So, smart looks, smart filters, and smart queueing, but ever since Overcast launched some two years ago, the only thing podcast listeners really seem to care about is, "can you even smart speed bro?" Smart Speed of course being Marco Arment's very useful setting in Overcast to shorten the silences between all the countless gaps and pauses that are the inevitable consequence of speaking on a microphone, gathering your thoughts, interacting with cohosts and audio technology, or just good old fashioned Skype delays. The beauty of Smart Speed is that it's free — that is, the time savings netted from using Smart Speed come minus the penalty of distortion that one would get by simply speeding up the audio, and as any Overcast user who has checked their stats in that app's settings can tell you: the savings can really add up. Long story short — yes, Pocket Casts can Smart Speed, here more matter-of-factly branded "Trim Silence." Enabled, it seems to work just as well as Smart Speed, and before you ask — yes Voice Boost is here too (or in Pocket Casts-speak "Volume Boost") as are easily changed incremental adjustments to playback speed (I am personally quite partial to 1.1x playback myself).
If it isn't clear by now, Pocket Casts 6.0 is a big update that checks off nearly every feature a person could want in a modern podcast player — so many in fact, that I haven't begun to cover all of them adequately, if at all (like sync, a web app, and that new Discover section that's quite nice — though critically lacks the ability to listen to single episodes minus a subscription). Some of the improvements are there of course to reach parity with the competition, but most seem intended to genuinely improve the user experience of an already very good podcast player.
That said ( insert record skip sound here ) there are many users, we'll call them Overcast users, who aren't going to go in for all of Pocket Casts' knobs and dials — and I totally get that. There is an obvious appeal in Overcast's straightforward approach and simple feature set: playlists and smart speed and voice boost and done. It sounds terrible to say, but if you love Overcast, there's really not much need in investigating Pocket Casts 6 — enjoy your status quo. If you're one however that suffers with restless leg syndrome, in where your legs are instead podcast player apps, or you have "feelings" about aesthetics, or you're using one of the apps not mentioned in the intro, and assuming you aren't already using Pocket Casts — try Pocket Casts 6. Version 6 is a huge update, long in the making, it should cover all your bases, it looks amazing, it's on iPhone and iPad (and Android may God bless your soul), and it lays the ground work for faster incremental updates in the future (a recent version 6.1 update for example added Car Play support). The bottom line: if I had to make a broad sweeping recommendation for a podcast player — it would, as thing stand now between the competing clients, most certainly be Pocket Casts 6 — even if in the end — it wasn't ultimately for me. More on that, soon.
Pocket Casts 6 requires iOS 9.0 or later and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Pocket Casts is a universal app and works with Car Play, but it does not ship with an Apple Watch app at the time of this review.