19: Overcast 2.5 first impressions

Overcast by Marco Arment continues to be my favorite podcast app, and earlier this week it got some significant updates in version 2.5. I'm not sure if Overcast is my longest-used podcast app — I had long stints with both Instacast and Downcast — but if not, it certainly will be soon.

The number one reason I stick with Overcast and won't be lured by competitors is Smart Speed, which, according to the app, has saved me 105 hours of podcast listening time total. Smart Speed is unchanged in 2.5, but its companion feature, Voice Boost, has been improved: it now detects whether you're listening on the iPhone's built-in speaker and optimizes the sound quality accordingly. That's not how I do the vast majority of my podcast listening, but while making my morning coffee I like to put on a short podcast (usually the NPR News Summary or, on Mondays, Robot or Not).

The other new features are for those who've made an optional patron payment for Overcast. These include a new dark theme and the ability to upload files not attached to a podcast feed.

The dark mode is pleasant, although its color scheme made me think it was simply inverting the entire screen — and that's not far off for the interface elements! (Fun note: if you turn on "invert colors" in the iOS accessibility settings and then take a screenshot, the saved file is not inverted; I had to resort to Photoshop for the image included here.) As a matter of choosing a single theme for all times of day, I'm ambivalent, but a welcome refinement would be to add automatic switching between light and dark based on ambient light, as TweetBot and other apps do.

Overcast inverted

Overcast inverted

The more refined dark mode

The more refined dark mode

On the other hand, file uploads — an admittedly niche feature — will make my life much easier as a podcast creator. For Simple Beep, my co-host Brian sends me the first edit of each show via Dropbox so I can do a full listen-through to check audio quality and compile shownotes. Overcast has been recalcitrant with Huffduffed Dropbox links in the past, sometimes to the point that I've had to fall back on other podcast clients. Now Overcast is the only tool I'll need, although the uploads feature operates solely via the web; I hope that in the future it will at least get basic document picker support within the app itself. Finally, it makes sense that uploads are patron-only, as Overcast will host up to 2GB of files for you, and hosting isn't free. Clarification on what happens to your uploads if your patronage lapses (each dollar amount corresponds to a number of months) would be welcome.

Overcast is still the leader on my phone and in my podcast analytics. You won't need Smart Speed for Picomac, but there are now even more reasons to use Overcast for this and every podcast you listen to.