Downloading Podcasts on Android

Update: Google Listen wasn’t really doing it for me, so I bought a $2.99 app called Pocket Casts that does a better job of managing and displaying podcasts. Check out the review of Pocket Casts here.

One of the activities that I miss from owning an iPhone was the access to podcasts. Every week or so, I’d hook up my iPhone to a computer, start iTunes, head out and grab a coffee while it took its time loading, came back, synced up some new podcasts, and I’d have some new material to listen to on the way to work or on a long trip. I’m pretty apathetic towards music so I’d rather listen to something cool and learn something instead. Anyways, if you didn’t catch my drift from above, the whole process of downloading and getting podcasts to my Android phone was bullshit. When I moved over to a Samsung Captivate, I initially didn’t bother learning how to do podcasts, which is too bad, because it turned out to be really easy.

The itch started when I downloaded a Freakonomics podcast on prediction. This is easy enough on an Android, just download it in mp3 format, drop it on your phone, and you’re done. But within the podcast, a better technology was promised: podcasting via the Stitcher app. I tried the app and it was pretty good for streaming, but didn’t offer an easy way to just download the podcasts en masse automatically at the right time. I don’t have an unlimited data plan, so I needed something that would download the podcasts via Wifi at home. After a browse around, I found a few paid apps as well as a few crappier free ones. One of the crapper looking ones, surprisingly, came from a Google Labs project and was called “Google Listen“. I had low hopes for it, because it hadn’t been updated in a year, and ratings were all over the place.

Google Listen screenshot

In the end, it worked for what I needed it to do: automatically download podcasts when connected to Wifi. It also had the option to check whether it was plugged in for charging before downloading more podcasts, which was a convenient way to tell the phone to only download podcasts when it was docked for the night. This app hasn’t been updated for about a year, which is too bad because it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Having a professional dev team at Google give it a couple weeks of love would be all that’s needed to bring it up to be a cheap and cheerful app for syncing up podcasts for all the road warriors out there. As-is this app does the job. My phone is now chock full of interesting stuff that I can listen to on the way to work. If that’s all you need out of a podcasting app, this is the one for you.


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