Listening To Podcasts With Pocket Casts

One main thing I use my Nexus S for is to listen to podcasts during my daily commute to and from my day job. Amazon’s free Android app yesterday was Pocket Casts, which is a podcast player that normally costs nearly $3. Since it was free, I thought I would check it out to see whether it was better than Google Listen, which is the podcast player that I currently use.

A reason why I use Google Listen is that it is integrated with Google Reader, which is what I use to manage and read Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds. The integration makes it real easy to add a podcast subscription on my PC by simply adding a podcast feed to the Listen Subscriptions folder.

Pocket Casts does not provide integration with a desktop computer component, but it does have a real nice way of finding podcasts by providing a popular podcasts category, a podcast networks category, the ability to browse podcasts by category, and the ability to directly add a feed by entering a URL. If you use another podcast player that can export subscriptions to an OPML file, you can import that OPML file into Pocket Casts.

Pocket Casts manages podcast subscriptions and content on their own servers, which provides them the ability to manage the retrieval process, and they claim to be able to provide the latest editions of podcasts before their competition. Pocket Casts is also optimized for streaming podcasts rather than downloading podcasts files to the phone for playback, which is traditionally how podcast players work.

While you can manually download podcasts to the phone, I have not been able to figure out how to make Pocket Casts automatically download new episodes when they are available, despite Pocket Casts’s technical support’s claims that there are options for configuring downloading in the app’s settings. With the new data caps that mobile carriers are imposing, I think you will want to avoid streaming when you don’t need to, and you should be fine with downloading podcasts via WiFi for later playback from the phone when in a car.

Another thing I don’t like about Pocket Casts is how it handles podcast episodes because you have to manually start the playback of each episode individually. Google Listen creates a consolidated playlist called My Listen Items of all the unlistened episodes from all your podcast subscriptions, sorted by the most recent episode, which means that when an episode finishes the next episode in the playlist starts to play. When I am driving I don’t want to fiddle with finding a podcast episode to play on my phone.

In short, I prefer Google Listen over Pocket Casst, although I can imagine other people can have a different opinion about Pocket Casts. I note that it is rated fairly high in the Android Market. Unfortunately, Pocket Cast is no longer free from the Amazon, although you can buy it from Amazon for $.99 while it costs $2.85 in the Android Market.