By Guest Blogger Paul Barrette
Podcasts are a terrific source of information for both professional growth and personal entertainment. Since Google has cancelled their Listen podcast app, I've been searching for a new podcast app for Android. I listen to a LOT of podcasts, both at work and on the treadmill while I run, so it was really important to me to find an app that had the right mix of features and ease of use. While I know that Google Listen is far from perfect, I liked its easy-to-use interface (once you know its quirks) and the integration with Google Reader. The fact that it was free also didn't hurt.
I've been testing three different apps; DoggCatcher, Pocket Casts, and BeyondPod. Unfortunately, none of these apps are completely free (BeyondPod has a limited free version), so I needed to shell out a little money to give them all a fair test. Normally, I wouldn't buy an app just to test it out, but because podcast discovery and playback is so important to me, I made an exception.
After lots of testing, I've found that all three apps could get the job done, but with varying degrees of effort.
DoggCatcher turned out to be my least favorite of the three, mostly because of its cluttered and confusing user interface. I don't want to have to struggle to move around the app and learn its basic features. I think that, over time, I could get used to the interface and the app would be fine. Honestly, I just didn't want (or think I should) have to put in that much effort to learn to get around and use it.
The interface for Pocket Casts was much simpler than DoggCatcher and I was able to learn how to use the app pretty quickly. It also has the coolest icon of all three apps. I wasn't crazy about the red on black color scheme of the interface, but it wasn't a real issue. I really liked the fact that you can bring up an episode's "show notes" right from the player. What turned out to be a deal breaker for me was that you can't add a podcast episode to the playlist unless the episode is fully downloaded. I don't necessarily want to download every episode BEFORE I decide whether or not to add it to the playlist. Yes, I could just automatically download new episodes in the background, but that takes up storage space. Also, there weren't enough options on how to handle what happens when skipping past a playing podcast. My preference is to mark it as listened and remove it from the playlist.
My ultimate choice as the replacement for Google Listen is BeyondPod. Of the three apps I tested, it has the best balance of a good, simple to use interface and a complete feature set. I was able to learn how to navigate the interface fairly quickly and tweak all the settings to my liking (or at least what I'm used to from Google Listen). The Playlist works the way I would expect and I like the fact that I can even add episodes that are not downloaded. In fact, you can add episodes to the Playlist that you you never intend to download and would prefer to simply stream. The only feature that I really want that BeyondPod doesn't currently have is the ability to sync your progress and playlist between devices. Supposedly, this feature is in development. All in all, BeyondPod is an excellent podcast player and it will be what I use going forward.
Paul Barrette is the director of technology at Burrillville School Department in Rhode Island. This blog is cross-posted at Cogitation of a Head Geek.