October 2, 2016 at 8:40 PM by Dr. Drang
I mentioned Supertop’s Castro podcast player a couple of days ago and decided I should devote a full post to it. It got a lot of coverage when Version 2.0 was released in mid-August, so it’s very unlikely you haven’t heard about its unique approach to organizing your playback queue via “triage” of your inbox of episodes. But since I’m still using it several weeks later, after it’s no longer a novelty, I thought it worth a second look.
Every review of Castro spent most of its time talking about the inbox, and rightly so. If you’re the kind of person who subscribes to many podcasts, but doesn’t have the time to listen to every episode, the inbox is a great way to swiftly look through your available episodes, queue up those that look the most interesting, and get rid of those that you’ll never get around to.
Here’s my inbox as of a few minutes ago:
Tapping on an episode brings up the dispatch buttons.
You can either
- Play the episode right from the inbox. I never do this.
- Send it to the top of the playback queue. If the episode currently at the top of the queue is in progress, the one in the inbox will go just under it.
- Send it to the bottom of the playback queue.
- Archive it. “Archive” is Supertop’s word, and I think it’s a poor choice. The episode, if downloaded, isn’t stored on your device, it’s deleted and only its metadata is kept. Basically, Archive = Delete.
One of the nice usability touches of Castro is that after you’ve dispatched an episode and it disappears from the inbox, the dispatch buttons appear automatically on the next episode in the list. Castro assumes—correctly in almost every case—that once you start triaging you want to continue, and it doesn’t force you to tap on the next episode to make the dispatch buttons reappear. This makes processing your inbox go very quickly.
Don’t be concerned, by the way, that the dispatch buttons limit you to the top and bottom of the playback queue. When you switch to the queue, you can rearrange the episodes by grabbing the dotted handles at the right and dragging them up or down.
One thing that bothered me about the initial reviews of Castro 2 was that they left the impression that you have to go through the triage procedure, even for those podcasts where you listen to every episode. That’s not the case. Although starting in the inbox is the default, you can change the settings for certain podcasts to go straight to the top (or bottom) of the queue.
In my set of subscriptions, new episodes of In Our Time, 99% Invisible, and Slate’s Political Gabfest go straight to the top of the playback queue. I never skip an episode. The Talk Show, on the other hand, too often has guests that offer no insight,1 so it gets the triage treatment. So does The Incomparable, although I’m beginning to think that’s a mistake. I set it up so new episodes would go to the inbox because I thought I wouldn’t want to listen to episodes about books and movies I haven’t read or seen. But I’ve found that I so rarely skip an episode, it isn’t worth the triage step.
The downsides to Castro that most reviewers mentioned back in August still hold true:
- Speeded-up playback in Castro is nowhere near the quality of speeded-up playback in Overcast or Pocket Casts. And it has nothing like Overcast’s Voice Boost feature. These deficiencies don’t affect me because I always listen at normal speed and the shows I subscribe to tend to be recorded with fairly uniform levels among the guests.
- Podcast discovery in Castro pales in comparison to discovery in other apps. Again, this doesn’t bother me, because I learn about new shows from Twitter and blogs. And I’m really subscribed to too many shows as it is.
I’ve been pretty promiscuous in my use of podcast players. Only Downcast and Overcast have stuck for more than a year (and I used Downcast back when there were few decent alternatives). Supertop could make a UI change to Castro tomorrow that sours me on it. But right now, Castro fits my way of listening better than the others.
These are almost always the tech reporters for “real” news outlets. ↩︎