The App Hole: Stop, Look, Google Listen

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At the heart of it, downloading podcasts should be a simple “set it and forget it” task. Add your subscription to your media player or podcast aggregator of your choice, and the software should do all the work. Back in the days of Internet-less MP3 players, this was all done on a PC, but in this Brave New World of smartphones, the desktop podcast app is a dinosaur (I’m looking at you, iTunes). Why are we giving cell companies all this money for unlimited data and WiFi-enabled devices if we can’t use them to fill our ear canals with the sweet, soothing sounds of a bunch of people talking? Luckily for those of us with Android devices, Google provides the one-stop shop with Google Listen, a free app readily available for all Android phones in the Android Market.

Listen is a no-frills podcast player. It does exactly what you would expect a podcast player to do, and little more. You can search for podcasts, manually subscribe to podcasts that have a feed, and it keeps track of which podcasts you’ve listened to while downloading new ones in the background. It lets you queue multiple podcasts, perfect for those long commutes or vacation drives, and it resumes the podcast where you left off if you pause, exit the app, or (heaven forbid) your phone reboots.

Adding a new podcast to Listen is as simple as pressing the Search button (or Menu / Search, if your phone doesn’t have a Search button) and typing in what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, not every podcast is indexed by Google, and sometimes you need to manually add the podcast’s feed. In those cases you would simply tap “My subscriptions”, then “Add a subscription”, then type in the feed URL. It’s a tedious process, to be sure, but there is an easier way if you’re a Google Reader user: the Listen Subscriptions folder. From Reader, click Add a subscription, and either copy and paste the feed URL (like, for example, this one) and add it to that folder. Next time you go into Listen, it’ll be there like magic.

Now listen away! There’s a lot of content out there.

Review, Technology