Fix Apple Podcasts's stuttering by moving to an alternative app

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in iOS
Go beyond Apple's own player to find new features and options that will particularly help if you listen to a lot of shows. AppleInsider tunes in.




It doesn't sound like a complicated choice. If you want to listen to podcasts, there's a free Podcasts app right there on your iPhone or iPad. Apple makes that app and actually it's Apple that made this form of audio popular: the pod in podcasts comes from iPod.

You might wonder where you get the actual podcasts you want to listen to, but otherwise this all seems very simple -- because it can be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Apple's Podcasts app.

Or rather, there isn't for most people. For some, there is very definitely a problem with it and for others there are alternatives that do things a little better.

The problem

For some people, Apple Podcasts is unlistenable because it stutters. It's such a rare problem that Apple hasn't acknowledged it but if you're one of the unfortunate few, it is impossible to keep listening.




First you get a sudden silence, like your phone is about to receive a call. Then the audio resumes but maybe it seems a little fast like it's catching up. However, then it stops again, this time for a fraction of a second and lurches back into the next syllable.

So far it appears that iOS 12 fixes the problem but until Apple officially recognizes it and says so, we can't be sure. We can report that our experience is that the stuttering goes away under iOS 12.

And we can also offer a workaround that is certain to fix it. Switch to a different podcast player. It's not like your choice is limited.

There are podcast players that are good for handling large libraries of shows and ones that give you features for skipping or speeding up bits.

Plus there are ones with really very dreary names.

Trying to depress us

You're used to apps taking two words and putting them together to make a name. Sometimes you suspect the makers may not have stepped back to read that name again. Such as when a developer wanted to make an illustration app seem both creative and professional and so called it Procreate.

Similarly, you'll be hard-pressed to find a podcast player app whose name doesn't end in -cast but the consequence is that we get Overcast and Downcast.

Downcast seems to not have been developed much recently but Overcast is one of the most popular players available.

Overcast

Overcast works to make managing podcasts easier and also for altering them. As you listen, for instance, you can tap a button called Voice Boost to alter the audio quality. In our experience it just makes the podcast louder but when you're driving, that might be what you need.




Alternatively, if you're in a hurry then Overcast also lets you speed up a podcast, for instance. You can already tell Apple's Podcasts app to play at a range of speeds from half to twice as fast as normal but Overcast does more.

With Overcast, you can say that you want the app to automatically skip over any silent portions of the podcast. Breaker and Castro now do this too but the feature was introduced in Overcast and it is a way to cut down just how long it takes you to listen to a podcast.

Add in the the fact that Overcast will play podcasts up to three times faster than normal and you can really race through your listening.

Only, call it our BBC Radio background, but if you find yourself skipping bits and speeding up a podcast, go click on the Unsubscribe button instead. A show is produced to be heard a certain way and there are indeed times when silences are part of it.

Podcasts are not a simple information delivery mechanism: if they were, there'd be no difference between a podcast and Siri reading out an article to you.

Overcast is a free download and defaults to being supported by ads. They're as unobtrusive as adverts come and they don't appear on every page. Plus they're often ads for other podcasts which can even be useful.

Nonetheless, you can pay a subscription of $9.99 per year to optionally remove the ads. That's not a mistake: removing the ads is an option even when you've paid. You can choose to subscribe and to keep the ads as well.

Castro

Castro has similar features to Overcast but it also addresses an issue that faces the less organized of podcast listeners. As much as you may like various shows, often you'll find you slip behind on your listening and these things mount up.

Apple's Podcasts app notices when you haven't played a series for a while and it takes steps. First it stops downloading episodes, then the next time you do go into it, the app asks if you're still interested.




It's a good system, though it doesn't appear to have stopped our iPhones getting clogged up with gigabytes of podcast audio.

What Castro does instead is stem the tide at its source. Rather than waiting to see what you do, Castro asks you. When you open the app, you'll see a list of all the podcast episodes that have come in since you last listened, and Castro gives you choices.

You can, of course, play one right now. However, faced with an inbox full of them, you can tap to deal rapidly with each one. Play it now or play it next after whatever you're listening to at the moment. You can tap to add this episode to the back of a queue before you listen to the lot.

Or, our favorite feature, you can say no. You might love a series but you can see from the description that you aren't interested in this edition. Or you can see from your watch that you haven't got time. So you can tap on an Archive button and that episode vanishes on you but you remain subscribed to the series.

All of this is free and it happens to particularly suit how we like listening to podcasts. There is a paid version of Castro, however, which adds options to do with skipping silence but also the ability to load other audio. Rather than solely playing podcasts, the paid edition lets you add any audio you have.

That helps make this a single place to listen to everything.

Castro">Castro is free to download and use but there's a paid version that costs $8.99 per year or $2.99 per quarter.

Finding podcasts

Here's one for you. Have a listen to the AppleInsider podcast.

Other than by direct recommendation like that, the way you find podcasts comes down to exploring. Podcast apps have different ways of helping you, though.




Apple's Podcasts app is the weakest. It gives you a search bar and you can type in keywords or any search term and hope it turns up something interesting.

Overcast maintains a visual catalog of recommended podcasts. There's an overall recommendation plus more in categories such as Arts, Business and so on. Plus Overcast includes a section called Collections which lists podcasts by their makers, such as Relay.fm or Radiotopia.

These are more like networks of podcasts. There shouldn't be any reason to think that if you love the superb design series 99% Invisible then you'll like others from the same network, yet somehow the odds are that you will.

Seeing these sister podcasts and also just seeing icons for many shows does make Overcast feel like a gallery.

In comparison, Castro feels a little more barebones. Rather than any visuals, you're presented first with a listing of topics but then when you go into any of them, you're shown icons and full titles.

Much more elaborate is Breaker. While its features are reasonably basic, it aims to offer you podcasts through social media interaction. As you find ones you like and listen in Breaker, you help other people discover those shows and vice versa.

It's one of those ideas that needs a lot of people to be using the app and a lot of time for it to build up into always offering you something interesting. However, it is a way to get you out of the rut of always listening to the same shows or in the same categories.

Breaker is another podcast app that's free to download but has a paid version. In this case, though, the paid tiers range from 99c to $4.99 and get you exclusive podcast episodes.

Keep listening

It seems as if there are podcasts on every topic and that's probably true. There are certainly enough of them that it's easy to feel the format is familiar or even tired.

Yet these are still early days for podcasts. The production quality of them, the presentation and the entertainment of them is rising. Whether you stick to Apple's Podcasts app or explore a little further, podcasts are a deeply absorbing addition to your iPhone or iPad.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    claire1claire1 Posts: 503unconfirmed, member
    The headline is sad and shows Apple is leaving behind a beautiful business they invented.

    So sad.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 2 of 23
    I abandoned the Apple Podcast app when they completely messed up the UI a few years ago. 

    Switched to Overcast and wouldn't go back. Top quality app, shout out to Marco Arment the developer for the excellent features he has thought up and implemented within the app. Variable speed and Voice Boost specifically, also for keeping it up to date and continually innovating. 

    Worth the yearly subscription.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 3 of 23
    That sucks. I’ve never had that issue... podcast stuttering. I’m on iOS 11.4.1 and I listen to podcasts daily. 
  • Reply 4 of 23
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,191member
    Same here, Apple totally messed up the Podcast app years ago.
    I also switched to Overcast, and see no reason to look back.

    re: finding a podcast

    How about just typing (subject or keywords) and then 'podcast' into Google?

    The problem is that Apple can't seem to do basic search reasonably well. For example, 'The Podcast' doesn't show up well if you search for 'podcast' as they don't disregard or lower the importance of 'the' in search results. They don't do multiple words well or phrases, and certainly don't get synonyms or things like that.

    Many of the podcast search stuff in apps depends on Apple's sucky search capabilities. So, unless you get lucky, it is a poor way to find podcasts. I hope that Google getting more serious about podcasts will fix this. (It's also a really important reason podcasters need a website.)
  • Reply 5 of 23
    Appreciate the roundup...

    Admittedly I didn't like like the revised format of the iPhone Podcast App when it came first was removed from iTunes.

    But having used it now for a couple of years, I've gotten used to it. 

    I have an inclination to pretty much stay with the Apple version of apps, Podcast, Notes, Photos, Mail, Calendar, Pages, Safari, Maps, Keychain, etc.

    They may not be the best Apps out there but the integration across devices is what I rely on. Plus Apple eventually always improves them.

    Best.
    sweetheart777
  • Reply 6 of 23
    anomeanome Posts: 1,272member

    I switched to Overcast because I kept having problems with Apple Podcasts just crashing on me. It continued to happen after multiple iOS updates, and on different phones.

    I've had some issues with Overcast, but not to the same extent. The one thing that might get me to move back is Apple Watch support.

  • Reply 7 of 23
    Interesting. I have the stutter issue in Overcast and sometimes Audible, but never in Apple Podcasts. It may be an OS issue.
  • Reply 8 of 23
    I feel like my needs are so simple; I want one playlist with all my podcasts and I want the oldest one, regardless of which podcast it is, to play first. I can do that easily with iCatcher and even with the help of people at the Apple Store I couldn't do it at all with the Apple Podcast app.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 9 of 23
    I use the Apple player all the time and never experienced the problem the article talked about. The only odd thing I have run into is the player speed changing all of a sudden, but this only happen a few times.
  • Reply 10 of 23
    hartofak said:
    I feel like my needs are so simple; I want one playlist with all my podcasts and I want the oldest one, regardless of which podcast it is, to play first. I can do that easily with iCatcher and even with the help of people at the Apple Store I couldn't do it at all with the Apple Podcast app.
    Select ... on any Podcast you like, tap Settings, on Episode tap Custom Settings, on Custom tap Oldest to Newest.

    I never have any stuttering issue on Podcasts and can’t wait to use it free of my phone when watchOS 5 hits. 
    edited September 2018
  • Reply 11 of 23

    I use the stock Apple app to hear most podcasts. While I have never had any podcast stutter, the problem I have is that Apple makes podcasts region specific. As a result of this, some podcasts are just not available in my region.

    For example, I wanted to hear the "R U Talkin' R.E.M. RE: Me?" podcast but it just wasn't available in my region on the iOS Podcasts app.

    It is for such scenarios that I use Overcast. I can access all available podcasts, getting around Apple's self-imposed regional availability.

    The Overcast Watch App is also very nice and packs a lot of information, including artwork for the podcast on the Watch.



    Overall though, 95% of my listening is on the stock app.

  • Reply 12 of 23
    "Fix" Apple Podcasts's stuttering by moving to an alternative app.

    If you're one of the few whose car is broken, you can "fix" your car by buying a new one. Or "fix" your iPhone's broken screen by buying a new iPhone X.

    Somehow I don't think that word means what you think it means.
  • Reply 13 of 23
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,053member
    Ahh, so I wasn't alone, I've filed so many radars for this. 


    Refreshing my (admittedly large) podcasts list can also freeze up the whole thing for half a minute, definitely an app that could use some fine tuning. 
  • Reply 14 of 23
    I have been having this trouble since 11.3. However it is NOT limited to just podcasts. The music I have loaded from iTunes on my phone can do the same. Very intermittent problem in all cases, and not repeatable with the same podcast or song. This basically happens to all audio playing for me at random intervals. The only app I can't remember having this problem with is VLC.
  • Reply 15 of 23
    wlymwlym Posts: 90member
    I find Apple's Podcast App painful and oftentimes infuriating and I'd love to switch. But with the upcoming Apple Watch podcast support, what are the options? Everything I've tried to get podcasts on my AW have been terribly slow, clunky and laughably inconvenient. The developers blame Apple's API. I'm still logging around my iPhone on runs just to listen to podcasts (although the "Play next" and "Play later" features often fail to do their one job).
  • Reply 16 of 23
    I like how Overcast has the option to skip up to a minute at a time. Perfect for skipping commercials and boring sections of content. I set the forward skip to 60s and the reverse skip to 15s, in case I overshoot the commercials, a bit too far.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 17 of 23
    Which of these are supported in CarPlay? That is where I listen to many podcasts.

    Also, iTunes streaming and sometimes downloaded music content has little stops here and there. This started in the last year or so. Cannot comment on Apple Music as I do not use it. Have not seen the problem on Podcasts.

    Finally, the TuneIn Radio Pro app gives access to a lot of podcasts in addition to the streaming radio. It is supported on CarPlay.
  • Reply 18 of 23
    D_CMillsD_CMills Posts: 21unconfirmed, member
    anome said:

    I switched to Overcast because I kept having problems with Apple Podcasts just crashing on me. It continued to happen after multiple iOS updates, and on different phones.

    I've had some issues with Overcast, but not to the same extent. The one thing that might get me to move back is Apple Watch support.

    Overcast has great watch support too, and with WatchOS 5, it will be able to control the volume too.
  • Reply 19 of 23
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,191member
    anome said:

    I switched to Overcast because I kept having problems with Apple Podcasts just crashing on me. It continued to happen after multiple iOS updates, and on different phones.

    I've had some issues with Overcast, but not to the same extent. The one thing that might get me to move back is Apple Watch support.

    Yeah, that would suck, but same here. Fortunately, I think Marco has been talking like the goods should be there to implement Apple Watch support again. I hope so, as that would also help my interest in the Apple Watch at times (I prefer wired headphones for primary use).

    matrix077 said:
    Select ... on any Podcast you like, tap Settings, on Episode tap Custom Settings, on Custom tap Oldest to Newest.
    That would only apply to the episodes in that podcast. I think they were talking about playing the oldest to newest episodes, regardless of which podcast they were in.
    Overcast easily does this, including the ability to further customize priority.

    tipoo said:
    Refreshing my (admittedly large) podcasts list can also freeze up the whole thing for half a minute, definitely an app that could use some fine tuning. 
    THIS ^^^ was the huge selling point of Overcast for me. Marco's servers do the scanning of podcast feeds for new episodes and then when Overcast (app) checks, it doesn't have to spend 15 minutes to half-an-hour (no kidding) scanning all the individual podcast feeds (and often crashing in the process). Add in all the other features (like smart speed which has now saved me 394 hours since I started using it... and the ability to just dump mp3 up to Marco's server to be included in my podcast mix... and it's one of the few subscriptions I'm almost delighted to pay (and, you don't even have to pay if you don't want... but you get ads and no upload feature then).

    wlym said:
    Everything I've tried to get podcasts on my AW have been terribly slow, clunky and laughably inconvenient. The developers blame Apple's API.
    If I remember correctly, Apple made the app (before they pulled API support) re-compress the audio into some odd format/bitrate. Overcast had it for a while. But, as mentioned above, I think Marco is talking like it will return in the next OS version, but much more correctly done.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    On my iPhone 7+, I’ve been experienceing the studders, Bluetooth dropouts, and recently popping when I play at faster than regular speed (I usually listen at 1.5x). I’ve spoken with Apple several times, and they’ve acknowledged nothing. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one with these problems. I’ll give iOS 12 a chance, but I’ll be ready to switch to Overcast if Apple can’t get these issues fixed. 
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