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Instacast vs Downcast

I’ve been a long time fan of Instacast. After discovering an app that let me bypass the anemic functionality of the default iPhone Music app , I was sold pretty much from the start.

As I started learning about some of the less obvious features that were unlocked by long-presses and swipes (often cited as a criticism of the app), I was able to navigate the application quickly and easily. It wasn’t hard to “master” the app and get efficient with it and I decided I had found my near-perfect podcasting app, grateful that I could stop worrying about looking for something better.

Listening to the usual podcasts on 5by5, I heard about Downcast. I downloaded it and gave it a shot but really didn’t like it that much. The interface didn’t seem streamlined and some of the interface elements were clunky. I quickly abandoned it, not regretting the $2 I spent but assured the app wasn’t for me.

Then Instacast 2.0 dropped.

To support the developer of the app I’ve gotten daily use out of for years, I sprung for the $1.99 premium, despite not really needing the features. I assumed a use would present itself eventually (and it did). The price of a good app is often so small, it often boggles the mind that people “take a stand” over a $.99 or $1.99 purchase.

Regardless, I started delving into the new features of Instacast but was not exactly happy with what I saw.

Some of the things I had come to rely on to get things done were missing. Controls that were “hidden” as gestures were now moved, in some cases, to buttons or nested selections. While this may have solved the hidden control criticism, it made things much more inefficient and confusing.

The “long press” that used to start playing the target podcast now produced a list of options. So let me get this straight – where you once had one “hidden” (or at least “non-obvious”) feature, you now have three? And you added another targeted click to reduce efficiency.

I know interface design is hard, especially with such a feature-packed app, but the changes I’ve encountered so far have made the app worse. Overall, the interface had become much more confusing and more difficult to decipher.

There are also bugs that made their way into the app along with the new features. For example, there are innocuous ones like getting pop up messages in German (I thought I was going crazy when I saw those…) or some really egregious ones like a 30 second skip that takes 3-4 taps to work. One thing that iOS devices have always had over their counterparts is instant response to a user-generated action so when something is unresponsive it is especially jarring.

So, rather than get frustrated by the myriad of intentional and non-intentional issues with Instacast, I turned back to Downcast.

Maybe it was my time away from the app or maybe it was improvements to the overall functionality but I am finding Downcast exceptionally well-equipped to handle my podcast listening tasks.

The interface is sometimes a bit obtuse and I’ve had a few crashes but overall, it is a solid contender. For now, it has taken over my needs for a podcast app without a hitch and I’m pretty happy with it.

I’m sure Instacast will fix its issues in time but for now, I am going to be using Downcast full time.