Castro, the award-winning podcast app that leads in its category in terms of design and simplicity has received its first major update. After having a fling with the app back when it first came out, it really was a struggle to decide between Castro, which is iPhone-only without cloud syncing, and other competing options like the just-updated Pocket Casts, Downcast, or Instacast, which are all universal and have syncing solutions. With Castro 1.1, that decision just became even more difficult.
Before you hear it from me, here's an outline of what's new in Castro 1.1:
Continuous Play Castro can now automatically play the next episode in your list. You can change the sort order of the Episodes tab and have complete control over whether episodes will be streamed over cellular data or not.
Enhanced Audio Quality Castro uses a new pitch shift algorithm which makes podcasts sound incredibly good when played at fast or slow speeds. No other podcast app sounds this good.
Design We've taken a fresh look at every screen of Castro.
Typography is enhanced for legibility and consistency.
All controls, from switches to the new playback speed bar and sleep timer, have been custom built to fit the Castro aesthetic and enhance usability.
Castro's color selection algorithm has been hugely improved to choose better colours from podcast artwork.
Podcast artwork with flat color backgrounds are no longer cropped: instead, they are extended to fit perfectly in circles.
Sleep Timer Castro now has a built in sleep timer for listening in bed. Still awake when the episode pauses? Just tap play again on the lock screen or headphone remote to extend the sleep timer.
In-App Settings All the settings are now within the app instead of isolated in the Settings app. Tap the top left button on the main screen to access global playback speed, sleep timer, and scroll to other settings. TIP: Pinch the screen or tap and hold the play button anywhere in the app for quick access to the settings.
Despite being designed and shipped with iOS 7 in mind, Castro 1.1 features a refined design. The usual interface, which only consists of Podcasts and Episodes areas, is still present, but with refined typography and a neat Safari tabs-like menu that includes the apps settings within the app itself, rather than in iOS' Settings app.
Tapping the button in the top right corner will reveal the new area, with settings you'd expect in any podcast app like playback and download options some of which are new to version 1.1, like the ability to enable continuous playback or configure a sleep timer. Also, another fascinating addition to Castro 1.1 is the ability to adjust playback speed using a slider rather than selecting an option such as twice or half speed. Not only can users choose a more specific speed to playback at, but regardless of the speed you choose, speech won't sound garbled up and difficult to understand. This is all part of the enhanced sound quality that comes with Castro 1.1, and as gimmicky as it sounds, listening to a few podcasts with the new release over the past week or so has proven the claim to me.
With this update, along with the idea of possibly of seeing the app on the iPad in the future, Castro is well on its way to dominating the podcast category. It has a great personality, a minimal and polished user interface, and with the 1.1 update, some features that are exclusive to this app. To get started with an excellent experience in listening to podcasts on your iPhone, you can find Castro 1.1 on the App Store for $3.99, or as a free update for existing owners.