App Ecosystems (or Why I Came Back to iOS from Android)

Android Central put together a list of the 5 best podcast apps for Android. As a passionate podcast listener and producer, I tried them all when I ran my 6-month Android experiment. What can i say about these apps? Pocket Casts is good and the other 4 are bad. Not like “just not my taste” bad, but actually bad. Most of them felt like they were transported from 5 years ago. I mean, just look at this screenshot from DoggCatcher:

I might be crazy, but that doesn’t look good to me. And don’t think this is an old, non-updated app; this was updated just this Saturday with Material Design updates.

The functionality was not there for these podcast players as well. Variable playback speed, something that’s a given in iOS podcast apps, is not standard at all the Android apps. Some can do it, but only if you download another companion app to make it possible. What?!?!? Some are missing any sort of cloud sync or backup options. That means that your podcast queue lives on one device only, which is rather limiting once you get used to having it elsewhere. And finally, none of them have those special wild card features that make them truely unique. On iOS, Overcast has “smart speed” and “voice boost” while Castro has “enhanced audio.” None of these apps have anything that compares. DoggCatcher lists “Integrated Audio/Video Player” as a key feature of their app. No shit!

Now, I should say that Pocket Casts is the only good Android podcast app and it’s pretty great. I’m not saying that you can’t make a great app for Android, I’m just saying that most apps out there are bad.

So what would a “Top 5 Podcast Apps for iOS” look like? Here’s what I’d put:

If you follow those links to the App Store and just take a look at the screenshots, you’ll already notice a much higher level of polish across the board. Not only do they look better and have better UIs, but 4 of the 5 have companion apps for your desktop computer and they all run on the iPad. I can also say that I have used each of these apps as my full-time podcast listening app at one point or another.

And that’s what I’m getting at, yes, you can make a list of 5 podcast apps for Android, but that doesn’t mean each of those 5 are great apps. On iOS though, deciding between those 5 podcast apps is based on what your taste is in design or who’s standout feature appeals to you the most. I use Overcast, but I wouldn’t tell someone who uses Castro that they are using the wrong app; they’re just using the app that they prefer. The story is the same if you move this discussion to writing apps, or camera replacements, or task managers, to weather apps, and on and on.

I don’t suggest that iOS is fundamentally better than Android, but I do think that when someone brings up that fun phrase “app ecosystem” into the Android vs. iOS discussion, this is what they’re talking about.