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After Google announced plans to sprinkle its Play Music offering into YouTube’s video cauldron to create YouTube Music, you’d think the company would continue the trend of rolling similar apps into singular entities.
But you’d be mistaken.
On Tuesday the company announced Google Podcasts, its app for Android phones and lovers of pods.
It’s a standalone app but uses the Google app’s host of permissions. So if you’re already letting Google Assistant do your bidding on a daily basis, you only need allow the app access to “Storage” to download episodes.
Notably, you can also request Assistant to continue an episode you started on your phone on your Home speaker, and vice versa.
But before we get into that, let’s take a look at the basics.
It’s easily the cleanest podcast app I’ve ever used, but this also comes at a cost. For one, there’s no dark mode, a UX enhancement you’ll find on practically every other podcast app nowadays. But the home page is nicely adapted for smooth, easily learned interaction.
Google ranks podcasts by genre and popularity, with “Top” and “Trending” sections up top. Tapping on a podcast takes you to a simple page listing the pod’s name, a brief description and list of available episodes. You can either play said episode immediately via the far-right play button, or tap on it for more options.
Subscribing to podcasts are also possible, and subs are listed on top of the Google Podcast app’s homescreen.
Notably, one clear advantage Google Podcasts has over its Podcast Addict and Pocket Casts rivals is a “For You” section, which neatly lists new episodes, downloads, and pods you’re in the middle of in an accessible homescreen bubble.
At the bottom of the app, a player dialogue will emerge when you’re playing a pod. A more granular set of controls can be accessed by sliding up, similar to most other Google apps.
Controls include playback speed, info on the podcast, reverse 10 seconds, shoot forward by 30 seconds, and pause. It’s a pretty nice selection. Also, the progress bar allows for smooth and quick seeking.
It’s all really simple, and that’s seemingly what Google wanted with this particular app. But as I mentioned before, it’s not for those who want more control over their podcasts.
For those interested, here’s just some of the features it lacks:
- download scheduling
- WiFi filters for downloading pods on specific networks
- the ability to read comments on particular episodes
- manage playlists
- gapless playback and silence elimination during playback
- no widgets
Additionally, I’m not completely sure which Google Account I’m using at present. The app also doesn’t bother telling you.
Some things Google Podcasts gets oh so right:
- simplicity in design
- it’s pretty damn beautiful
- stable and quick
- easily integrated with Google Assistant
- comprehensive podcast search
I’ve tried the app on an LG G7 ThinQ — a pretty beefy device — and it’s brisk and stable, but there’s no indication that Google Podcasts would be slower on lighter-specced devices. The download file itself is a little over 200kB, for instance.
TL;DR: Google Podcasts is a great little app for catching and listening to pods if you can deal with the lack of options.