There’s no shortage of podcast managers for Android, and a lot of them are really good. We have a lot of favourites, but today we think Pocket Casts is the your option to find, download, and organise podcasts on your Android phone, as well as your other devices.
- Supports audio and video podcasts
- Automatically downloads new episodes on a regular schedule or on-demand
- Supports cloud-based syncing of episodes played, downloaded, playback location, and filters, all of which can be synced back to Pocket Casts on the web, or on other Android, iOS, or Windows Phone devices
- Can be configured to only download podcasts over Wi-Fi, at night, or when the phone is charging
- Supports custom, actionable notifications on multiple devices, including Android Wear, when new episodes are available or have been downloaded and are ready to play
- Allows you to control playback from the app, but also from the notifications shade, home screen widget, or even through external devices like headphones with control buttons, Android Wear devices, Pebble smart watches, Bluetooth devices like car head units or headphones, and more
- Add your own feeds manually (and privately), import from OPML (or export to OPML), or browse Pocket Casts’ massive directory of over 200,000 shows and podcasts to find new ones to subscribe to
- Supports manual playlists, so you can build custom playlists of various podcasts (or even episodes of those podcasts) to listen to
- Supports custom categories and filters, so you can filter by custom categories, or just by traits like “all unplayed,” “all unplayed video,” “all video podcasts,” and so on
- Offers variable speed playback (0.5x to 3x)
- Can remove silence from podcasts, so you can save time and listen to the meat without pauses
- Features a per-podcast or app-wide volume boost to improve quiet podcasts or podcasts with poor audio
- Can toggle video podcasts to audio-only if you just want to listen
- Supports casting podcasts to the Google Chromecast
- Can play episodes while you download them, or be set to only stream podcasts directly, without downloading anything
- Remembers playback position so you can return to where you left off after exiting the app
- Has quick-skip buttons to go back 10 seconds or forward 30 seconds with a single tap
- Has day/night themes, and a sleep timer so you can fall asleep to a podcast or set auto-cutoff after a given time
- Suggests new podcasts based on the ones you’re currently subscribed to, floats trending, popular, and other featured podcasts in case you’d be interested
- Supports offline playback, does not need an internet connection
- Can be configured to auto-delete played episodes after listening, or set a specific number of episodes to be stored and saved before automatically cleaning up
- Can be configured to play custom media, if you drop it in its “custom episodes” folder
- Supports phones and tablets
- Supports Tasker integration and custom actions
Where It Excels
Let’s get this out of the way – Pocket Casts probably isn’t the most feature-packed podcast app available. It is, however, the one with the most features people would probably use most frequently, bundled up in great-looking Material Design that just works really well all around. Perhaps its best features are its cloud syncing and backup of things like your playback location, downloaded episodes, and podcast subscriptions. You don’t have to worry that uninstalling the app and reinstalling it, an update gone awry, or getting a new Android phone means you have to set everything up again from scratch. Similarly, because of that cloud-based backup, you can also use Pocket Casts on other devices, like iOS devices, Windows Phone devices, and even a webapp that’s perfect for listening at your computer if you prefer.
Variable playback is an essential feature for a lot of die hard podcast fans, and the fact that Pocket Casts gives you so much control over it is wonderful. Removing silence from podcasts is another great feature, and while in some cases it will only shave a few seconds off of a show, for others, it can be just the ticket you need to finish a podcast on a flight or during your commute instead of having to pause it and come back later. We should also mention that the way Pocket Casts handles notifications is near masterful, and in many cases I had no reason to actually open the app — I could do everything via Bluetooth or the notifications shade. I imagine if I were using an Android Wear device, it’d be even better — I’ve seen how the podcast art and playback controls look on a Moto 360, and it’s enough to make me consider one.
Plus, we have to admit – their patch notes are hilarious, and their user guide is incredibly succinct, helpful, and well put together. It’s worth a look even if you use the app the way it’s configured out of the box.
Where It Falls Short
Like we said, Pocket Casts isn’t perfect. It’s great, but there are a few notable issues that stand out when you use it. First, Pocket Casts doesn’t support private, secure, or authenticated podcast feeds. That’s a tough one, considering a lot of other podcast apps for Android do. That said, they do note that if you can get a custom URL generated just for you that doesn’t need authentication, it will work, and it won’t be shared when you add it. Even so, we can see how that would be a dealbreaker for many — especially people with premium podcasts or people who back podcast creators via crowdfunding and get access to special episodes and feeds.
Similarly, Pocket Casts’ cloud sync and cloud updates are both a blessing and a curse. Some users report that other apps update podcasts faster because they don’t need to sync playback status and new episode status with the app’s own servers first — which means a new episode might be released, and it could be a little while before you get a notification that it’s ready to download. This complaint has been pretty spotty though, and we didn’t see it in our tests, so grain of salt and all that.
If you have a long memory, you might remember when Pocket Casts for Android was a terrible port of its iOS version. It was lacking in features, generally just looked like someone slapped an iOS app onto Android, and didn’t mesh well. Of course, that’s all changed now and its come a long, long way, but at the same time it’s still missing a few features that a lot of people really care about — and could be dealbreakers for many. If you find yourself scanning the list above and thinking “but…what about X?” then this app may not be for you. Their development — which is incredibly active, and their support very engaged via email and on social media — is focused on keeping the app lean, focused on core features and a “it just works” kind of experience. Don’t expect lots of specific or niche features to pile in anytime soon.
DoggCatcher ($3.93) was our previous favourite pick. So what went wrong? Well, nothing really — we still think DoggCatcher is incredible. It’s feature packed, and we can’t stress that enough. If there’s a specific thing you need to be able to do, DoggCatcher can probably do it, and sing while it does it. Password-protected feeds? Yup. Support for your own RSS feeds and newsreading? Does that too. A super-active user community and a developer that actually gives a damn about the people using the app they put their heart and soul into? Oh yeah — definitely there. In fact, DoggCatcher, even after all these years, is still damn near perfect, and if your Android phone is the only place you listen to podcasts, or you need a feature not offered by Pocket Casts (or isn’t mentioned above), I don’t just want to nudge you in that direction — I want to shove you into its arms wholeheartedly.
DoggCatcher is fast, flexible, supports Android devices of pretty much all versions and stripes, has support for phones and tablets, gives you control over when and how your podcasts are downloaded, has its own rich podcast directory, and more. It’s just great — and while we think that Pocket Casts has kind of caught up and passed it by with its cloud support, cross-platform support, and automatic backup and sync, it’s certainly not past by much, especially if you don’t care about any of those features.
BeyondPod ($8.99) is has been kicking around for a long time, and does almost everything that DoggCatcher and Pocket Casts does. BeyondPod integrates with Feedly, which is really nice if you want to hang on to older podcasts that have long been removed from the publisher’s own feed, can build “smart playlists” based on podcasts you actually listen to and only download those regularly, and has configurable skip/replay buttons so you can skip forward or back at your leisure. At the same time, it’s more expensive than other podcast apps for pretty much the same feature set, and its interface is pretty spartan (although you don’t need a ton of bells and whistles for a podcast app, and after all, it looks and feels a lot like Google Play Music, which is nice).
Player.fm (Free) is an option if you’re just getting into podcasts and want to leave the discovery option to someone else. Similarly, if you just want to find interesting things to listen to, its system of suggesting new podcasts to listen to based on the ones you like, or by category or subject, is pretty solid. It also stores your subscriptions, lets you import and export OPML, remembers where you left off when you pause or stop episodes, supports Android Wear, Chromecast, and other devices, and automatically cleans up your subscriptions and old episodes to save storage. It’s not as feature rich or packed as some of the others here, but if you’re looking for something a bit more basic without a ton of bells and whistles, and you want something free and ad-free (and, the devs say, it will stay that way), this is worth checking out. Plus, we covered it when it was in beta!
Podcast Republic (Free) is another free alternative for folks interested a simpler app to listen to their favourite podcasts. It does support syncing across Android devices, as well as automatic download and cleanup of old episodes, and it remembers playback position, streaming as well as downloading, and custom playlists you can build for new episodes or specific categories or types of podcasts. That said, it’s straight forward and the price is right if you don’t care for things like custom categories or granular controls over your feeds, importing and exporting, and other subscriptions. It’s a little feature bare and a touch buggy (no more than anything else I suppose), but the dev is really passionate and on top of it, so we definitely support that.
Podcast Addict (Free, $3.49 to remove ads) takes the freemium approach, which might be better for a number of people, and has a few interesting features that other apps don’t have — namely the ability to organise YouTube channels along with the rest of your podcasts, and support for your own RSS feeds. Like the others above, it also has Chromecast support and Android Wear notifications, which are nice. Of course, it also has features like automatic download and cleanup, variable playback speed, OPML import and export, and more. It’s pretty feature rich for a freemium podcast app, which makes it well worth a look if you’re willing to put up with ads. If you’re going to drop the money on it though, well, that’s a tough one since there are other premium podcast apps with more mature interfaces and more useful features that money could go towards. However, like the others here, it’s certainly worth a look.
Podkicker (Free) is free, simple, and well…pretty bare bones. If all of these bells and whistles have your head spinning and you want something that — in spirit anyway — reminds you of the old Google Listen days, where a podcast app just took a feed and played the audio files in that feed, and didn’t charge you money to do it, this is the app for you. There are some useful features here though, like per-podcast settings for auto-download and deletion and Chromecast support, but don’t expect anything crazy. It’s free, you get what you pay for, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.