Now that Google Listen has been discontinued, some of you out there may be looking for an alternative. Or more likely, you never used Google Listen, but you wanted to know what the best options were for managing podcasts on your Android phone or tablet. Luckily, there is absolutely no shortage of podcast apps available in the Play Store. If anything, there may just be an overabundance of options, but we've narrowed it down to 5 solid options that should cover any user preferences.
As we said, there are a lot of podcast options out there, so if your favorite isn't in our list just let us know which one you prefer, and be sure to tell us why it's your favorite. We know that some of you out there may prefer PodKicker, PodTrapper, MyPod, or OneCast, but while those were all solid apps, they didn't quite have enough to make the list. So, without further ado, let's get into it!
For the podcast enthusiast
BeyondPod gets to start off our list for a few reasons. It's not only packed to the brim with features, but it's one of the granddaddies of the Android podcast app space, and the developer (BeyondPod Team) is very engaged and constantly working. To that point, this is one of the few podcast apps that doesn't just scale to tablets, but has a version specifically designed for tablets, which is impressive.
That said, the tablet UI isn't really the most intuitive out there, and it can be a bit clunky to navigate, but most of these issues were in portrait mode, and as such will likely be more of a problem for Nexus 7 users than most 10" tablet users. Overall, BeyondPod was a bit sluggish on the Nexus 7, and definitely needs some optimization. Still, we have faith that the team will work out the kinks.
As far as the feature list, BeyondPod will have most everything you need to search for, or discover new podcasts. You can also import OPML files, or even pull in specific feeds from your Google Reader if you want. The special feature of BeyondPod is the Smart Playlist option, which can learn from your listening habits and automatically create playlists of your favorite podcasts.
There are free versions of BeyondPod for both phones
(although the tablet app is still called "BeyondPod for Honeycomb", which is a big problem,) but if you are really a podcast enthusiast, you'll probably end up paying $6.99 for the unlock key. But, the good news is that even if you have BeyondPod on both your phone and tablet, the unlock key works for both, so you won't have to pay twice.
DoggCatcher is the other granddaddy of the podcasting world of Android devices. Like BeyondPod, DoggCatcher has a big feature list, and also an incredibly impressive amount of control over individual feeds should you choose to dive into the settings.
As far as performance, we've never had an issue with DoggCatcher, unlike the few hiccups we ran into with BeyondPod. But, that could very well be because DoggCatcher is a bit more conservative with its design. There is no dedicated tablet version of DoggCatcher, and there really isn't much difference between the phone and tablet interface. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you will get more info about each podcast and feed item without as much digging with BeyondPod.
The dev team for DoggCatcher is a bit more reliable with updates than the BeyondPod team as well. DoggCatcher is also a bit cheaper at $4.99, but the trouble there is that there's no free version to try out.
Pocket Casts is an app that has a great set of features, and a few pretty interesting features you won't find anywhere else, which is why we have to include it here. The trouble is that there is no tablet version at all, and while the app looks beautiful on Android phones, the graphics do not scale well even just to a 7" screen, and things look blurry. But, if you're just using an Android phone, this may be a good one to look into.
Maybe the best feature of Pocket Casts is what the team calls "instant refresh" or "warp speed". Essentially what this feature does is to leave the polling for new podcasts up to the Pocket Casts servers rather than forcing your device to do it all the time. This has two benefits, not only making it a lot faster to check for new content (because the app just checks one spot rather than however many podcasts you listen to), but also in using less data (ibid).
Another cool feature sets up two large touch zones on the player for easy skipping ahead or backwards in a podcast (as you can see in the image.) The last standout feature is for those of you out there who tend to go for video podcasts. Pocket Casts has a pretty interesting feature which allows you to toggle the video on or off for a podcast, so you can switch between as you want.
Presto isn't a podcasting app, but we had to mention it in the section for podcast enthusiasts, because it's really something anyone who loves podcasts should have. Presto is the tool that allows other podcasting apps - like BeyondPod, DoggCatcher, and others - variate the speed of playback with pitch correction. Technically only playback speeds of up to 2x are supported, but it is possible to go faster than that if you really want. It'll set you back $4.99, but it's worth it if you find that you have more podcasts to listen to than you have free time.
For the casual podcaster
doubleTwist isn't a dedicated podcasting app, which is why it's best for the casual listener. doubleTwist will not only give you options to build a podcast queue, it is one of the better all around solutions for syncing media easily from your computer to your Android device. Essentially, doubleTwist wants to be the iTunes for Android, and in that regard it does quite well. It's not stellar for podcasting, but it does so many things well that makes up for it, and best of all, it's free, although if you want the option to sync your content wirelessly, that will cost you $4.99.
doubleTwist scales well from phones to tablets, which really just adds to its "jack-of-all-trades" reputation. And, of course being the iTunes for Android, if you are coming from an iTunes life, doubleTwist can import your iTunes data for easy transfer. So, if you'd rather just keep using iTunes to manage your podcast subscriptions, that's no problem here.
There is a companion app for Mac or PC to help sync data, and doubleTwist can even stream content from your mobile device to devices such as Xbox, PS3, Sonos, and Apple TV (though not AirPlay).
Stitcher isn't what you'd normally think of when talking about podcasting apps, but it definitely has its place, especially for those who really don't listen to podcasts all the time. When you think of a podcasting app, you're normally thinking of an app that will download content for offline use, but Stitcher is a streaming-only option. But, this can be a great solution for casual users who don't always listen to podcasts, or like to periodically check in with certain content feeds.
Even better, Stitcher has much more content than just podcasts including a huge store of live radio, and radio clips. So, even if podcasts aren't your thing, you may be able to put together a playlist of content that fits your needs.
One strange thing is that Stitcher is one of the best examples of Android's responsive design philosophy that we've seen (as you can see in the image to the left). The app looks good on phones, and even better on tablets. The layout scales and adds in a nice set of features and options that slide in on tablets. Of course, this may not be all that useful because as we said, this app is streaming-only and many tablets are WiFi-only. So, unless you have a tablet with a mobile connection, or you tether, or are always around WiFi, Stitcher may not really be of much use for tablet users, as pretty as the design may be.