Google has been distributing podcasts through the Play Store since 2016, and recently the company has started making it possible to find and listen to shows on a mobile device using the Google Search app.
Now it looks like the company is finally getting ready to launch a standalone Google Podcasts app.
Update: It’s live in the Play Store now.
The app has a user interface that should look familiar to anyone who’s seen the podcasts-in-mobile-search experience Google has offered up until now, and includes many of the basic features you’d expect from a podcast player including:
- Download for offline listening
- Variable playback speed
But Google Podcasts also has a few features to help distinguish the app from the competition, including multi-device support. You can start listening to an episode on one device and finish on another, whether it be a phone, tablet, or Google Assistant smart speaker.
There’s also a “For you” section on the start page that lets you see new episodes in your subscriptions, recent downloads, and episodes in progress all in one place. You’ll also see trending podcasts, top podcasts, and other features.
It also offers recommendations based on your subscriptions. So the first time you launch the app you’ll be greeted with suggestions based on popular shows. As you start subscribing, the list will start to be tailored toward your interests.
Upcoming AI-enabled features will do things like use automatic transcriptions to provide a closed caption-style podcast that lets you read as you listen or skip ahead to an upcoming section.
That said, the app lacks some of the features you may find in other podcast apps such as the ability to create custom playlists, import subscriptions from an OPML file, or set custom skip button lengths, just to name a few omissions.
Oh, and it doesn’t download new episodes of a show automatically, which is probably going to be a dealbreaker for most heavy podcast listeners.
In some ways Google Podcasts is looking toward the future. But for long-time podcast fans, its current feature set seems a little lacking.
Searching for shows by name can also be a little hit or miss. I had no problem finding and subscribing to my own LPX podcast in the app, but when I searched for The Loving Project, I found the podcast’s website and the iTunes page, but no subscription link… even though the show is available in Google Play.
One particularly weird thing about the Google Podcasts app? It’s really more of a link to the Google Search podcast feature than a standalone app. In fact, if you uninstall the app while a podcast is playing in the background… it’ll keep playing, because it’s actually the Google app that’s doing the work, not the Podcasts “app.”
Google Podcasts appears to be Android-only for now, with the company having no plans to release an iOS version.
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According to a page at Product Hunt, you should be able to find the Android app in the Play Store soon, but the listing isn’t live yet. You can get a good look at the app thanks to a bunch of pictures posted to Product Hunt though.
For the most part, the new app looks a lot like the podcast experience that’s already included in Google’s mobile search apps. It’s just that you’ll soon be able to jump straight to podcasts by clicking an app icon, making it easier to find, stream, download, or manage your podcast episodes and subscriptions.
One of the interesting things about Google’s podcast experience that will set it apart from third-party apps is support for using Google Assistant for multi-device features. For example, you can start listening to a podcast episode on your phone while you’re out and about, and finish listening on a Google Home smart speaker when you get home.
That said, Google’s a bit late to the party and there are already a number of popular third-party podcast apps for Android including Pocket Casts, Podcast Addict, AntennaPod, Podcast Republic, Podcast Player, and Player.FM’s Podcast App, just to name a few of the many available options.
All of which is to say that longtime Android-using podcast fans probably already have a player of choice, while it’s unclear if Google’s new app will do anything to attract new listeners.
Update: Engadget reports that there will be some AI-driven features that do help set Google Podcasts apart. For example, it’ll be able to offer automatic episode transcription so you can see what’s coming up in an episode before you hear it, or offer suggested search results related to an episode you’re listening to. Some of these features may not be available at launch, but they should roll out in the coming months.