I go through podcast apps like a teenager goes through chat clients, and my latest is current homescreen occupant Castro…
Well teens may have many more chat clients to choose from, but I'm still using Castro. Yeah, a big part of the why is because Castro just looks so darn good. With its dark demeanor, ample use of background blur, and emphasis on your podcasts' art, Castro looks really good. But Castro doesn't just look good, it also feels good. iOS 7 friendly edge swipes, swipe to deletes (i.e. mark as played), and a really nifty scrubber that makes it dead simple to drop into your podcast exactly where you want. Given the looks, the feel, oh and I almost forgot, Castro's fast search and add, there isn't much to complain about, right?
A Look Back
Actually, that is about right, because back when I wrote the review there were only a few things that bugged me. The early versions of Castro had the odd bug or two, typical of new apps, most of which to my eye have been pretty well exterminated. Castro didn't do playlists, not a real negative for me personally, and Castro didn't do videocasts (it does play their audio), which means I can't watch the Vergecast, but hey, I'll survive. More annoying at the time was the decision to bury the app's settings in the iOS Settings app, and the lack of a sleep timer, the latter omission requiring the user workaround of setting the iOS' Timer function in the Clock app to “Stop Playing” when the Timer ends. I suspect the setting's location was in the interest of simplifying the app, and the missing sleep timer just a victim of shipping the app in the best state possible at the time, but clearly it would be far more helpful to tinker with the app's settings and setting a sleep timer from inside the app.
Enter Castro - High Fidelity Podcasts version 1.1. I've been lucky enough to play with Supertop's first big point release a bit early and it's definitely a solid step forward; picture polishing up everything I liked above about the way Castro looks and feels and eliminating two of my “biggest” gripes. No, still no videocasts or playlists, but Supertop now gives you access to the app's settings in-app, and hey: a sleeptimer.
Better still, both additions are implemented in clever fashion. First, settings: they can be accessed easily enough by pinching vertically anywhere in the app or from Castro's main podcast and episode list views via a hamburger navicon, though this one's top “bun” has been modified in a predictive way. Tap the hamburger (or pinch) and the page you're on kicks back and up revealing voilà: Castro's extensive app settings. Your first options in are settings for playback speed, the sleep timer, and also new, a continuous play option for downloaded episodes. According to the guys at Supertop, the playback speed algorithm has been tweaked to improve audio quality at altered speeds, and it works, making for a more natural, less Alvin and the Chipmunks sound at higher than normal playback. The sleep timer is clever too. Just slide or tap to set, afterwards the time remaining stays clearly visible, tap it again to bump the time to the nearest interval. Like a lot of things with Castro, it's simple, effective, and implemented with a nice subtle touch that you're always looking for in app design, but don't usually get.
Scroll down deeper into the settings and you'll find a whole host of geek friendly settings: streaming options, interval options, wi-fi only downloads, cache settings, and notifications. On the notifications, Castro is great about grabbing new episodes using iOS 7's background refresh, and it let's you know when it's done so. If you've got Wi-Fi only streaming selected in the settings, and you lose your Wi-Fi, Castro's kind enough to pause the streaming and notify you of the issue, which is great for the data-plan challenged among us.
Version 1.1 also sports a design refresh, nothing major, just a few tweaks here and there that appear largely oriented at making the app more accessible, more legible, and bit more fluid. Previously to add a new podcast, you'd have to scroll through all of you podcasts to get to the “+” that enabled you to search and then add your new podcast. Now that “+” is just affixed to the top of the app. Tap it, start entering your search, and Castro quickly starts predicting your choice. Straight from the search results you can insta-subscribe, or tap the podcast to browse its episode offerings and then subscribe. If not, a left to right edge swipe brings you back to your still intact search results. Perfect.
Elsewhere some fonts get a bolder look, animations feel more finessed and just overall the app looks a shade darker, though as always Castro's looks are greatly enhanced by your podcast's artwork. I've always thought Castro was good looking and easy to use, but it's certainly easier and more intuitive now, and likely for most users will be more visually appealing as well, though I for one have a personal preference for thin and still thinner fonts.
Since the beginning a favorite and immediate home screen occupant, Castro version 1.1 is a real nice upgrade to an already very tight app. Supertop has made Castro look, work, and feel better, all the while adding a feature or two or three, that make the app that much better. I'd love for videocasts to be supported soon, and a native iPad version of the app (and I suppose sync) would be really nice, but for now I'm more than happy with Castro “as is”. If you've been on the fence about Castro in the past, just get it now. As I said previosly in my original Castro review conclusion
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.
Since then, Castro's only gotten better.
Castro - High Fidelity Podcasts Version 1.1 by Supertop is $2.99 and is available for iPhone only.