a great audiobook. 

Woman on phone with a podcast app opened on it
Google
Pros & Cons
pros
  • Widespread selection
  • Easy to manage
  • Compatible with Google Assistant
cons
  • Not the best for non-Google users
  • Lacks desktop downloads
More Details

Features: Compatible with voice commands | Keep track of learning history | Speed up or skip through episodes

Google Podcasts uses the power of Google to always suggest and recommend new things for you to listen to, focusing strictly on podcasts and podcasts alone. This app is able to regularly offer personalized recommendations for your listening pleasure, so there is always something new waiting for you to check out. You can add and manage your subscriptions easily with the ability to continuously build your library with all sorts of different podcast episodes. 

There are a number of different podcast genres available, from education to entertainment to business and news. You can also find podcasts for history, comedy, music, technology, science, sports, and health and fitness.  Either way, once you find what you like, you are in complete control with the ability to speed up or skip parts of the podcast. You can also stack episodes into a ready-to-go playlist that is perfect for when you have a spare few minutes to listen in. 

Apple Podcasts | Best podcast app | Review
http://www.apple.com/nz/newsroom/2021/04/apple-leads-the-next-chapter-of-podcasting-with-apple-podcasts-subscriptions/
Pros & Cons
pros
  • Compatible with a range of Apple devices
  • Exclusive bonus content
  • Curated playlists
cons
  • Not ideal for Android users
More Details

Features: Sleep timer | Filter seasons and episodes | More than 2.5 million shows

Apple Podcasts is a fantastic option for Apple users with personalized playlists of today's best podcasts. The more you listen, the smarter the app gets, offering you exclusive recommendations based on your listening activity. There are curated selections specifically designed to fit your tastes and preferences, whether it is a scripted love story, a bedtime playlist, or a podcast to entertain the kids. As an Apple Podcasts user, you also get to enjoy extra bonus content with earlier access to exciting new content before others. 

When you subscribe, you can listen ad-free, plus listen to exclusive episodes not available anywhere else. Although offline listening is available, Apple Podcasts is also compatible with Siri, Car Play, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod for simple convenience.

What is the best podcast app?

Pocket Cast is an app made exclusively for podcasts. It cuts out all the fluff of other apps, focusing on what it does best - accessing new and changing podcasts.

Here is a bird's eye view of our best podcast apps.

Podcast app

Compatibility

App Store rating

Google Play rating

Pocket Casts

Android, iOS

3.8 

4.1

Spotify

Android, iOS

4.8

4.4

Audible

Android, iOS

4.9

4.6

Google Podcasts

Android, iOS

4.7

4.6

Apple Podcasts

iOS

4.9

N/A

Which podcast app is right for you?

There is no shortage of podcast apps out there, but it can be a bit overwhelming to try to figure out which one is the best for your content needs.

To help you decide, here are our expert recommendations.

Choose this podcast app...

If you want...

Pocket Casts

The best overall option.

Spotify

To be able to switch from music to podcasts. 

Audible

A mix of podcasts and audiobooks. 

Google Podcasts

A reliable podcast app.

Apple Podcasts

To listen to podcasts within the Apple ecosystem.

How did we choose these podcast apps?

There are several factors we considered in our search:

  • Content: The most important thing in a podcast app is the amount of content it provides. Several apps provide access to millions of podcasts and audiobooks to keep you entertained for months to come.  
  • Accessibility: Most apps accommodate both iOS and Android systems, but there are some apps, such as the aptly-named Apple Books, that only accommodates specific systems. Before you choose the best podcast app for your needs, consider whether it is available on your device of choice.
  • Cost: While some apps are free, others may require a one-time purchase or ongoing membership. 
  • Rating: We considered user ratings to get a real-world sense of customer experience with each podcast app.

You can use these same factors to carefully review each app before downloading. 

What is a podcast?

A podcast is an audio-based program that is conversation-based and usually centers around a certain subject or theme. They are typically presented live via streaming or, in many cases, you have the option to download the latest episode. 

Why should I use an app to listen to podcasts?

There are many benefits to using an app for podcasts. For one, it offers access to millions of different subjects and topics, so you can easily find something that interests you. There is also the organizational factor, as apps typically allow you to easily categorize, organize, and search your library of podcast episodes. If you subscribe to a certain podcast, you can get notifications when you subscribe, putting you that much closer to your podcast hosts.

Are there alternative podcast apps worth considering?

Podcast apps are a dime a dozen, but not all of them may offer the best features for your trouble. These are some of the other apps we considered for our list of best podcast apps:

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