Google’s pod­cast­ing app

An­droid lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on of­fer, writes MICHAEL SI­MON

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Pod­casts may have started on Ap­ple de­vices, but mil­lions of An­droid users lis­ten to them on their phones every day. And now Google is fi­nally get­ting in on the act with its own stand­alone pod­cast player, aptly called Google Pod­casts.

While pod­casts have al­ways been avail­able for lis­ten­ing in­side the Google Play Mu­sic app or via search­ing in­side the Google app, Google Pod­casts rep­re­sents the first real de­fault pres­ence for pod­casts on the plat­form. But if Google wants Pod­casts to

be­come as syn­ony­mous with pod­casts as YouTube is to video, it has a long way to go.

The im­pact on you at home: Google Pod­casts would have been a bet­ter app in 2016 than 2018, but it’s not a ter­ri­ble first start. Yes, it’s light on the fea­tures, but Google gets the two most im­por­tant things right: search and play­back. And now that Google has of­fi­cially rec­og­nized that pod­casts ex­ist, hope­fully it will start build­ing out the app into a pow­er­ful player.

Search and ye shall find

The in­ter­face looks a lot like the player that was pre­vi­ously hid­den in­side the Google app, with a search but­ton and menu at the top and a “For You” sec­tion that holds your new, in-progress, and down­loaded episodes. Be­low that, you’ll be able to dis­cover new pod­casts based on pop­u­lar­ity and cat­e­gory. Se­lect­ing any of the op­tions avail­able will take you to a ded­i­cated screen with in­for­ma­tion, avail­able episodes for stream­ing, and a sub­scribe but­ton.

When play­ing an episode, you can jump for­ward or back 10- or 30 sec­onds with a sin­gle tap, as well as scrub for­ward, and a slider lets you slow down the voice by 50 per­cent or speed it up by 2x (and sev­eral stops in be­tween). Ad­di­tion­ally, lit­tle an­i­ma­tions through­out the app do a nice job of show­ing your play­back and down­load­ing progress, and you can mark episodes as played or un­played with a tap.

And that’s pretty much it. The only set­tings to speak of are op­tions to save or re­move com­pleted and un­fin­ished episodes. You can’t cus­tom­ize the skip

but­tons, nor can you make playlists or set episodes to auto down­load. There isn’t sup­port for chap­ters or Chrome­cast. And since it lacks ba­sic Out­line Pro­ces­sor Markup Lan­guage (OPML) im­port­ing, you won’t be able to ac­cess any­thing you’ve sub­scribed to in Pocket Casts or iTunes.

But, hey, it’s a start. While light on fea­tures, the app is sim­ple and easy to use, with equal at­ten­tion paid to find­ing new pod­casts and play­ing ones you’ve al­ready sub­scribed to. And Google has put an em­pha­sis on search. The data­base in­cludes some 2 mil­lion pod­casts, and Google has baked in its AI tech, so lis­ten­ers will get per­son­al­ized rec­om­men­da­tions. Pod­casts also has Google As­sis­tant and Google Home sup­port, so you can pick up where you left off on any de­vice you’ve signed into with your Google ac­count.

In its blog post, Google also out­lined plans to add au­to­matic sub­ti­tling to pod­casts so you can read along, a fea­ture that would be some­thing of a game changer for peo­ple with hear­ing is­sues. The fea­ture will be pow­ered Google Trans­late, mean­ing sub­ti­tles could then be made avail­able in a wide va­ri­ety of lan­guages. How­ever, Google has been known to float fea­tures and then for­get about them, so it could be a while be­fore we see it.

Google is also team­ing with pod­cast pub­lish­ers to boost di­ver­sity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of pod­casts. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, the new ini­tia­tive will be “guided by an ad­vi­sory board from around the world, with the pri­mary goal of en­abling skills de­vel­op­ment and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion from un­der­rep­re­sented voices, as well as cul­ti­vat­ing ideas and pro­cesses that can scale through­out the in­dus­try”.

Google Pod­casts is avail­able as a free down­load on the Google Play Store ( fave.co/2NkWVbG).

Google’s Pod­casts app is worth a down­load but don’t ex­pect much in the way of fea­tures

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