Why do Android podcast clients suck?
I’ve written previously about my experience with the awful Pocket Casts application.
I dumped that and started using Google Listen. Google Listen frequently fails to completely download all of a podcast (so you end up with one in the queue that’s cut short, without any warning), frequently hangs up when trying to add a new podcast, and is no longer supported or maintained by Google. (Edited to add: Also, my phone frequently reboots while Google Listen is running, but I’m not sure if that is a Google Listen problem or a problem with some other application.)
I downloaded BeyondPod for my Kindle Fire. The free version (which I am using) has some limitations: you can’t set up automatic updates to your podcast feeds, nor can you download more than one podcast at a time. In order to activate those features, you have to pay $6.99 for an unlock code. Personally, I think that’s a bit steep for a podcast client, but if BeyondPod actually did what I wanted it to do, I’d pay that.
However, BeyondPod has a couple of what I consider to be crippling issues:
- I find the user interface to be completely counter-intuitive. For example, if I have a podcast on my playlist, playing, and I want to switch to the player controls (to rewind, pause, or fast forward) I can’t figure out how to do that. Sometimes BeyondPod will display player controls underneath the playlist, other times it doesn’t. Sometimes you can swipe up and see the controls for the specific podcast; sometimes you can’t. There seems to me to be no rhyme or reason to what controls BeyondPod displays when and where, and how to get from one set of controls to another.
- Then there’s my personal favorite BeyondPod “feature”. If you have a playlist, and you’re looking at the feeds for a podcast (say, you want to read the notes on a specific podcast), and you accidentally touch in the wrong place, BeyondPod starts playing the podcast you’re looking at. This makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that BeyondPod also wipes out your existing playlist. Oh, you wanted to listen just to that podcast, or you missed the touch target and didn’t intend to play that podcast at all? Too bad, so sad, rebuild your playlist. That’s a deal breaker for me; no, I will not pay you $7 for a podcast client that erases my playlists.
All I want out of a podcast client is a few basic, simple things:
- Maintain a feed of the podcasts I want to listen to.
- Reliably download those podcasts. If a podcast fails to completely download, either warn me or retry until it does.
- Let me mark podcasts as listened or not listened.
- Let me fast forward/rewind within the currently playing podcast.
- Let me have a playlist of podcasts that I can easily rearrange.
That’s pretty much it. There are some other features that would be nice (ability to sync across multiple platforms, for example) but not essential to me. So why is this so hard?
Android fans constantly bash Apple and iTunes. Yes, iTunes has problems, most of which involve trying to put too many functions into one piece of software. But for all the problems iTunes has, it is at least capable of doing all of the things on my minimum list. I can’t say that for any Android client I’ve tried so far.