x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

App of the Week: Downcast serves content on a silver platter

Downcast will let you get to the free content you want with no fuss, no muss.

Whenever something new bursts on the scene, naming it is almost always a work in progress. At first, we usually just add a word to the older thing it seems destined to replace.

Automobiles were "horseless carriages", for example. Movies were "motion pictures". During particularly bratty moments in kindergarten, I was "little Napoleon".

It's the same for "smartphones" - they are "smart" only because we still live in a world with "dumb" ones. And "phone" still takes up half the name even if most of us use them for texting, e-mailing and Web surfing 99 per cent of the time? Do we call our SUVs "four-wheel-drive radios"?

Making matters worse, I primarily use my smartphone to listen to "podcasts", the newest old term in need of an update - in this case, the situation is desperate, since the root form of the new thing (iPod) is almost as outdated as the old thing (broadcast).

The app

Fortunately, there's Downcast (Dh8.70; iPhone, iPad), an app that can not only streamline the way you get free entertainment for your smartphone, but may one day be the new term for the content itself.

Podcasts, for those "horseless carriage" owners and "motion picture" watchers who don't know, are free, episodic audio and video shows that can be automatically downloaded onto any Web-enabled device, much the way DVRs collect and store TV shows until you're ready to watch them.

Comedians (Marc Maron, Ricky Gervais), news organisations (Al Jazeera, BBC), sports shows (ESPN's PTI, The Football Ramble) and just about anyone else with a passionate following now produce podcasts, or at least convert their "mainstream" media into podcast form. But it's the thousands of independent producers that give podcasting its richest potential.

Downcast makes finding all such programmes, and subscribing and managing them, as easy as possible, since it doesn't require you to tether your device to a computer to check and update your episodes list.

The details

You can then browse for content based on subject matter (arts, comedy, health, etc) or search for particular podcasts by keyword.

After you find something you like, simply tap to subscribe and the latest instalment will download, as will all subsequent ones automatically.

Downcast can help us fill up the boring parts of our day with entertainment that's designed almost specifically for us - if we listen long enough, one day we may even know what to call it.

Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at cbrandao@thenational.ae