Android has no built-in podcast app outside the US, and Apple’s own offering is pretty basic. Steve Clark tunes in to find the best free podcast apps for your mobile device.
Castbox is ‘the YouTube of audio’, claims creator Renee Wang. who sold her house to fund the app’s development. That ambition goes beyond aping the slick interface and navigation of Google’s video-streaming site and with its sizeable catalog of popular and niche podcasts, audiobooks, and radio stations. Castbox promises hours of entertaining content.
As with YouTube, you’re not tied to a single device. Castbox features cross-platform support – sign up and log in, and your subscriptions are synced across your phone, tablet, and PC. along with Android Auto and Amazon Echo integration.
Running beneath the home screen’s revolving carousel of top shows, there are tabs for exploring Categories, Audiobooks, and Networks. Further down, the Listen tab offers more ways to discover the freshest podcasts.
Building your library is very straightforward: simply click on a channel and press Subscribe to move shows Into the Subscribed tab, or scroll down for the complete episode list. Swiping left lets you read the channel description and see similar shows while playing an episode presents additional options to share, download or add to the playlist. There’s also a lively comments section full of enthusiastic observations, reviews, and chats.
However, it’s the app’s in-audio search that’s truly remarkable: most podcast apps rely on tags and keywords when you search. but Castbox’s machine-learning bots transcribe every podcast, then display search results in context alongside precise timings, so you can jump straight to specific content.
All the while, Castbox’s clever algorithm is quietly scanning your preferences and listening habits, then serving up personalized recommendations.
Available for Android, IOS, and Windows, PodBean greets first-timers with a tutorial overlay. It’s a convenience that’s replicated across the app, thanks to an impressively clutter-free interface.
A menu bar gives you speedy access to subscriptions, settings, and search, while hundreds of popular shows cascade beneath. It’s an ideal showcase for discovering new talent, enhanced by a row of thumb-friendly icons providing the quickest route to shows, radio stations, and audiobooks.
You can cast to other devices via Chromecast direct from the Android app, and Batch Manage is useful when organizing extensive libraries. However, PodBean’s standout feature is Intelligent Speed – once activated, it cleverly cuts out any audio silences so you get the most content out of your listening time.
Head into the settings’ Listening Stats and you can see how much time Intelligent Speed has saved you. Alongside this, the gamification-style Listening Level increases your level the more hours you listen, like earning experience in video games.
If you’re a podcast creator. you can record shows in-app at any time, and PodBean will happily host and monetize it for you – for a fee.
3. Podcast Republic
The Android-only Podcast Republic declares itself “the most customizable podcast app you can have”. You can tweak almost every aspect, from the color theme to the default download location, and switch on “Smart download” to automatically get the latest shows. It’s also one of the few podcast apps that can delete played items for you from playlists and downloads once you’ve listened to them.
Adding a podcast or radio station reveals even more options: search or browse the charts; import an OPML (the link used to subscribe to a podcast in any app): or use a web address. You can even add virtual podcasts and those found on YouTube – the choice is yours.
It’s very mobile-friendly, too. Like text messages and emails on your phone, you swipe left or right to uncover additional options (there are so many, it has to hide some away), such as deleting, marking episodes as played, or adding searchable tags.
The app is ad-supported – they run unobtrusively along the bottom of the screen – but a one-off fee of £2.99 removes them entirely.
Stitcher – so-called because it lets you “stitch” together podcasts into a rolling, relevant playlist – is a crisp, contemporary app available on Android, iOS, and Windows. The premium version costs around £4 a month, earning you an ad-free experience. bonus episodes and Stitcher Originals.
But that’s a hefty price for what you get compared to, say, Castbox or even Spotify. Besides, Stitcher is an on-demand radio player first, and a decent podcast player second.
It’s the go-to app for music. but Spotify also has a strong line in podcasts (it used to call them ‘Shows’ but at the time. no one knew what that meant). Think supermarket, not boutique.
It’s all big-name brands and very few small, indie channels. Expect ads if you’re listening for free, but if you stream a lot of music and podcasts, it may be worth investing in the monthly £9.99 subscription fee.
Open source, with no subscriptions and no ads. If it were available on all platforms – and not just Android -AntennaPod could steal our coveted award. The app is maintained by volunteers, which is most noticeable in its design.
AntennaPod lacks the fancy-pants appearance of its more professional rivals. However, it’s almost identical to – and shares much in common with – Podcast Republic.