Google has released a new podcasts app. Well, I say app. In its current state, that’s generous terminology for what’s on offer, as I’ll come to in a moment. So, is Google Podcasts now the best podcast app for Android or is there still a better player in town? Here’s my verdict.
If you couldn’t be bothered to read the next 400 words or so and have already jetted off to the Play Store eager to try out Google Podcasts for yourself, you’re probably wondering what the hell is going on. Welcome back. As I said at the top, Google Podcasts – in its current state – isn’t yet a fully fledged app.
To get Google Podcasts, you first need to open the Google Assistant and then ask it to play your favourite podcast. (ie. “OK Google, play the PC Pro podcast” to name a show completely at random. Honest, mum.)
When you do that, said podcast should start playing. Now click on the little podcast icon in the top left corner of the screen and then click the three dots menu button in the top right. Select Add to Home Screen and you should have a new Podcasts icon on one of your home screens, letting you zoom back to the Google Podcasts ‘app’ at any time.
After a couple of minutes of prodding around the Google Podcasts app you’ll see things are super-basic. You can search for shows using the magnifying glass icon at the top of the screen and subscribe to them. You can browse Google’s curated lists of “Top Podcasts” in various categories. And that really is it. It’s about as rudimentary as a podcast player could be.
The one killer feature for Google Home/Google Home Mini owners is that this is the same service that drives podcasts for Google’s voice assistants. So if I’m listening to Desert Island Discs on my phone and get only halfway through the show, I can resume where I left off on my Google Home Mini by saying, “OK Google, resume Desert Island Discs podcast”. Yes, I am 40 going on 73.
The best podcast app for Android
That one great feature isn’t nearly enough to make Google Podcasts the best podcast app for Android, though.
That title, after years of hard testing (I have a dog, I listen to A LOT of podcasts on dog walks) goes to Podcast Republic.
Podcast Republic is the most customisable podcast player I’ve ever come across. Its best feature is the way it handles offline playback. You can set the app to search for new episodes of shows to a schedule of your choice (once a day, once an hour etc).
You can also tell the app to only download new shows when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. If, like me, you’ve subscribed to several different podcasts, that means you’ve almost always got a new show downloaded and waiting to play whenever you leave the house, without any worries about playback being interrupted if mobile signal drops or you head underground.
If you’re on a long drive you can create a playlist, cueing up podcasts to play one after the other in an order of your choice. The app has a driving interface with big controls if you, say, want to skip forward (when you’ve stopped at traffic lights) and there’s an Android Wear app for playback controls on your smartwatch too.
In addition to podcasts, the app supports live radio, so if you want to listen to 6 Music on your travels, you can. It’s much faster to load stations than the BBC iPlayer Radio app, too.
There are so many settings and features to Podcast Republic that, frankly, I hope Google buys it and turns it into its own Podcasts app.