After about four months of beta testing, the new version of Pocket Casts is out, and to say it's divisive is an understatement. The app does look fresher and smoother, and there are plenty of nifty additions, but those of us who have used Pocket Casts for years can notice many regressions that make the app worse than before.

Let's focus on the positives first. Version 7 of Pocket Casts has a fresh interface with a bottom bar to quickly access your podcasts and filters (playlists), discover new podcasts, and check your profile or change your settings. It feels a lot smoother too, with better transitions as well as more swipe actions on episodes (archive, add to top of Up Next, add to bottom of Up Next) and for opening and collapsing the Now Playing screen.

It's also chockfull of handy additions. You can now play an episode from any podcast without subscribing to it first. Your Up Next playlist syncs across devices and with smart speakers (Alexa), so you can keep listening to what you had planned to. Your episode list gets new indicators for trailers, bonus episodes, seasons/episodes, as well as what's downloaded and what's in your Up Next list.

And one of my favorite new features is the ability to search any podcast for a specific keyword (episode title or show notes), although there's still no universal search in case you don't remember in which particular show you heard something.

But then, we get to the confusing changes and regressions. The option to multi-select episodes to mark them as played or add them to Up Next is gone. You can still tap and hold, but you only get the option to play all from here or archive all from here.

Speaking of archiving, Pocket Casts has moved away from the "mark as played/auto-delete played episodes" approach to a new archiving system. If you used to mark episodes as played to avoid them cluttering your filters or to have them be automatically deleted from your phone, you can't do that easily now. You have to start thinking about archiving episodes, which removes them from all your filters and deletes them from the storage, but doesn't mark them as played. It's a little perplexing at first, but the benefit is that you can still go through a show later and see which episodes you had archived but never really listened to.

A more befuddling change is the way filters are handled now. When you go to the Filters tab, you get all your created playlists. Tap one and you can see the list of episodes, but you'll have to tap Back to go to the filters list. The drop down at the top doesn't do much beside provide some filtering bubbles. This makes switching between several playlists, which were always a simple swipe away in the previous version, a lot more tedious now. I think this is by far the most annoying change for my usage.

But that's not all. I've noticed a few other regressive changes. You can't see the size of an episode in MBs anymore, and you can't swipe on the Now Playing bar to see your upcoming episodes and quickly switch to one of them. Additionally, the Now Playing screen no longer color matches the show artwork, so you only get a white or dark background, depending on the app theme. And finally, seeing the episode's show notes requires a precise tap on a small button, while before, it was a simple swipe to the right.

WHAT'S NEW
Feedback. We get a lot of it. Ideas. We have many of them. Improvements we all want them. So after many months of development and many more of beta testing version 7 is here! We only have 500 chars, so let's make each one count:
- Play without subscribing!
- Up Next syncing!
- Listening History!
- Episode row swipe actions, on both sides!
- Brand new design!
- Season and episode info!
- Brand new discovery section!
- Draggable player (FINALLY!)
- 100% better release note jokes
- Lots, lots more

I've used Pocket Casts for over five years now and I can practically navigate the old app blindfolded with sheer muscle memory. It's going to take me a while to get used to the new version, so I've decided to disable the app's auto-update on the Play Store on my main device and keep testing the new release on another phone until I feel comfortable upgrading. If you're as set in your ways as I am, and the app still hasn't updated on your phone, I suggest you do the same.

Pocket Casts - Podcast Player
Pocket Casts - Podcast Player