If you’re like me then you already have your favourite podcast app. For me that happens to be PocketCasts which I bought four and a half years ago. It has served me well and I swear by it. As such, it’s been a little hard to lure me to other podcast apps over the last 4 or so years.
However, after trying out Google’s new podcast app called, well, Podcasts (because, Google), I might start keeping at least two podcast apps on my smartphones.
Google Podcasts does the basics i.e. lets you subscribe to your favourite podcasts, download, play and pause them. Nothing out of the ordinary if you are already used to some other podcast app.
What sets it apart, though, is that it is a Google app. That means it gets to tap into features like the Google Assistant and Google’s unmatched Artificial Intelligence (AI) prowess to better serve listeners. And it’s brilliant! You can imagine my shock and childish grin last evening when I asked my smart speaker to “play the 24bit podcast” and it obliged. Even better, if you happen to have multiple devices like I do, Google will always remember and sync where you left off the last time so that you can pick up from there next time without a care in the world which device you are using. This is what I have been waiting for!
Sure, I have seen how cool PocketCasts is on AndroidAuto but I don’t have a car so I’ll stick to being excited about simple things like smart speakers.
The app’s organization is simple. When you open it, you are welcomed by a “For You” section which is basically a feed of podcasts that you have subscribed to showing the latest episodes first and allowing you to browse those that you are currently listening to or have listened to but are yet to finish and then those that you may have downloaded. Scrolling down sees one the top podcasts overall and the top podcasts by category e.g. comedy and those that are trending.
Since Podcasts is a Google app, the app wouldn’t be deemed complete or Google-esque if it didn’t have a recommendation engine of sorts that suggests podcasts you may like based on those you have listened to previously or those that you subscribe to. Those occupy the rest of the home feed.
The entire organization is simple and easy to the eye. There’s lots of “Google white”, something that those of us who’ve lived through Google’s obsession with the colour white since it rolled out Material Design have become used to.
I like the simplicity of the player. Play, pause, forward by 30 seconds or rewind by 10, control the playback speed… I wish I could customize the buttons further but I’ll take this.
In line with the simplicity vibe, the settings section of the app is as basic as basic gets. One can reorganize their subscription list by deleting podcasts they no longer want or remove downloaded episodes. This can come in handy when you have downloaded a couple of episodes for listening on the go, like I do before embarking on a trip, and you are done with them and you need to save every bit of storage space on your smartphone that you can find.
It is worth noting that users can’t create playlists at this moment.
Google says that Podcasts already offers access to over 2 million podcasts, much more than you can listen to in your lifetime, if we are being realistic but it is not about the sheer number. It is about the choice that this presents since we all have different preferences and I like that. That means access to just about every podcast worth its name that is syndicated by major feeds including Apple’s iTunes platform. They can all be searched through the search function built into the app or, preferably, through the Google Assistant.
Talking about Apple, Google Podcasts is only available on Android at the moment. It is not like I care that much for our brothers and sisters across the fence but since I hope to keep on spreading the Android gospel and, hopefully, make them convert to Android some day, it might be a good idea if they could be able to listen to our once-in-a-long-time ramblings on 24bit using an app that is best used on an Android device. Maybe that way, chances of luring them to this other side would be higher.
Here’s some nice hack: other than downloading the app itself, you can just go to the Google app on your smartphone and search for the podcast you want to listen to using the format “podcast name + the word podcast” e.g. “24bit podcast” and check the results. Clicking on “more episodes” below the listed episodes of the podcast you just searched for will lead to you being redirected to the podcast’s own page from where you can listen to individual episodes or even subscribe to the podcast itself. Yeah, Instant Apps in action. This is probably the best way to listen to podcasts on devices that have resource limitations, like those powered by Android Go.
Now that Podcasts won’t let me listen to the African Tech Roundup from my desktop web browser, I will still be turning to PocketCasts for that, even though that means having to part with more money for the subscription. Dear Google…