For the past couple of months I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car traversing what Chris Rea famously called ‘The Road to Hell’ to get to an ongoing client contract two or three days a week.

Lonely car journeys have always provided me with an opportunity to catch up on phone calls, but with the increasing amount of time commuting alone I’ve turned to a multitude of podcasts (typically technology themed) for entertainment and education while I’m driving. I find this time is the best to listen to this kind of information as I have no other distractions around me (barring other road users, weather etc. etc.). If I try to listen to a podcast at my office I invariably get distracted by emails and other work, but the car is a fairly sterile environment for learning new things.


View of OverCast playback screenAnyway, the point of this blog post was that I wanted to highlight a new podcast app I mentioned a couple of weeks ago on twitter, called OverCast. After using it for a few weeks, I have finally thrown away the previous apps I used as OverCast seems to be way better than anything I’ve tried before.

In particular there’s two things I prefer over its competitors; SmartSpeed and VoiceBoost. Most podcast apps allow you to speed up the audio, but they tend to be fairly large speed jumps in my experience. OverCast allows fairly small incremental changes to the playback speed, and the smallest speed change is about 1.13x, and these have been coded so well they don’t hugely change the playback (sometimes in other apps I find it similar to holding down the play and fast forward buttons on an old tape record – giving my age away there I know). The reason for doing this is to reduce the time it takes to listen to a typical podcast episode (for a 90 minute podcast, you’d save 10 minutes or more). But that’s not one of the features that really differentiates this app from its competitors. There’s a couple of podcasts I listen to (one in particular, from a British Tech Network) that often have several guests, one of which is sometimes much quieter than the others (not always the same person). In the car this can be really annoying as you have to turn the volume up so much that the other presenters are deafeningly loud, or you have to accept hearing just the odd word in ten from the quieter person. VocalBoost automatically increases the volume of the quieter person to a similar level to the rest of the podcast episode making the whole experience much better. I wasn’t sure if I’d experienced it yet (that’s how natural it sounds), so I went back to an episode I knew had a volume problem and tried it – the difference was amazing! Virtually undetectable, the app matched columes between presenters and made the whole show much easier to listen to in louder environment.

The second feature is SmartSpeed. Now this is the real genius bit; most podcasts are recorded live, and as such there’ll often be pauses…….where……the…….presenter flicks to the next page in his or her show notes. What OverCast does, really, really well, is close up these little gaps (saving even more time) without making it sound unnatural. In three weeks this feature alone has removed over 100 minutes of silence from my listening which I find staggering (and I have to believe the statistic the app presents me with as there’s no easy way of disproving it now).

For those that love to set up playlists, I tend not to do that because I listen to so many different shows I don’t always have time to listen to every episode and will pick them based on their (likely) content. That said, I trued setting a playlist up and it was very easy to do, and seemed to work pretty well.

Now, when it comes to pricing an app, you can’t get much better than free! That gets you the basic app, and you get 10 minutes of the “extra” services (SmartSpeed and VocalBoost) per episode. If you want to have that feature permanently, it’s available as an in-app purchase at £2.99, which in my opinion is a bargain based on the amount of ‘extra’ listening its enabled me to do.

Anyway, that’s OverCast – get it if you listen to podcasts or want to try them.


I do have another couple of things I wanted to mention today though, one little tidbit I’ve picked on the commute the past few weeks and a reminder on my Flipboard magazine that is available for you to read in your browser, or through the Flipboard app in iOS. You might have noticed that Flipboard icon is now located at the top of my Web site; click on that to get direct access to my magazine. If you’ve never heard of Flipboard I recorded a short video on it earlier in the year:

And finding your way

If, like me, you rely on your SatNav app to guide you from A to B, it can be a pain in the rear end to have to start your app, wait for it to load, find your destination and then set off right? Well, you don’t have to – you can in fact use Siri…….

Ordinarily if you were to say “Siri, take me to work/mum’s house/ABC Ltd” it would start directing you via Apple Maps, which is improving as a service, but still in my opinion is some way behind TomTom (trust me, I’ve tried a fair few SatNav apps – I still cant find one better than TomTom or one worse than CoPilot). If you add the words “via transit” however, Siri will give you one prompt with all your transit apps (any app that can give your transport guidance), you choose the appropriate one and it will go straight into your chosen app and direct you to the destination you asked for. I found this tip out just a few days ago, so I’ve only had chance to use it a couple of times but its worked out really well so far, and seems a much quicker way of getting a trip under way. I’ll certainly continue to try it but I’m keen to hear from you on how well it works.

Thats all for today, have a great weekend – and please let me know if you have any feedback on anything in todays post.








Links for things mentioned:

Buy TomTom UK & Ireland app for iOS

Buy TomTom UK & Ireland app for iOS

Buy TomTom Western Europe app for iOS
Buy TomTom Western Europe app for iOS

Buy TomTom US & Canada app for iOS
Buy TomTom US & Canada app for iOS

OverCast logo
Download OverCast app for iOS


Flipboard for iOS

Download Flipboard for iOS