The best podcast apps of 2021 for listening to all your favorite shows

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  • Podcasts are a convenient way to catch up on news, sports, and special interests at home or on the go.
  • There are many apps with tons of podcasts you can listen to for free or with a paid subscription.
  • We recommend services like Audible, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more.

If you’re hooked on a popular podcast or are thinking about starting a new one, you aren’t alone. More Americans are listening to at least one podcast every month, a trend that only increased in 2020, according to a survey from Edison One and Triton Digital. 

Whether you’re on your daily run, commuting to work, or simply relaxing at home, a great podcast can take you on an audio journey through politics, entertainment, comedy, literature, and more. Podcasts cover all genres, so whether you’re seeking a news update or want to get into true crime, there’s likely something out there for you. 

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There are many services that offer access to a wide range of podcasts, including several free apps and a few subscription platforms that even include exclusive programming. To help you get started, we’ve selected a few of the best apps you can use to listen to podcasts right now on a variety of devices.

Here are the best podcast apps:

  • Apple Podcasts
  • Google Podcasts
  • Spotify
  • Audible
  • Stitcher
  • TuneIn Raidio

Apple Podcasts

Apple Podcasts offers free access to over 30 million podcast episodes, along with helpful Siri voice search capabilities.

  • Selection: Over 1 million shows
  • Price: Free
  • Devices: iPhones and iPads with iOS 10.0 or later
  • Exclusive podcasts: No

Although the app is exclusive to iOS devices, Apple Podcasts is one of the best — and most comprehensive — free podcast services available. The app includes over 30 million episodes and you can easily download your favorite podcasts for offline listening. 

One of Apple Podcasts unique features is its ability to sync with Siri. This means you can talk to Siri and ask for podcast suggestions. The app also makes it easy to navigate podcasts based on different genres and Apple-curated collections. This makes it simple to find shows for a specific interest or see recommendations for “new and noteworthy” titles. 

The search page also allows you to find podcasts by topic or by people mentioned within episodes via a show’s transcript. It’s important to note, however, that not every podcast has a transcript available.

Playback is easy to control with the option to rewind episodes by 15 seconds or fast-forward by 30 seconds. You can also play Apple Podcasts via Bluetooth from the app, adjust the audio’s speed, and set a sleep timer for when you want to pause.

Once you subscribe to a Podcast, the app notifies you when a new episode is out. There’s also plenty of ways you can preview podcasts before you listen to an episode thanks to introductions and trailers. There are also reviews and ratings from fellow Apple Podcasts listeners. If you end up liking a podcast, you can find recommendations at the bottom of a title’s page for similar content from the same creator.

On April 20, Apple announced that Apple Podcasts will update its look, add curated channels, and include a premium subscription option for certain shows beginning in May. Creators can add various benefits to their premium podcast subscriptions, including ad-free listening and early access. 

Google Podcasts is a free service with convenient features that make it easy for users to discover more about the podcasts they listen to.

  • Selection: Not specified
  • Price: Free
  • Devices: Web browser, iOS devices, and Android devices
  • Exclusive podcasts: No

Google Podcasts helps you find the best shows for you tastes with a homepage that directs you to popular podcasts based on genres and what’s trending. 

The app hosts many of the same shows as Apple Podcasts and its user interface is inviting to newcomers and listening veterans alike. If a show isn’t on Google Podcasts you can add it by entering its RSS feed into the platform. 

Like other podcast apps, you can subscribe to shows and download them for offline listening. If you want to listen to a number of different podcasts in a certain order, you can start a queue. 

One of the unique features found on Google Podcasts is the “explore topics” section on an episode’s page. This section links to Google search results for keywords based on the podcast you’re listening to. This means if you put on Football Weekly, a podcast by The Guardian, you can easily click on suggestions to find the latest news about soccer in the UK.

If you listened to a podcast and forgot to save it, you can go to the “Activity” tab. The tab keeps track of your queue, your downloaded episodes, your listening history, and your subscriptions.

Google Podcasts features a 30-second fast-forward option along with a 10-second rewind button, a sleep timer, and an option to “trim silence” on a show. You can also change the speed of an episode and share it with friends. Much like Apple Podcasts, transcripts are only available if they’re placed in an episode’s description.

Spotify features an array of curated, genre-specific collections of podcasts, including exclusive shows.

  • Selection: 2.2 million podcasts
  • Price: Free (with ads), $10 a month (ad-free)
  • Devices: Web browser, iOS, Android, media players, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more
  • Exclusive podcasts: Yes

Spotify is unique compared to Google and Apple in its ability to provide millions of songs in addition to its podcasts. While Spotify does offer a free option, you need a paid subscription to get ad-free streaming.

Spotify has a number of plans for ad-free listening, starting with Spotify Premium for $10 a month for one account. It’s important to note that you can only download podcasts with Spotify if you have Premium.

The app’s podcast homepage features curated collections and genres, including spotlights on some of its original podcasts you won’t find anywhere else. Some Spotify exclusive shows include “Renegades: Born in the USA,” “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” and “Living & Learning with Reba McEntire.”

Once you find a podcast you like, you can choose to “follow” it from the Spotify app. That way you’ll be able to get notifications about when your favorite show has an update. If you want to explore new shows based on your favorite podcasts, each show has different categories like “Entertainment” or “Music.”

Much like Google, you can add episodes to your queue and listen to a number of different episodes in order. You can also make a playlist of new podcasts that you want to check out.

Once you start playing a podcast, you can change its speed, rewind or fast-forward by 15 seconds, and set a sleep timer. Like other podcast apps, transcripts are only available if they’re placed in an episode’s description.

Audible is an audiobook-centric app but it also features several original podcasts.

  • Selection: 100,000 podcasts
  • Price: Free, $8 a month (Audible Plus catalog), $16 a month (Audible Premium Plus)
  • Devices: Web player, iOS, Android, Windows 10 tablets, Fire tablets, and more
  • Exclusive podcasts: Yes

Audible is primarily known for audiobooks but the Amazon-backed app also provides a number of podcasts, including Audible Original shows. The “Podcasts” category takes users through a variety of content including shows centered on comedy, relationships, tech, and more.

Once you click a show, such as “Dolly Parton’s America,” you’ll be able to explore reviews from listeners. These reviews include star ratings for the host’s performance, the story, and the overall podcast. This helps make Audible one of the most user-friendly platforms for listener reviews.

When playing a podcast, you can skip ahead or circle back by 30 seconds, connect to Bluetooth, skip or go back to old episodes, and change the speed of the audio from 0.5x to 3.5x. You can also see how much time is left in an episode, switch to carplay for a minimalist user interface, and select between episodes via an episode list option at the bottom of the screen. 

Like other podcast platforms, Audible contains a sleep timer and allows for offline listening. Audible users are also able to add podcasts to their library to get them automatically downloaded to their device when new episodes come out.

While Audible boasts a solid selection of Audible Originals, including the crime documentary series “Brooklyn North,” these series are only available to paid subscribers. Other exclusive podcasts include titles like “The Messenger,” “Women Unlocked,” “In the Gap,” and “Soldiers of Science.”

Audible’s massive audiobook selection could be a great incentive to purchase a Plus subscription if you want a service that offers books and podcasts in one platform.

Stitcher has a selection of original podcasts and a wide range of playback options.

  • Selection: Over 260,000 podcasts
  • Price: Free (with ads), $5 a month/$35 a year (ad-free)
  • Devices: Web player, iOS devices, Android devices, and more
  • Exclusives podcasts: Yes

Stitcher puts podcasts ahead of all else, unlike a platform like Spotify that also hosts millions of songs. Its layout is also one of the sleekest and most straightforward across podcast apps.

Once you sign in, you can check Stitcher’s top picks of the week along with curated collections of playlists celebrating the likes of women, Black Americans, Independent artists, and more. Stitcher’s homepage also includes an assortment of podcasts from different genres such as comedy, news, and more.

There’s a number of Stitcher original shows, as well, including “Dark Arenas,” “Going Deep,” “The Resurr-Erection,” “Unspooled: Screen Test,” “MASCOTS,” and a podcast by “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton. Some shows and episodes are exclusive to Stitcher Premium, however.

Premium also gives you early access to certain new episodes. Other perks for subscribers include ad-free episodes and monthly giveaways. You can see what’s available on Stitcher Premium here.

One of Stitcher’s unique features is its array of playback options, as the app lets you set a sleep timer, skip episodes you’ve already heard, and adjust your rewind and fast forward times between five seconds and two minutes.

You can also download new episodes automatically, get a list of shows that you’ve downloaded or liked, and trim down on storage by deleting all downloads with one click.

Just like other popular podcast apps, transcripts are only available if the podcast’s creator tags them in the show’s description.

TuneIn offers a number of radio streams from around the world in addition to its podcast catalog.

  • Selection: Over four million podcasts
  • Price: Free (with ads), $10 one-time payment (no visual ads/less audio ads), $10 a month (ad-free)
  • Devices: Web player, iOS, Android, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Samsung smart TVs, Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV, and more
  • Exclusive podcasts: No

TuneIn’s primary focus may be radio but it also includes some popular podcasts. There are plenty of genres to explore via the app’s search tab. The service also curates a number of new podcasts via its homepage so you can easily navigate different collections. 

Once you start listening to an episode, you can fast forward or rewind by 30 seconds. You can also display a clock, set an alarm to go off at a certain time, or set a sleep timer. Additionally, you can like episodes by clicking the heart icon to favorite a show for later.

One unique feature with TuneIn is that the app lets you switch to car mode. This is perfect for people who want to listen to podcasts on the go as you get a simplified menu to move between episodes.

A handy “auto-restart player” setting is also included so you can start the stream you last played when you open the app. You can also choose to automatically download episodes and track episodes you recently listened to.

If a podcast isn’t in TuneIn, you can add it to the app via the Custom URL button in your library. Similar to other podcast apps, you can only get transcripts of episodes if the creator makes them available in an episode’s description.

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