Plex is a popular app for organizing and playing media across a range of devices. It’s choc full of features that basically let you roll your own Netflix or Spotify by loading up a bunch of movies, TV shows, or music albums and then streaming them from a home computer or network-attached-storage device (NAS) over the internet.
Now it’s also a podcast player.
Plex has rolled out an update for its Android and iOS apps with a few key new features. One is an updated user interface with a customizable home screen. The other is the ability to find, manage, and play podcasts.
Podcast support is still considered a beta feature, and it kind of shows.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to search for podcast episodes or series by name, browse by category or popular/recommended series, or add podcasts to your collection via URL if none of the above work. And Plex has added features like variable playback speed for folks that like to speed up or slow down podcasts while they listen.
Podcast support is also free for all users, so you don’t need a Plex Pass subscription to use the feature.
The bad news is that some of the podcasts I searched for by name didn’t show up, so I did have to resort to the “add a podcast by URL” option, and more importantly there doesn’t seem to be any way to actually download podcasts… at least not yet.
Right now you can stream podcasts from the internet, but you can’t download them over WiFi to listen when you’re offline.
Plex says offline podcast support and OPML importing are two of the features it hopes to bring to the apps soon, so the company clearly knows that these are important features. It just decided to go live with podcasts before they were ready.
Other changes in the new mobile apps include tabs for media types (shows, movies, music, podcasts, etc) on the bottom of the screen, and an option to rearrange or hide those tabs.
You can also now change the default source for different media types. In other words, if your music collection is stored on your home PC, but you want to stream videos from a friend’s server, you can do that.
Speaking of servers, it took me a long time to fully embrace Plex. The app has been around for years, but I didn’t have much use for it when I had a home theater PC in my living room. Last year I switched to using a Roku in the living room and replaced the HTPC with a NAS that hangs out in my office. After installing Plex on the NAS, I was able to stream my media collection to the Roku, to my phone, and to just about any PC with a web browser. I found the experience so useful that I signed up for Plex Pass in order to get some bonus features including camera roll uploading from my smartphone (so that I’ve got a local backup of all my photos, as well as a Google Photos backup).
Since I’ve already got Plex on my phone, I’d definitely consider using it for podcasts. But until the app supports downloading and offline playback, I’ll probably be sticking with my current podcast app.
Podcast support is also rolling out in beta today for Roku, and Plex Web, with additional platform support coming soon.