Podcast players are a whole world, every user has a favorite, and every player has some special feature that sets it apart. Some are really complete, some are multiplatform, some process audio very well and some are just looking to be a casual player. But if there’s one that does things differently than all the others , that’s certainly Castro. That’s why and because today a new version is coming, Castro is our App of the Week.
Castro is not a new app, it’s been in the App Store for a long time, however version 3 has arrived. The whole app has been updated , to keep improving in what is the best, its playback flow. That new approach that came in summer 2016 with Castro 2. In the case of Castro 3, after almost 100 hours of podcast playback in the last weeks, it has become the player that makes it easier for me to listen to my favorite podcasts.
Why use Castro as a podcast player
The normal procedure in a podcast player is for everything to be organized by podcast and within each podcast the episodes available in chronological order. Sometimes players have a smart list that shows you the latest episodes of all the podcasts you’ve subscribed to. You can even create smart lists that organize your podcasts or auto-delete them if it’s been a while and you haven’t played them yet.
Castro has four main sections: Pending, Inbox, Archive and Discover.
But why does it have to be so complicated to catch up with the pending podcasts? Something that in principle should be a leisure activity sometimes becomes almost a job or duty. Castro simplifies everything with something as simple and straightforward as an inbox. Goodbye to lists, goodbye to podcast organization, goodbye to everything that gets in the way from the moment there is a new episode until you have heard it .
To understand it better, Castro is divided into four distinct sections:
- Pending: These are the podcasts that are pending playback and you’ve decided you want to listen to them. It’s the playlist, everything that’s going to play if you hit the Play button.
- Inbox: The key to all this is Castro’s inbox, any new episodes available on the podcasts you subscribe to will arrive here. Once here, you decide whether you want to listen to it or archive it. It’s the easiest way to clean up and listen only to what really interests you, because many times podcasts have different types of episodes or deal with topics that don’t directly interest us.
- Archive: The place where podcasts that we don’t want to play go and we archive them directly, those already played or even our favourites. It’s a place where a history of all the episodes and podcasts is stored. So, inside the Archive we have the Highlights , History and a list of all the podcasts we are subscribed to, entering each one of them will show a list of all the episodes.
In the history we can see a collection of episodes already played. Subscribing to a new podcast shows us the most recent episodes and the first one of all.
- Discover: The last of the sections, where we can search podcasts with a search bar, by URL or by category of the most popular ones. The data is collected directly from iTunes, and we can choose whether from the iTunes of Spain, the United States or other countries available.
Nothing that a smart list on Podcast, Overcast or Pocket Casts won’t solve, right? It all depends on the taste and habits of each user. In my case, after going through all those apps (and many more), none has managed to filter so comfortably what I’m interested in listening to . And when you’re subscribed to over 100 podcasts, it’s nice to have an app that can take away your fear of not being able to get enough of them all.
The new features of Castro 3
All of the above was already in Castro 2. Now, what is new about Castro 3, which was launched just today? Here is a list of the main changes:
Drag-and-drop or 3D Touch options make managing pending episodes much easier.
- Drag and Drop: It may seem silly that the drag and drop feature that came with iOS 11 is a major new feature, but it is. Why? Because Castro makes the most of this option. Each episode you can grab it from one section and move it to another by dragging it, you can grab several episodes at once, you can simply move them in order in the list they are in… It’s as intuitive as possible.
- New animations: This is hard to describe if you don’t try it in person. In Castro 3 there are small details in the app’s animations that make you understand it better. For example, when you play an episode in streaming and not previously downloaded, there are some kind of particles that spin around the Play button while it loads in buffer. When you tap on an episode the action buttons appear underneath it in an animated way and gradually. When you’re in a section and you press it several times the whole app animates minimally to give you the impression that you’re already there and that button doesn’t do anything else. When you switch from light to dark mode and vice versa a small animation reminiscent of a blind changes the entire interface of the app. And so it could go on for a while, but the best thing is to discover these little animations while using the app.
- New playback engine: According to what the developers have told me, the technical part is where they have had more work in this third version and where they have applied more improvements. Basically they have created a new playback engine from scratch, an engine that allows them to add new features both now and in the future. This new engine allows them to have the functionality of eliminating silences and pauses to reduce playback time, the option to improve the quality and volume of the voice, a much faster streaming and with a much shorter waiting time or Mono Mix, which mixes the podcasts in stereo to make it easier to listen if a speaker speaks on the left and another on the right for example.
The player is located in a lower layer of the app and when it is displayed it shows us all its options from which we can navigate by sliding sideways.
- New player: The interface of the player itself has also been updated, it is now more “adaptable” to the way we use it. The main buttons in a bottom bar, for more details the main interface is “lifted” and the player itself is shown in a lower layer of the app. Basically it’s like the Apple Music cards but in reverse. Skipping between chapters within an episode is also more convenient and straightforward. On the other hand, the player shows us four parts that we can slide through, which from left to right are Episode Notes, Cover Page, Playback Settings and Podcast Specific Settings.
- Customization for each podcast: Those specific settings are also one of the changes we see in Castro 3. For each podcast, we can set a different speed and playback mode, the number of unplayed episodes to keep, and other settings to adapt each podcast to the way we listen to it.
There are many other details, such as the improved app for the Apple Watch, haptic responses on the iPhone or everything that allows for notifications to manage all new episodes from them. One of my favorite details is when a podcast is about to end and you pause it. At that point, a notification pops up telling you that the episode is about to end and gives you options like archiving it directly or moving on to the next one. Details, castro 3 is all details.
When an episode is about to end or we pause it the app offers us different options to finish it directly.
There are also some details that I personally have not been convinced of. For example when you set the playback speed you’re setting the general preferences and not those of the episode or podcast you’re in, so you have to scroll further in the player and do a few extra steps. This means that if you accidentally change the speed, you will be changed for all podcasts. On the other hand, I miss being able to see recommendations in the Discover section that come from other sources, such as people I follow on Twitter.
Castro’s business model 3
Castro 2 was a single payment app, for 5.49 we had the complete app with all its features and forever. In Castro 3 things have changed and the developers have moved to the current business model that offers more viability and advantages for both them and the users, the subscriptions . This is what needs to be taken into account:
- Castro can be downloaded for free from the App Store.
- Every user of Castro 2 still has access to all the features previously available to them (e.g. the dark mode or the best of the voices or the app for the Apple Watch).
- Users who subscribe to Castro Plus will unlock all the above-mentioned features and new developments as well as future ones of the app.
- Castro Plus costs 8.99 euros per year or 2.99 euros per quarter. In both options there is a seven-day trial period.
From the Apple Watch application we can easily change and manage episodes.
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Temas de interés No. This new mode allows users to try the app without paying and enjoy some basic options for free. It is also maintained for users who have previously paid for the app’s features. We won’t discuss once again whether it’s worth paying a subscription for an app that doesn’t directly offer content. Nobody is obliged to use Castro and whoever feels the need to boycott subscription apps can always use other free or paid players. Castro offers its own features, under a subscription model and the developers see it as the most convenient option for them.
In any case, you can download Castro from the App Store for free and try it out for yourself with all the new features it has to offer. As I mentioned at the beginning, is an app that for me simplifies the reproduction process a lot . Thanks to the interactive notifications and the inbox I can order my playlist right away and when I want to listen to what I have pending I only have to worry about hitting play. If this means I can listen to thousands of hours a year for 9 euros, welcome!