There’s no shortage of podcast managers for Android, but they run the gamut from simplistic to feature-rich. We tested a few, but found that DoggCatcher is the best option to find, download and organise your podcasts on your Android phone.
- Supports audio and video podcasts
- Automatically downloads new episodes on a regular schedule or on-demand
- Can be configured to only download podcasts over Wi-Fi, at night, or when the phone is not in use
- Add your own feeds, import from OPML, Google Reader or Google Listen, or browse DoggCatcher’s massive directory of shows to find shows to subscribe to
- Supports private and authenticated feeds that require login before downloading
- Offers variable speed playback (via free third-party audio library)
- Remembers playback position so you can return to where you left off after exiting the app
- Suggests new podcasts based on the ones you’re currently subscribed to
- Supports offline playback, does not need an internet connection
- Allows you to specify how many episodes to keep on your SD card/download at one time
- Create “virtual feeds” of other files on your Android phone, like audiobooks
- Also supports reading RSS feeds, imports from Google Reader
- Extremely active user community and development cycle — developer actively responds to feature requests
DoggCatcher’s flexibility is its strongest suit. The fact that you get audio, video and RSS feeds from your favourite sites in the same app is great, and the fact that DoggCatcher remembers playback position for all of your media is a feature you won’t be able to live without once you have it. DoggCatcher’s interface is easy to use, and its directory is rich. You’ll likely find the podcasts you want to subscribe to and you won’t need to import from another source, but if you keep your podcasts in Google Reader or another podcast catcher on the desktop, you can import them via RSS or OPML quickly. The fact that the app can download your podcasts at night or only over Wi-Fi will make sure you never smash through your data cap by downloading new episodes.
Many of the app’s features are available in its competition, but DoggCatcher’s active development (I mean, just look at this product roadmap page) and accessible, helpful user community make it easier to find help or beg new features if there’s something you want in the app. Plus, it supports every version of Android, including super-old phones and Honeycomb tablets.
The one thing we wish DoggCatcher was a bit better at is handling failed downloads, retries and feeds that update with multiple new episodes at once. Failed downloads can be tricky to retry, and podcasts where two or three episodes get published at one time can often result with the most recent episode available to listen to and the other two still missing. Also, DoggCatcher is admittedly pricey. It used to be more expensive, but even $4.80 can be a tough sell, even considering its impressive features.
BeyondPod ($6.76, free trial available) is DoggCatcher’s biggest competition, and does almost everything that DoggCatcher does. BeyondPod has a leg up because it supports syncing unread/read items and starred items with Google Reader, can change your Wi-Fi state to download podcasts (and then turn it back off again when complete,) and it can build “smart playlists” based on podcasts you actually listen to and only download those regularly. At the same time, it’s more expensive than DoggCatcher for the same feature set, its interface needs some work (text often went right off-screen and was frequently cut off or unreadable), its catalogue of shows isn’t as deep, it won’t suggest shows to you based on the ones you like, and one of its banner features — the ability to turn Wi-Fi on, download new episodes, and then turn it back off — was a bit buggy in our tests and sometimes failed to turn Wi-Fi back off after downloads. If it had worked properly, things may have been different. Still, BeyondPod is an exceptional alternative to DoggCatcher, and it can easily trade jabs over those features. Plus, we know many of you prefer it to DoggCatcher.
Pocket Casts ($2.70) is another alternative that we’ve mentioned before, and while its Android version started out as a pretty awful port of its iOS cousin, the UI has come a long way and really fits in with the Android look and feel. Still, it’s missing the ability to build playlists automatically and scheduled downloads. It does, however, have a gorgeous UI. PodTrapper ($6.75) is another alternative that has scheduled downloads of your new episodes over 3G or Wi-Fi, but for the price, it’s difficult to recommend since it’s lacking some of the advanced features other apps have. Finally, no list of Android podcast catchers would be complete without Google Listen (free), which comes pre-installed on some devices, and even though it’s feature-poor, largely abandoned by Google and only supports audio podcasts, still gets the job done, and does it for free.
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