Google Podcasts is a new way for Android users to discover and listen to the world’s podcasts. You can subscribe to any show for free and download episodes for offline listening. All your listening is automatically synced across devices so you can pause on one device and resume on another with the Google Assistant.
FOR YEARS, ANDROID users have had plenty of options for listening to podcasts. The Google Play store offers perfectly competent apps, like Pocket Cast, Stitcher, and Player FM’s simply named Podcast. But Google hasn’t had a homegrown option since 2012, when it discontinued Google Listen just before the Serial-led podcast boom. Tuesday, it corrected that oversight. Google Podcasts is here, and it’s a very promising start.
Much like the recently launched Google Tasks, the Podcasts app feels fairly minimalist at launch. It greets you with section called For You, which includes new episodes of podcasts you’ve subscribed to, a separate tab for any episodes that are currently in progress, and another tab for any that you’ve downloaded. I occasionally use Google Play Music to listen to podcasts—you still can, if for some implausible reason you prefer it over a dedicated app. When I opened the Podcasts app, I was happy to find that the “All 8 Unicorns” episode of Story Pirates was marked at the timestamp where my daughter had left off.
Continue to scroll down, and you’ll see fairly anodyne sets of recommendations: top podcasts overall, trending podcasts, and then the most popular among categories including Comedy, Society & Culture, News & Politics, Sports, Religion & Spirituality, and Arts. There’s a whole lot of public-radio content in that initial mix.
When you search for and click on a given podcast, you can scroll through recent episodes, as you might expect. The Podcasts app will also recommend a related podcast underneath the one you chose. Individual podcast pages is also where you'll find one of the app's few fun surprises: Tap on the menu icon in the upper-right corner, and you're given the option to add the podcast to your homescreen.
As for playback, there’s not much that stands out. You can play, pause, skip forward 30 seconds or skip back 10. The only real granularity comes in the ability to control the speed of playback, with literally 16 speeds to choose from ranging from half to double-time. You can’t rate episodes or series yet, or make playlists, much less enjoy more advanced options like the Overcast app’s recent Smart Resume feature, which ensures that when you pick a podcast back up after taking a break, it starts during a pause in talking.
Even the settings menu could almost be singular instead of plural: It only lets you choose when to auto-remove completed and unfinished episodes.