Overcast 5 and Siri Shortcuts

Over the last few months, I’ve actually been trying hard to make use of some of the stock apps on iOS. There are several reasons for this, however one of the main reasons has been to have a quicker interface with the core OS between devices. An example of this comes with the Calendar application. Don’t get me wrong, I love Fantastical on both iPad and iPhone, however there would be times when I’d add an event on one device and it wouldn’t show up on another for a period of time. Not always - just sometimes, whereas this isn’t something I’ve ever experienced with the native application. My calendar needs to be spot on, so I moved. 

To that end, I thought I’d give the native Podcasts application a spin so that I can sync between my iMac and iPhone, alternating which device I use to listen dependant on my circumstance. Also, using Siri to launch a podcast, or playlist, is really handy. The Apple Podcasts application is certainly better than it was, however there are features with Overcast that I definitely miss. Smart Speed helps cut out those annoying pauses that you get within the dialog and Voice Boost is great when you are listening on the iPhones built-in speaker rather than headphones. The layout of the application is beautiful, with great attention to detail that the developer, Marco Arment, is renowned for. 

Now, we have Siri Shortcuts added to the mix and I’m totally back on the Overcast bandwagon. I’ve only just started playing with it and I’m certainly not leveraging it to it’s full potential, however I’m definitely saving time when it comes to how I access my favourite podcasts. 

I’ve got three core playlists in my Overcast app - Football, General and Timed. Football holds all of my football and Tottenham Hotspur related podcasts, Timed  is for tech/news podcasts that discuss current issues and General is a bucket for everything else. I’ve recorded a Siri Shortcut for each of these:

Overcast Football, Overcast Timed and Overcast General will play the current podcast in the respective playlist. It’s a small difference, however when driving, it’s massive. When laying on the sofa with AirPods in and my iPhone on charge at the other end of the room, it’s massive. I’ve elected to go with the name of the application first, as I know I’m going to be embracing the Siri Shortcuts functionality in every application I own that supports it, so I don’t want to ever have any confusion in what the shortcut phrase actually is! 

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I’ve named a couple of specific podcasts as well - Overcast Mac Power Users is used quite often, along with Overcast The Mac Show (love those British Tech Network chaps!). Setting the speed is available as a shortcut too. I listen to most of mine at 1.6x however when Merlin Mann is going off on one, I need to reduce the speed a lot as it can sound four times faster than normal! Overcast Speed 1x is my go-to in that scenario. 

You can seek forward/back by a chosen number of seconds, skip chapters and even start your sleep timer, all from Siri. 

It’s a great update to a wonderful application and well recommended.