Podcasts are like talk radio, except they’re available on demand and are often a lot smarter.
These three apps make tuning in easy.
BEST OVERALL: Pocket Casts
Platforms: Apple, Android
This app won top honors for its practical features and simplicity. Pocket Casts has an easy-to-use directory for searching for new shows, and it downloaded episodes to our device faster than any other app we tried.
To learn more about a show, just tap the name of the episode for a pop-up description (swipe it away when you’re done). The app lets you create podcast playlists in two ways: by manually selecting the episodes you want to hear, or by grouping downloads using filters like “unplayed” and “video.”
It also allows you to sync your shows between devices: We started playing Morningstar’s Investing Insights on an iPad, then resumed listening on an Android phone without missing a word.
BEST FREE: Pod Wrangler
Cost: Free, unlimited: $2
For newbies, Pod Wrangler is a good free option. Use the “find shows” tool to discover a few you like, then subscribe to up to five so they’ll auto-download. (Unlimited subscriptions are $2.)
The app has a useful on-the-go feature that enlarges control buttons when you plug in headphones. A note about video podcasts: This app can play only the audio portion.
BEST FOR EXPERTS: Downcast
Podcast addicts will love Downcast’s many customization options. For instance, it has a unique feature that lets you save volume and speed settings for individual podcasts, allowing you to set the typically quiet Pimco Investment Outlook to always play louder, and Bloomberg Surveillance, which has rapid banter, to play at half-speed.
FIND NEW FAVORITES
New to podcasts or trying to expand your library? Here’s where to start.
Tap your app. All the podcast apps in our roundup have an “explore” function. Use it to search for shows by keyword, genre, or popularity.
Browse iTunes. You’ll find rankings, detailed descriptions, customer reviews, and suggestions based on shows you already listen to. For example, if you like NPR’s Planet Money, iTunes recommends podcasts from The Economist and 60 Minutes.
Try Twitter. Some podcast-related websites use their Twitter handles to suggest new or interesting shows you should check out.
Good ones to follow include @PodcastThing from PodcastThing.com, and @PodcastOfTheDay and @APodcastlsBorn from Player FM.