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We're now free, and here's why

If you love something, set it free.

Pocket Casts has been a paid app since it first launched in 2010. Back then, we had a small company to run and our families literally depended on the money we made from app sales. It was a business model that paid the bills, but often caused confusion with our customers: "I've already bought the iPhone app, why do I have to pay again on Android?!", "Why is the app paid?", "How can I recommend this to friends when it will require them to pay?"

Today, things are different.

We have the backing of some amazing partners, all of whom come from the world of public media, and firmly believe in an open-access approach. For a while now, we've felt that charging for our apps conflicted with their core values of being free and available to everyone. We knew we had to do something about it, and so in the spirit of Shifty Jelly of yore, we did.

After many months of hard work, we're excited to share version 7.5 of our Android and iOS apps. The Android version is currently rolling out, and the iOS version is in review with Apple and will be available soon. We also have updates for our web and desktop versions rolling out today. We'd like to go into a bit of detail about what this means for you today and going forward.

Here's the big news: both the Android and iOS apps are now free.

You probably have some questions at this point, so let's cover those first:

I paid for this app in the past, will I still have access to all the features I paid for?

Most certainly! We aren't locking any existing features behind a paywall. Even more importantly, we will continue to update the free tier with new features and functionality. We fully expect the free version will be the way the vast majority of our users access our app. Yes, some users may upgrade to Pocket Casts Plus if they want to support us or access some of our more niche features. But free will be our flagship.

Pocket Casts Plus...what's that?

Pocket Casts Plus is our new subscription tier. It's intended for our most passionate users who want to customise their experience or use our more specialised services.

So does this mean you'll now be selling my data or something? What's the new business model?

That's a fair question to ask, and no, we won't be selling or sharing your data with third parties. In fact, our privacy policy remains unchanged. You can read it here. We're proud of the fact that it's written in plain English and explains very clearly how seriously we take your data, and just how little of it we store.

As for our new business model, it will be a combination of our most passionate supporters paying for Pocket Casts Plus and direct funding from our partners. We may introduce other ways to keep this whole thing sustainable in the future, but because we're owned by not-for-profit organisations, we don't have to grow our margins at all costs or chase every last dollar.

What are the new features?

We've introduced a much-requested feature that allows you to easily add your own files to Pocket Casts. Share them from any app on your phone straight into our app and enjoy silence trimming and variable speed playback. We've also spent a lot of time tweaking the design, refining various interactions and bringing more account management functions inside the app. Think of version 7.5 as a well-oiled, refined version of what came before it.

To summarise: the app is free, not much else is changing. It will continue to get updates and new features even if you don't pay for Pocket Casts Plus.

Next, let's talk about the web and desktop apps.

The main change here is the these are now Pocket Casts Plus features. This service costs us money to run, and some of the new features we're adding mean our costs will increase.

Before you freak out, we want to let you know that we want to do the right thing by everyone who has ever paid for the Web and Desktop apps. It doesn't matter if you paid 5 years ago, or just last month, we're going to gift each and every one of you with lifetime access to Pocket Casts Plus. No strings attached, when you next log in you'll be upgraded automatically and can keep using the apps as you always have, including all of the new features we've added in this release. We hope that shows our commitment to you all and our appreciation for your past financial support.

So in summary (I promised myself I wouldn't say TL;DR):

  • Our mobile apps are now completely free, so please tell a friend if that was holding you back in the past!
  • Switching from iOS to Android, or Android to iOS has never been easier.
  • There's a subscription tier called Pocket Casts Plus which you can check out if you like.
  • If you buy Pocket Casts Plus on any platform, you have access to it on all the platforms we support. It's available as a monthly or yearly subscription.
  • If you've ever paid for the web app, you have a lifetime access to Pocket Casts Plus for free. You don't need to do anything to activate this.
  • Both the free tier and Pocket Casts Plus will continue to get new features over time.

We hope you'll join us on this next stage of our journey, and we look forward to sharing more updates with you in the future as we continue to build Pocket Casts into the product we dreamt up on a whiteboard way back in 2010.

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About Russell Ivanovic

Chief Product Officer at Pocket Casts. Also Vice President of the Nonsense Department.
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About Owen Grover

CEO at Pocket Casts. Loves Radiohead AND Radiolab. From Brooklyn.
  • New York City