In many respects Google’s Android apps best their iOS competitors. On Android, Google Voice can be integrated into the dialer. Defaulting to Chrome, Google Voice, Gmail, and Google Maps is another plus. But there is one area where Android cannot or does not compete. For all of us who commute or exercise to podcasts, having a good podcast manager and player is very important. Downcast on iOS is the gold standard of podcast players.
When I’m getting ready for work, I often watch Tech News Today the way others watch the morning news. But once I’m ready for work, it is time to walk the dog. Now, I want to turn off the screen and stick my phone in my pocket – but still hear the podcast playing. I don’t want to waste battery life on the screen I can’t watch. I don’t want to accidentally hit a touch screen control while it is in my pocket and lose my place in the podcast.
When I come back inside I want to resume watching. When I get in my 2013 Subaru Outback, I want the Bluetooth stereo controls to work on my podcast app. Downcast does all of this and more. It also lets me swipe to advance a custom number of seconds forward and a different setting for swiping to go back. It lets me double tap the screen to pause and resume. These features are nice when one is bumping along as a vehicle passenger. Some players only offer tiny buttons that are a challenge to hit in a bouncing car.
Since my wife goes to work much later in the day than do I, I like to use a regular old Bluetooth headset while I’m getting ready for work. Two of the eight podcast apps I tested didn’t even work with that headset (Pocket Casts and OneCast).
Many Android podcast apps allow the user to play videos on an external video player rather than with the app’s native player. External players may offer back some of the functionality the native player lacks. MoboPlayer ($4.99) and MXPlayer ($5.70) for example allow for swiping to advance or go back and double tapping to pause. Sadly, neither player responds to the Outback’s Bluetooth controls.
Another feature I appreciate is having a video preview as I scrub to a new position. For example, during the millionth stamps.com commercial I can just scrub forward until the lower third no longer shows that the podcast is in commercial.
So I decided to test eight Android podcast apps against how I use them and decide which one would become my daily driver (and walker and . . .)
As you can see from my table, none of the apps that work with my car’s stereo controls (YMMV) also continues to play the audio when I turn the video screen off. Neither of the external video players I tried worked with the car’s stereo controls so, even though ACast can use an external video player, it doesn’t solve the problem of losing control when I get in the car. Although, one option would be to use ACast with an external player and control playback with the broad screen gestures that are available in MXPlayer or MoboPlayer, for example.
MXPlayer allows one to swipe to scrub forward and back as well as to swipe up and down on the left and right of the screen to adjust screen brightness and volume, respectively. MoboPlayer allows one to scrub by swiping. If one taps the screen then the controls appear on the OSD. One can then double tap to play or pause. If that works better for you than using your car’s stereo controls, you might prefer a cobbled together solution along those lines.
I have decided to use Podcast Addict as my Android podcast manager. Swipe gestures don’t work, but when I’m in my car all of the stereo’s Bluetooth controls do work so I don’t need swiping and tapping. I’ll miss that it doesn’t continue to play the audio when the video screen is off and the convenience of swiping to advance or go back as I view a video.
[UPDATE (2013-11-21): I discovered that the audio on a video podcast will resume in Podcast Addict. One just needs a headset attached and to hit the Play button after the screen has been turned off.]
1. Podcast Addict ($2.99 to remove ads)
2. DoubleTwist (free)
3. BeyondPod ($6.99 to remove ads)
4. ACast ($3.99 to remove ads)
5. iPP Podcast Player (free)
6. DoggCatcher ($2.99 to remove ads)
7. Pocket Casts ($3.99)
8. OneCast (free)