When this text was initially revealed in 2017, Castbox was nonetheless a comparatively younger app, listed at underneath 500,000 downloads and providing a premium expertise with out ads or in-app purchases. Lots has modified within the final two years, in fact, and Castbox has turn out to be extremely well-liked. Although we initially praised the app for being a free expertise, the app has since turn into monetized, providing subscription plans and ads constructed into the app. That hasn’t stopped Castbox from being top-of-the-line podcast apps on Android, taking our prime decide for the primary half of 2019. Let’s take a deep dive into CastBox to seek out out what makes it a terrific app, albeit with some shortcomings.
As soon as put in, CastBox will ask you to log into the app with Fb, Google, Twitter, or Line to create an account. Contemplating your Google account is already lively in your system, it actually solely takes a second to log into the app (in contrast to Pocket Casts, the place your account is created by means of their servers). This masses you into the Uncover panel, the storefront for podcasts that appears so much like iTunes (particularly on tablets, the place the app’s format is even nearer to what you may anticipate on a desktop.
The format of this Uncover tab is, arguably, even higher than what’s seen on Pocket Casts. A rotating carousel of featured exhibits (lots of them designated “CastBox Originals”) and genres is on the highest of the web page, with prime exhibits, suggestions, editor picks, and extra displayed under. There are a whole lot of good, recognizable exhibits in right here—you would simply stick with this record alone and create a reasonably strong curated listing of podcasts to pay attention via.
However that retailer interface has lots extra to it than a carousel of podcasts and an inventory of the highest exhibits. There’s a suggestions panel, based mostly by yourself listening historical past and subscriptions, a featured tab that boasts particular common podcasts, each well-known and underground, and Netflix-style classes like “Study One thing New,” “Creeps and Chills,” and “Sports activities and Recreation.” Even additional under these is a full record of genres and classes, divided into black, white, and highlighted icons. Diving right into a podcast itemizing reveals an episode record, the overall description for the podcast from the writer, an inventory of comparable channels from different podcasts, and eventually, a feedback part.
Although the unique feedback sections from CastBox in September appeared to be largely populated by iTunes critiques, CastBox has seemingly constructed an honest community of customers by providing the app as a free service. A lot of the feedback appear to return from precise CastBox customers, and maybe most apparently, sync up with the precise episodes to which they’re replying. Main podcasts appear to have a number of hundred feedback at this level, up from the dozen or so most podcasts appeared to have again in September. It’s an fascinating concept, one which we haven’t seen in most different podcast apps on Android, and it’s good to see a brand new concept come to this area of purposes general.
4 tabs make up the remainder of the interface: the Uncover tab, the Pay attention tab, the Subscribed tab, and the Private tab, with the second and fourth tabs changing the unique Search and Consumer tabs of the app first launched again in September. The search bar has been moved to the highest of the Uncover web page, and Pay attention is a much more useful gizmo to maintain within the dock alongside the underside of the app. Pay attention works as a suggestion web page, supplying you with your downloaded and downloading information, the brand new releases of your saved content material, and a timeline of featured episodes, feedback of the day, and extra. Like Uncover, the Pay attention web page additionally has its personal search bar, permitting you to simply entry new exhibits from each key phrases and distinctive feed URLs. As with older variations of the app, well-liked searches seem under the search bar, together with your search historical past proper under it.
When you’ve added podcasts to your assortment, they seem on the third tab of CastBox’s interface. This interface has been improved since we examined the app again in September, not function a contemporary black text-on-white backdrop that lets you view your exhibits in each listing format and a grid. Each look modes look nice, lending to the app’s premium design and really feel. The precise web page for every distinctive podcast hasn’t modified because the app was first launched final yr, that includes episodes sorted from most to least-recent and tabs to show particulars and feedback on the present. CastBox additionally tracks its customers performs and subscribe counts, which you’ll be able to view on the prime of the web page.
One cool factor from CastBox: the power to look via episode titles in-feed. It’s unlucky that the search function doesn’t additionally search by means of the outline of precise episodes, one thing we’d like to see in a future replace, however for those who keep in mind a part of the title—or, for sure exhibits, the individual guest-starring on a present—you possibly can seek for that title and instantly discover the listings with out making an attempt to recollect when a selected episode aired up to now.
The overall playback show is fairly simple, having not modified an excessive amount of within the eight months since we first reviewed the app. The album artwork is current in the midst of the web page, with a reasonably small show surrounded by a colour taken from the album artwork (that is just like how Pocket Forged shows its personal paintings). In the midst of the web page under which might be your playback controls, with a queue choice, play and pause controls, 10 second rewind and 30 second skip, and a sleep timer that permits for a number of choices, although unlucky lacks a customized timer like in Pocket Casts. In the meantime, the very backside of the web page has an inventory of comparable episodes you can begin listening to after you end your present episode, making it straightforward to leap into a brand new present. There’s additionally the choice to subscribe to the podcast in the event you haven’t already, a pleasant contact contemplating Pocket Casts forces you to subscribe to a present earlier than you even begin listening.
All of this has remained the identical since launch a number of months in the past, however a number of updates have come out to make the participant a bit simpler to make use of. The bar under the episode has been simplified, eradicating the choices for likes and feedback and narrowing down the icons to only a share choice, a obtain choice, and the power so as to add it to a playlist. In the meantime, on the prime of the web page is a brand new choices icon, changing the older velocity button. This lets you open the adjustment menu, which provides you preferences for quantity increase and the playback velocity. Playback could be adjusted anyplace from .5x to three.0x, with every quantity in between an choice
A number of the nitpicks we initially had about CastBox have been polished away since initially launching in 2017. App animations initially felt sluggish, however on our check Pixel 2 XL, every part felt snappy and clean, with a contemporary really feel to navigation. A darkish theme has develop into obtainable within the settings since launch, and the app appears nice in each white and black backgrounds. You’ll be able to exit the now-playing banner on the backside of your display to take away it from taking over room within the app, one thing we needed to see added when th. Lastly, the choice to disable “Comparable Episodes” under the participant has been added, one thing we requested for again in September, albeit with a reasonably main caveat.
Our unique pleasure for CastBox got here from the shortage of ads and in-app purchases, a free software that lastly felt free. And within the eight months since we reviewed the app for the primary time, each ads and in-app purchases have arrived, making it a bit harder to advocate over the flat-fee provided by means of Pocket Casts. So far as ads go, each CastBox and the Play Retailer itemizing state that the app options advertisements, however in our checks (as you’ll be able to see all through out screenshots) we by no means appeared to have ads seem inside the app. It’s unclear whether or not this has one thing to do with new installs not receiving advertisements at first (this was the primary set up of the app on this specific system), however regardless, the advertisements will ultimately seem inside the app.
The larger drawback comes from the inclusion of in-app purchases, a premium plan referred to as “CastBox Premium” which provides a lot of options to the app that many people have been hoping would present up since launch. Shopping for into the premium plan for $.99 per 30 days removes advertisements from the appliance, good points you a vast variety of subscriptions to podcasts, a customized homepage choice (with the power to set your subscription web page because the default view whenever you open the app), the power to disable comparable episodes underneath the podcast participant, and each prime precedence when contacting help and the choice to be the primary to expertise new options.
Finally, this sounds much less like a profit to purchasing right into a premium mannequin and extra like a shakedown. There are many methods so as to add further choices right into a podcast app with out forcing individuals to open the app on the Uncover tab (the place CastBox routinely options its unique exhibits) and blocking the power to show off “Comparable Episodes,” one thing even we complained about again in September. Most egregious, nevertheless, is the restrict on subscribed podcasts. Whereas most listeners will doubtless by no means hit 100 subscribed exhibits, the truth that this can be a restrict in an app designed for subscribing and listening to podcasts appears notably tightfisted.
Regardless of the premium plan, CastBox stays our prime podcast participant in the intervening time. As an entire, it’s a strong app with a terrific aesthetic, a strong library of options, and doubtless the perfect podcast retailer outdoors of iTunes—an achievement that doesn’t come straightforward, as you’ll see in our listing of different apps under. Regardless of some qualms about sure elements of the app, CastBox is legitimately nice for listening and discovering podcasts. It’s unlucky that a main facet of the app we initially celebrated in 2017—its lack of advertisements and in-app purchases—has all however disappeared, however that tends to occur following the launch of an app as in style as this one.
Nevertheless, with the current modifications to Pocket Casts—extra on that in only a second—we’ve determined to bump CastBox to our prime decide extra most customers. Whereas some might select to stay with Spotify or Google’s personal Podcasts app, any podcast energy consumer will need to make the change to one thing like CastBox.