After introducing the touch-first Metro design language, Windows has long struggled with the low number of apps built specifically for the platform. With the introduction of Windows 10, things have started improving somewhat. At least the major social networks are well covered, from Twitter to Facebook, Messenger and Instagram – and let’s not forget that Instagram hasn’t launched a proper iPad client yet! But what about niche use cases like listening to podcasts? Sometime last year I started searching for a podcast client to use on my tablet. Fortunately, I didn't have to search for long until I found the best solution yet: Grover Podcast.
The app has all the basic features you would expect in a podcast player: subscribing to podcasts (manually from RSS feeds or by searching the large selection of the iTunes store), streaming episodes, options to automatically download new episodes and removed played files, notifications for new episodes, and importing/exporting subscription lists as OPML files. The design is pretty great as well, respecting the Windows 10 guidelines, making the app similar in look and feel to the system music player Groove Music – the name Grover actually originates from this music player. And, like it, Grover is integrated with system audio playback, meaning you can use the standard keyboard shortcuts and the lock-screen widget to play/resume. The only major feature missing from the regular app is syncing subscriptions and played status between devices – though I understand it’s available in the Pro version, which also includes a Windows mobile app. I can live without syncing for the time being, since I do most of my listening on the iPhone anyway.
You may wonder what is the point of a podcast app on a desktop device – and for a long time I didn’t use it that much to begin with. Later I remembered there are many music podcasts that regularly publish mixes of current tracks. This makes for nice background music, a little different than what you can find on streaming apps – and free, without ads!
On top of this, Grover has a couple of features I found increasingly useful. Both are found in other mobile podcast apps as well, but their usefulness on the iPhone is kind of limited. One is the ability to change the playback speed; depending on how many podcasts you listen to, this can noticeably reduce time spent per episode. While available in iOS Podcasts, the speed increments are too big, and voices sound too distorted at 1.5x speed. Grover lets you change playback speeds in increments of just 0.05x, allowing for much better control. I found the best compromise of speed versus quality to be somewhere around 1.25x – 1.30x. On a side-note, this feature encouraged me to try out other podcast apps on the iPhone, namely Overcast.
Another nice feature is casting media to other Miracast-compatible devices – the iPhone can only pair with Apple devices, so no luck there. In my case, I can stream music from Grover podcasts to my smart TV as I’m writing on my tablet, which is good since the tablet doesn’t have the best speakers. Overall, Grover is surprisingly good and covers most of the needs of podcasts listeners on Windows 10 devices.