Spotify vs. Pocket Casts — Focusing on one single problem
Today, I’m going to review and compare Spotify Podcast and Pocket Casts from the perspective of a listener, but also a product designer. Only mobile apps are covered in this review.
I have really enjoyed and have been regularly using Spotify to listen to music for 10 years. I remember that Spotify has a messages section.
Spotify enables a smooth listening experience. This product is a lovemark 💚
You can see many acquisitions and deals by Spotify below. They are concerned with the quality of our listening experience. Of course, they are aware that podcasting is a hot new dessert.
However, listening to podcasts and listening to music are completely different experiences. As a listener, this is confusing because I wouldn’t say I like the context switch in a single app. Also, I don’t want to use super apps if I have another good option.
On the other hand, Pocket Casts does podcast streaming. You can find a really good podcast in it. While using the app, you will realize the potential to focus on a single problem.
Now it's time to deep dive into the two apps’ features. And we will discuss the differences between the two approaches.
What does context switch mean?
Let me explain an example in real life.
Today, I want to walk down a street. The weather is perfect. Birds are chirping. Inhale and exhale. I decided to walk around for at least 30 minutes. And I say:
“What a day to listen to a design podcast huh?”
Open the Spotify app but…
When I see CAZZETTE’s new album, can I listen to design podcasts anymore?:) I am motivated… Also, I keep scrolling and only see one section dedicated to podcasts.
Then I opened the Pocket Casts, and it basically, shows me the page that I visited last time. It is clear.
Let’s return to Spotify. Okay. No worries. I insist on listening to a podcast and, I change my mind and want to listen to something about art, not design. or… Is design an art? hehe, just a joke.
And I jump to the search page on both of them. You see a podcast-specific page on Pocket Casts. And another side is the genres and podcasts.
But no problem. Both of them cannot help me too. I decided to search on discover pages as “art”. Maybe it’s a good way to find related content.
That’s exactly what I meant about Context Switch. I know that I usually discover good podcasts on Twitter, Slack, etc. But the search results should be relevant, right?
As you can see, Pocket Casts didn’t show me good detailed information. But the results are fine. However, Spotify lists the tracks and artists. 100% different context. It’s strange. I think it would be a challenge for the Spotify team.
Let’s talk about some subtle features of Pocket Casts features, and evaluate the outcomes. Moreover, try to understand the product that wants to focus on one problem and solutions.
Intelligent Playback Resumption
Actually, I didn't realize that before. I heard the feature on the Design Details. They published an awesome episode called Invisible Design. This feature helps users invisibly…
For example, suppose that yesterday I started to listen to an episode. 10 minutes later I paused and tomorrow go back again. When I tap to play, the episode will go back a little. It helps to remind me what the episode is about.
Technically, I believe this is not difficult to implement. However, the concept is admirable.
Simple but effective feature. Some podcasts have low audio quality. The hosts have professional hardware but the guests do not have one. For example, the podcast that I like to listen called Whiteboard FM
Another use case is a noisy environment with bad earphones. The booster democratizes to listening podcasts for everyone.
I am calling all podcasters. Please split the chapter like Design Details.
When I listen to this podcast, I typically use left-right arrow buttons above the seek bar as you can see below. Because I do not want to hear cold open and intro.
It feels good to see people who care about your time, and product that care about your time.
Trim Silence — Mad max
Trim silence is another underestimated feature. When I see 14 hours saved, to be honest, I couldn’t believe it at the beginning. And when I go to stats detail most parts of them are related to variable speed:)
This is as important as the episode for me. Most of the podcasts that I follow have useful show notes. They frequently attach links. They put links that the host or guest mentioned. I stopped the episode and go to the link, review the content then continue the episode.
On Pocket Casts, it is really simple to reach the show notes. Swipe left in the player. That’s all.
On Spotify, I wouldn’t say hard to reach the show notes but to be honest I couldn’t convince myself to font size. Legible but unreadable.
Those examples are sufficient to express my thought. But I have to clear some things before I finish the article.
My closing thoughts
How should I finish this article? From a product design perspective or an everyday user? Perhaps combining them would be the best choice.
What is your definition of success? Can we say that Pocket Casts is better than Spotify, or vice versa?
When reviewing a digital product, especially when comparing them, we should consider;
- Their budgets
- Their human resource
- Which phase is this product?
- What is their strategy?
- Who are their user and target audiences?
- What is the problem they want to solve? so on…
As a designer to say something like “too ugly” or “I don’t like it” is a simple way to criticize. We are not in this meeting room when they making a decision, right? We cannot know exactly what is their strategy?
Though, Spotify’s podcast experience does not fit with me. Maybe users like me are not on their target. Also maybe they don’t want to do more functionality for the podcast vertical. In the first quarter of 2022, more than 125 million Spotify users listened to a podcast. Perhaps it is a success metric.
But I want to approach this from a user and a little bit of a product design perspective for this article. I want to share my everyday experience to listen to podcasts.
When we observe digital products every day we use, we can see that they are on an adventure. They try out something and discover new things, test features, new strategies, and some inspiration from competitors.
Is it tech or wild world? However, I see that competition enhances creativity.
Finally, the user wins.