A blog in desperate need of a new title
Friday, August 29, 2014
- “Why would I need any podcasting app instead of using the built-in apple player?” That was pretty much my friend’s reaction when I suggested he download Overcast. Frankly it was my reaction too, at first. I’ll be honest, I hate paying for apps (or in this case, in-app purchases for upgrades). I’ll buy $100 shoes, spend $20 for lunch, and pour premium gas in my car. But asking me to shell out a single dollar for an app on my phone is like asking me to give up one of my kidneys for a person I don’t like very much. But Overcast convinced me to give up five “kidneys” to unlock all the premium features.I’d love to tell you that I was sold on the great interface design, maybe the careful selection of the Concourse font, or the smarter playlist functionality. But honestly, I didn’t care about any of those features (sorry Marco). Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re available, but I wasn’t going to pay for them. Nope, the single feature that flipped me was Voice Boost.I listen to all of my podcasts while driving. Not most of my podcasts, all of my podcasts. In fact, I’ve never listened to a single podcast episode somewhere other than in my car. Also, I drive a convertible. In San Diego. If you’re still not getting the picture, let me explain: I very rarely drive with the roof up on my car. Not very ideal conditions for listening to people talk.In professional recording studios and professional sounds systems for live events, there’s a device commonly used called a compressor. In a nut, the system takes the quieter sounds and pushes them up slightly, and it takes the louder sounds and brings them down. This makes more of the sounds being pumped through the system come out more evenly, which provides clarity to the listener.Well, that is what Voice Boost does.Prior to using Overcast, I would constantly adjust the volume on my radio. One person would speak and I’d crank it up a bunch to hear him/her talk. Then the other voice would speak and blow out my ear drums. Now I set the volume once and I never have to readjust it for different people.When you upgrade Overcast, you also get Smart Speed. I didn’t pay the premium because I wanted Smart Speed, but now I’m glad I got it. Smart Speed is interesting because what Marco Arment has managed to do is figure out where there are pauses in the dialog, and speed up through them. If you watch the app while a podcast is playing (which, of course, I would never do while driving), you can watch the playback speed move around as the app automatically speeds up through silent spots.Here’s the thing about insanely great features: the best ones are the kind you don’t even notice when they’re working. That completely describes Smart Speed. If you watch the clock, or time a 30 minute episode, you’ll notice the difference in time. But you never actually hear it happening.I never figured I’d pay money to replace one of the built-in apps on my iPhone; Apple-made apps are usually about as good as you’re going to get. But this was the best five bucks I’ve spent on any app so far.