I go through podcast apps like a teenager goes through chat clients, and my latest is current homescreen occupant Castro from Supertop. Castro ($2.99) is gorgeous to look at with iOS 7 friendly aesthetics and controls that go all out to make individual podcasts look fantastic. I love how Castro layers podcast icons over dreamy Gaussian blurred backgrounds using the same icon, and the largely dark palette, thin fonts, and crisp lines of Castro make for a GUI that helps me forget how much I love Pocket Casts .
Controls are intuitive and in one regard innovative, with support for iOS7 “swipebacks” to the previous page, swipe to delete (episodes), and a super fast search feature that makes it dead simple to listen to and/or subscribe to new podcasts. On the innovative side, a unique 1 scrubber control has users touching and scrubbing from either end of the timeline instead of the tradional dragging of a point back and forth. We like it a lot, but can certainly see other users balking at the unfamiliar.
Version 1 of Castro does the basics very well, but does suffer from some glaring cons. Castro doesn't support playlists, it doesn't play videocasts, it doesn't offer a sleep timer, and Castro's settings are unfortunately buried in the settings app. I wouldn't use playlists to listen to podcasts so that's of small personal concern, but not being able to watch something like The Vergecast is a bit of a problem, and hiding your settings in another app is definitely a problem. While I realize that Supertop is trying to keep Castro's interface clean and free of disruptions, it seems obvious to me that exiting the app to adjust settings in another app is distinctly disruptive. In addition to some missing features, I've experienced the occasional crash or two with Castro, as well as a bug where audio isn't playing even when the scrubber says the podcast is playing. I expect the bugs to be continually addressed as Castro creeps to version 1.1, but user feedback will likely guide playlist support, the ability to play videocasts, and the app's settings location going forward.
Despite these small stumbles and the usual growing pains, Castro still shines as an intuitive and dare I say, down right pretty podcast player that does everything I need it to: fast searches, background updates, download notifications, and even user defined cache sizes 2. Because podcast players are so utilitarian, and because competitors like Pocket Casts, Downcast, and Instacast are so competent, it's hard to say Castro is a must-have download, but if you're looking to try something new, or looking for your first third-party podcast player, definitely check out Castro. Its clean looks and elegant interface put the focus where it should be, on your podcasts, making it well worth a download and likely, a place on your homescreen too.
Castro by Supertop is $2.99 and is available for iPhone.