Wait, what's that iPod picture?! You thought this was about android, didn't you?
Back few years ago I was trying to find a podcast player for android that were at least barely as good as an iPod / iPhone. And I tried to illustrate how bad players were by making a short checklist. My winner choice back then (Podkicker) no longer has the basic points working. Then thanks to a forum post, now I've started researching again and I realized it also felt quite far behind the competition.
So this is about my brief quest finding a good enough podcast player on android.
To be honest, so far I've only tested for a few days those two: Podcast Republic and BeyondPod (as advised by my friend wilson there, on the forum post), because I'm already glad with what I see. In fact, it has been such a breeze trying those two apps so far that this article / blog post will probably not be of much use for anyone!
Anyway, back those 2 years and some months ago, BeyondPod wasn't this good. I especially recall having tried DoggCatcher, the weaker competition, due to its weird name. I don't quite remember what I found about them back then, but certainly neither was worth it in my opinion.
Also, on a side note, I think apple's checklists still are awesome, despite the terrible iPhone 6 and the eminent "death" of the company after Steve Jobs... But I did start seeing many other awesome checklist makers on the web. One of them I even knew back when I wrote the first post. Dropbox (referral link)! I'd like to name other two: Discourse.org (despite the bad non-unique and confusing starting name, I believe they're trying to bring it o a new standard, just like they did try with the whole markdown thing) and Squarespace. Coincidentally, I did pay to use both.
Now, here's the new checklist, with lots of repeated stuff:
- Easy Accessibility, you know, for blind people or people who prefer to go blind. This will probably always be missing on Android (maybe software companies "can't do it" since it probably should be intrinsic to android, even if it's opensource and all)
- Playing Management, amazingly enough, couldn't find a single player which can speed up or down the playing speed (even today) but most of them at least let you configure how much you skip back and forward. Which isn't necessarily good, since all I needed was a nice config and a 30 sec back button (like on iPod). Also still none had some kind of easy seeking like iPods do. (And hey, none of it is that hard to implement at all! I know because, as a developer, I've done similar stuff. It's just about the checklist!)
- File Management, not amazingly enough, they all get failures at this, including apples. Managing files and syncing them isn't an easy task (Dropbox (referral link) excels at it, but that's another subject). Most of them, including iPods, have issues with trying to download again a failed download.
- Playlist Management, moving items back and forth, choosing what to play, eventually doing it automatically... Many items could go here, iPod gets almost every one right. The rest doesn't.
- Graphical User Interface (GUI), can't compete too much with apple here, but many get close enough. Use gestures, make things as simple as possible and with as little text as possible. Use icons instead, for fucking sake! Add a small description and a eventually some help text elsewhere.
- Podcasts Caveats, some add info (plain text, for us users to read) in places you can find in any iTunes / iPod, but can't find in any other player. No idea what the standards are, but if there's any, it should with be who started it and do it good: iPods.
- Flawless Headset, meaning, phone is sleeping, I plug in the headset, press headset button, podcast starts to play. That's it. And this is hard as hell to achieve on Android. The only way I could do it was buying Headset Button Controller, by Kober (except it still doesn't always work, probably mostly still Android and/or Motorola's fault).
- Backup and Sync, because eventually you will replace your phone. And, during that change, if you kept a list of episodes you've watched and listened, or downloaded files with what to watch next, remaking that list is something that shouldn't be needed. iTunes used to handle that, on Android I still got nothing as reliable. But both apps I've tried promise they do their effort.
- (v2) Desktop management, this is more relevant than I once thought. I haven't missed iTunes for a long time, because of all the mess of syncing through cable. However, if you you to add any file you want to your podcast playing list, this is a must. There should be a simple way to do it, using IFTTT, pocket, or similar.
- (v2) Desktop/notebook offline insync, not so important, maybe not at all. But it'd still be nice to have the option to do it, just for redundancy and just in case. Just use dropbox, ffs!
- Discovery, although I don't really go out and seek for new podcasts, this is a feature lots of folks think it's important. I won't be a good judge here, but to my naive eyes looks like most podcasts players out there have this covered. I think they learned how to use google.
- Missing something? Dunno, that's why it might be missing. But I hope all the most important points are listed here.
So I've enjoyed my first try, Podcast Republic. The only big issue with it is, for some reason, it seems to be buggy on getting latest podcasts. But at least everything else is working fine. It looks better, generally, than Podkicker. Back then it was the best, but it really did felt short behind after these years.
Then I tried BeyondPod again and yeah, it looks awesome! Unfortunately there's no backing up or syncing podcasts (like Republic promises to do), which is fair enough even while lagging behind a bit there. There are so many advanced configurations and well placed settings in general... Very well polished. Really, not much more to say, I'll just stick with BeyondPod and, so far, it seems to fill the checklist even better than what I was used to on iPods and iPhones... Almost...
Except not. For one, Android (at least up to 4.4, which I tried) still needs that awesome app to make any podcast player work properly with headset. Especially if you have Google Music installed. It also doesn't offer that awesome seeking feature, but I don't think any other app does.
And keep hearing up!
(v2) edited 2015-08-16
I was tired of managing my playlist on the device, using BeyondPod. It was also not doing a good job auto downloading podcasts. And when I finally wanted to manage the playlist on my desktop I went off on a hunt for solutions. Then I quickly found this forum post talking about gPodder. I almost went for that. But digging up google results I found 2 interesting links (on makeusof and in some good post on a random blog talking about the same thing: Pocket Casts.
Really, really good player. Very apple-like! I haven't even used it yet and I can already tell it fulfills basically every single thing in the original checklist, with excellence. While still missing the 2 newly added ones (about desktop) they're already on the right way with a desktop web interface which adds an item I haven't put on the checklist.