Long a favorite on iOS, Instacast is now in beta release on the Mac. More than just a complement to the version you’ve got on your iPhone or iPad, Instacast for Mac is a fully-functional podcast app built with usability in mind.
But will it be able to supplant iTunes as your go-to iTunes podcast app? We’ll see if the Mac app stands up to its iOS predecessor.
Hear It First
Click the plus sign at the bottom of the window to start adding subscriptions. Browse through the different genres, or search for what you want. I found absolutely everything I was looking for, but it wasn’t always easy. When I tried searching for the Global News podcast from the BBC World Service, pretty obvious keywords like “BBC” and “World Service” didn’t do me any good, but I did find it when I browsed the News & Politics podcasts. Other podcasts were tracked down right away, and like I said, I did find everything I wanted, eventually.
Once subscribed to a ton of podcasts, you might be thinking, “Okay, now what?” Sure, you can just start listening to all of them in succession, but mixing your news, lifestyle, and tech podcasts up probably doesn’t make for the best listening experience. That’s why Instacast gives you Lists. Click over there to start organizing your podcasts into more manageable chunks. There are lists automatically created to handle unplayed episodes or your most recently updated stuff, but you can also create lists of similar podcasts to listen to together.
You may be used to downloading podcasts before you listen to them, and you can certainly do that with Instacast, but if you don’t want tons of podcast episodes that you only plan to give a single listen crudding up your hard disk, that’s okay, too. Instead, stream what you listen to. Even if you plan on downloading everything, you can still use Instacast’s streaming function to skip ahead in the currently downloading episode, saving you the trouble of waiting for it to finish.
Instacast will share just about anywhere, right from the app, and enabled services include App.net, Pocket, Readability, and Twitter. I was disappointed to see Facebook was left off of the list, but this is only a beta version after all. Support for additional sharing services may be coming with a future release.
But Will It Sync?
I know what you’re thinking. It sure sounds great to get your podcasts out of iTunes. Even Apple is moving podcasts out of iTunes on iOS with their Podcasts app. But if your subscriptions are in iTunes, how are they going to sync to your iPhone or iPad? I hear you, iOS users. Instacast has long had you covered, though. With the Instacast app for iOS, you can create an account that will allow you to sync your podcasts among your devices running Instacast. It’s too bad for Android users, though. Vemedio, the people who make Instacast, have said there are no plans for Android support.
If you don’t have Instacast for iOS or even own an iOS device, you’re out of luck for now. Instacast is in beta, and there’s no account creation in the beta Mac app. That’s all going to change though, so you’ll be able to sync up your podcasts to your Instacast Cloud account. You’ll still need an iOS device running the Instacast app to get your podcasts to play on the go, though.
There are lots of great ways to take control of your podcasts. In the applications preferences, you can set how often you’d like Instacast to check for new episodes, but you can also tailor update frequency to each podcast. For instance, if most of your podcasts are weekly, let Instacast know not to look for podcasts more than once a day; that way you’ll get each new podcast as it rolls in throughout the week. Your news podcasts that get updated a couple of times a day, though, need to be checked more frequently, and you can edit that in the individual podcast.
Set a limit on how much storage Instacast can use. If you want to stack your podcasts to the ceiling, go for broke and take on 50 GB, but if space is at a premium on your Mac, keep things under 1 GB. You can maximize Instacast’s allotted space by only downloading the most recent episode from each podcast and not downloading video content, options available in Instacast’s preferences. On systems where storage is at a true premium, auto-delete old episodes, as well.
Instacast is a nice change from iTunes, especially for those of us who are always looking for an alternative to the resource-hogging behemoth. To make it really worthwhile to anyone who likes to play their podcasts on the go, though, you’ll need to invest in the $4.99 iOS app, too. Since we’re talking about costs, it bears mentioning that while this is a free beta, Mac licenses are available for purchase for $14.99 right now, and the price looks to go up with the full release.
Instacast is simple to use and a breath of fresh air for podcast addicts. For anyone already on board with the popular iOS version, it will likely be an easy decision to pick up the matching Mac up. For everyone else, it’s a question of whether the easy functionality is enough to make it work the price. Definitely check it out while it’s still free and in beta, and get a firsthand look for yourself.