The Best Podcast Apps for Android – September 2019
Over the last fifteen years, podcasts have become a true modern art form, far from their talk radio-origins. Sure, early podcasts were often built on the back of radio, and some of the most popular podcasts on the market today, including shows like This American Life, are aired over terrestrial radio in addition to being produced as a downloadable podcasts. But over the last decade or so, podcasts have evolved into an art form that simply can’t be ignored by anyone interested in audio production. When comedy podcasts blew up in the late 2000s, becoming a near-staple of the stand-up community, the popularity of the media form began to dominate certain corners of the market online.
Since then, the format has gotten even crazier: game shows, advice podcasts, improv-based humor, role-playing games, and even scripted fictional stories have caused podcasting to become as inventive and fluid a genre of entertainment as television. True-crime stories told on podcasts like Serial or S-Town captured the zeitgeist online, and shows like Welcome to Night Vale have brought fictional entertainment to an audio form enjoyed by people across the globe. Some podcasts, including My Brother, My Brother and Me and Comedy Bang! Bang! have even been adapted to comedy sketch shows, while Julia Roberts made headlines by starring in the critically-acclaimed . From politics to technology to video games, the market for podcasts has become absolutely flooded with quality entertainment.
If you want to know the best way to listen to podcasts on Android, you’re not alone. Getting into the platform can be pretty challenging if you’ve never listened to a podcast before. Even knowing where to start listening to podcasts can be a real challenge, since Android only recently began offering a built-in platform for downloading and streaming podcasts. If you’re looking for the best podcast discovery applications on your Galaxy S10 or Pixel 3 XL, you’ve come to the right place. These are the best podcast applications available for Android today.
When this article was originally published in 2017, Castbox was still a relatively young app, listed at under 500,000 downloads and offering a premium experience without advertisements or in-app purchases. A lot has changed in the last two years, of course, and Castbox has become incredibly popular. Though we originally praised the app for being a free experience, the app has since become monetized, offering subscription plans and advertisements built into the app. That hasn’t stopped Castbox from being one of the best podcast apps on Android, taking our top pick for 2019. Let’s take a deep dive into CastBox to find out what makes it a great app, albeit with some shortcomings.
Once installed, CastBox will ask you to log into the app with Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Line to create an account. Considering your Google account is already active on your device, it really only takes a second to log into the app (unlike Pocket Casts, where your account is created through their servers). This loads you into the Discover panel, the storefront for podcasts that looks a lot like iTunes (especially on tablets, where the app’s layout is even closer to what you might expect on a desktop.
The layout of this Discover tab is, arguably, even better than what’s seen on Pocket Casts. A rotating carousel of featured shows (many of them designated “CastBox Originals”) and genres is on the top of the page, with top shows, recommendations, editor picks, and more displayed below. There are a lot of good, recognizable shows in here—you could easily stick to this list alone and create a pretty solid curated list of podcasts to listen through.
But that store interface has plenty more to it than a carousel of podcasts and a list of the top shows. There’s a recommendations panel, based on your own listening history and subscriptions, a featured tab that boasts specific popular podcasts, both well-known and underground, and Netflix-style categories like “Learn Something New,” “Creeps and Chills,” and “Sports and Recreation.” Even further below these is a full list of genres and categories, divided into black, white, and highlighted icons. Diving into a podcast listing reveals an episode list, the general description for the podcast from the publisher, a list of similar channels from other podcasts, and finally, a comments section.
Though the original comments sections from CastBox in September seemed to be largely populated by iTunes reviews, CastBox has seemingly built a decent network of users by offering the app as a free service. Most of the comments seem to come from actual CastBox users, and perhaps most interestingly, sync up with the specific episodes to which they’re replying. Major podcasts seem to have several hundred comments at this point, up from the dozen or so most podcasts seemed to have back in September. It’s an interesting idea, one that we haven’t seen in most other podcast apps on Android, and it’s nice to see a new idea come to this field of applications overall.
Four tabs make up the rest of the interface: the Discover tab, the Listen tab, the Subscribed tab, and the Personal tab, with the second and fourth tabs replacing the original Search and User tabs of the app first released back in September. The search bar has been moved to the top of the Discover page, and Listen is a far more useful tool to keep in the dock along the bottom of the app. Listen works as a recommendation page, giving you your downloaded and downloading files, the new releases of your saved content, and a timeline of featured episodes, comments of the day, and more. Like Discover, the Listen page also has its own search bar, allowing you to easily access new shows from both keywords and unique feed URLs. As with older versions of the app, popular searches appear below the search bar, with your search history right below it.
Once you’ve added podcasts to your collection, they appear on the third tab of CastBox’s interface. This interface has been improved since we examined the app back in September, not feature a modern black text-on-white backdrop that allows you to view your shows in both list format and a grid. Both appearance modes look great, lending to the app’s premium design and feel. The actual page for each unique podcast hasn’t changed since the app was first released last year, featuring episodes sorted from most to least-recent and tabs to display details and comments on the show. CastBox also tracks its users plays and subscribe counts, which you can view at the top of the page.
One cool thing from CastBox: the ability to search through episode titles in-feed. It’s unfortunate that the search feature doesn’t also search through the description of actual episodes, something we’d love to see in a future update, but if you remember part of the title—or, for certain shows, the person guest-starring on a show—you can search for that title and immediately find the listings without trying to remember when a specific episode aired in the past.
The general playback display is pretty straightforward, having not changed too much in the eight months since we first reviewed the app. The album art is present in the middle of the page, with a fairly small display surrounded by a color taken from the album art (this is similar to how Pocket Cast displays its own artwork). In the middle of the page below that are your playback controls, with a queue option, play and pause controls, 10 second rewind and 30 second skip, and a sleep timer that allows for several options, though unfortunate lacks a custom timer like in Pocket Casts. Meanwhile, the very bottom of the page has a list of similar episodes you can start listening to after you finish your current episode, making it easy to jump into a new show. There’s also the option to subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already, a nice touch considering Pocket Casts forces you to subscribe to a show before you even start listening.
All of this has remained the same since launch several months ago, but a few updates have come out to make the player a bit easier to use. The bar below the episode has been simplified, removing the options for likes and comments and narrowing down the icons to just a share option, a download option, and the ability to add it to a playlist. Meanwhile, at the top of the page is a new options icon, replacing the older speed button. This allows you to open the adjustment menu, which gives you preferences for volume boost and the playback speed. Playback can be adjusted anywhere from .5x to 3.0x, with each number in between an option
Some of the nitpicks we originally had about CastBox have been polished away since originally launching in 2017. App animations originally felt slow, but on our test Pixel 2 XL, everything felt snappy and smooth, with a modern feel to navigation. A dark theme has become available in the settings since launch, and the app looks great in both white and black backgrounds. You can exit the now-playing banner at the bottom of your screen to remove it from taking up room in the app, something we wanted to see added when th. Finally, the option to disable “Similar Episodes” below the player has been added, something we asked for back in September, albeit with a pretty major caveat.
Our original excitement for CastBox came from the lack of advertisements and in-app purchases, a free application that finally felt free. And in the eight months since we reviewed the app for the first time, both advertisements and in-app purchases have arrived, making it a bit more difficult to recommend over the flat-fee offered through Pocket Casts. As far as advertisements go, both CastBox and the Play Store listing state that the app features ads, but in our tests (as you can see throughout out screenshots) we never seemed to have advertisements appear within the app. It’s unclear whether this has something to do with new installs not receiving ads at first (this was the first install of the app on this particular device), but regardless, the ads will eventually appear within the app.
The bigger problem comes from the inclusion of in-app purchases, a premium plan called “CastBox Premium” which adds a number of features to the app that many of us have been hoping would show up since launch. Buying into the premium plan for $.99 per month removes ads from the application, gains you an unlimited number of subscriptions to podcasts, a personalized homepage option (with the ability to set your subscription page as the default view when you open the app), the ability to disable similar episodes under the podcast player, and both top priority when contacting support and the option to be the first to experience new features.
Ultimately, this sounds less like a benefit to buying into a premium model and more like a shakedown. There are plenty of ways to add additional options into a podcast app without forcing people to open the app on the Discover tab (where CastBox routinely features its original shows) and blocking the ability to turn off “Similar Episodes,” something even we complained about back in September. Most egregious, however, is the limit on subscribed podcasts. While most listeners will likely never hit 100 subscribed shows, the fact that this is a limit in an app designed for subscribing and listening to podcasts seems particularly tightfisted.
Despite the premium plan, CastBox remains our top podcast player for the time being. As a whole, it’s a solid app with a great aesthetic, a solid library of features, and probably the best podcast store outside of iTunes—an achievement that doesn’t come easy, as you’ll see in our list of other apps below. Despite some qualms about certain aspects of the app, CastBox is legitimately great for listening and discovering podcasts. It’s unfortunate that a major aspect of the app we originally celebrated in 2017—its lack of ads and in-app purchases—has all but disappeared, but that tends to happen following the launch of an app as popular as this one.
However, with the recent changes to Pocket Casts—more on that in just a second—we’ve decided to bump CastBox to our top pick more most users. While some may choose to stick with Spotify or Google’s own Podcasts app, any podcast power user will want to make the switch to something like CastBox.
We’re still big fans of Pocket Casts, and it’s still our go-to podcast app on both mobile and desktop. However, an update rolled out at the beginning of 2019 has caused us to bump our review score down from our top pick to a runner-up recommendation, largely due to the fan reaction. While our reviewers at TechJunkie are often far more welcoming to redesigns than other users (we think the 2018 Snapchat redesign was fine!), the regular users of Pocket Casts among us fully understand why users haven’t quite taken to the Pocket Casts redesign. The app does have an improved interface, but unfortunately, plenty of features in the newest update have been removed, and the new archive system for podcasts is pretty difficult to understand.
There’s a ton of small things when it comes to the changes that made many Pocket Casts users upset about the update, but a lot of it comes down to specific removed features. Custom playlists were removed, and while Shifty Jelly (the app’s developer) claims this feature was rarely used by Pocket Cast users, it still hurt a core group of fans who used custom playlists regularly. Other features, like the ability to select multiple episodes at once, have since come back in updates to the app, but despite regular changes to the core app, users were still hurt surrounding changes to the app’s design with the seventh version.
Regardless, the app is still solid when it comes to general podcast discover and playback. Pocket Casts allows you to add shows through their own custom interface of shows, called “Discover” inside the application. It’s similar to how shows function on iTunes, with a curated “Featured” tab and pages for Trending, Top Podcasts, and specific podcast networks online (think Gimlet, NPR, Maximum Fun, etc). There’s also the ability to search for podcasts by name, and to sort by genre, making it easy to discover a new show through the app. Adding a podcast is as easy as clicking the plus button on the right side of each listing, but if there’s one main critique to point out with Pocket Casts, it’s the lack of ability to preview a podcast without already having added it to your collection. Not every podcast is worth keeping around, and having to add and remove every podcast you’re interested in “taste-testing” is a bit frustrating.
Pocket Casts doesn’t skip on the customizable features. The Playback menu gives you the option to change your skip settings from 10-back and 30-forward to something more your speed, and allows the app to play over notification sounds. Auto Download, as mentioned above, can be selected by podcast of throughout the entire app, with options for limiting the app to download on WiFi or only while charging. In terms of appearance, Pocket Casts can’t change the entire appearance of the app, but it does ship with a light and dark theme, and you can also allow episodes of each podcast to load embedded episode artwork if applicable. Syncing and storage options are both pretty straightforward, and Pocket Casts allows you to import or export your data for use in other applications. Finally, in a neat addition, you can view how long you’ve spent listening to podcasts inside the application.
And of course, one of the best features Pocket Casts has to offer is its cloud sync. After purchasing and installing the app, you’ll be asked to create an account with Pocket Casts that syncs your content between your devices. Creating an account is quick and easy, and once you have it, you can use it to sync your podcast library and your playback times between devices. This is helpful if you upgrade your phone, but equally helpful if you happen to have a tablet or other secondary devices you like to use to listen to podcasts. Pocket Casts has been available on both Android and iOS for years, and although you do need to buy a license on each platform you use the app with, if you listen to podcasts daily, the extra $3.99 is still a solid price for the matter.
Here’s our take: we don’t not recommend the app right now. As you can imagine, the app holds up in most ways despite the controversial changes in the 7.0 update. If you already have the app, we recommend sticking with it—Shifty Jelly has been working to update the app with what users have requested from the platform—and if you don’t already have the app, you won’t really know what the older experience was like anyway. Ultimately, we think most users will appreciate CastBox more than Pocket Casts, at least right now, but both of these apps remain two of the best experiences you can get today.
Podcast Addict is a favorite of many Android users among the internet, boasting a strong 4.6 star rating on the Play Store with nearly 9 million users. That’s certainly hard to ignore for any user looking for a new podcast app, and indeed, Podcast Addict is a solid offering for anyone looking for a free podcast catcher on Android. The app has a Discover function similar to the storefront included in Pocket Casts. Selecting a new show from the app allows for users to play all episodes, or to play from a single episode, all while walking the user through a basic tutorial of how the application works. The Now Playing display isn’t as well-designed as what we’ve seen from our top picks, but contains the same functionality, including sleep timers, starring options, volume boosts, and even playback statistics.
The biggest problem with Podcast Addict is the constant banner advertisement along the bottom of the display, removable only with an additional “Donate” additional app purchase through Google Play for $2.99. While this is a dollar cheaper than Pocket Casts, and also allows users who are fine with advertisements to continue using the app for free, the app just isn’t nearly as good-looking as both Pocket Casts and CastBox, making it a difficult choice to drop $3 on Podcast Addict or to make the jump to Pocket Casts’ own $3.99 purchase price or CastBox’s $.99 per month subscription. It’s a good app, but in 2019, the visual design (or lack thereof) is becoming even more difficult to justify over better-looking apps priced similarly for an ad-free experience.
BeyondPod is another staple of the Google Play Store, currently on its fourth major revision and featuring over a million users. Like Podcast Addict, the full app is a $4.99 payment, but with a supplementary free version available for users looking for an alternative to paying. This version is both supported by ads and in-app purchases, with certain features locked behind a paywall inside the application. According to their website, the free version of the app still allows you to add feeds, update episode caches, and download and play episodes, meaning the app is entirely usable without paying. There is a free trial week for the paid version, which allows you to test out the “pro” functionality of the app, including Chromecast support, device synchronization, faster feed updates, and more. Overall, the design of the app falls somewhere between Podcast Addict’s uninspired design and the flat, material-influenced look of Pocket Casts.
Unfortunately, two things are stopping us from giving BeyondPod a full recommendation. First, the visual design of the app has gone from a solid-albeit-flawed application perfect for listening to podcasts to an application that looks dated next to its peers. Visual design on Android should no longer be treated as an option in 2019; there are simply too many well-designed applications to consider it as a choice 10 years into the existence of Android. Second, the recent reviews for BeyondPod on the Play Store have simply not been positive lately. While we didn’t run into any major issues when testing the app on our device, reviewers have decried features moving from the free version to the paid version, missing features in recent updates, and a whole slew of bugs, including shows no longer updating properly. The app is still in active development, with an update most recently having reached users last autumn, but as of now, these problems still persist, making the app a difficult recommend.
Though Google used to offer a dedicated podcasting app called Google Listen, its death in 2012 left a black hole in the market for podcasting applications on Android that was eventually filled by many of the apps on this list. Listen wasn’t a great app, but it was free and had the stamp of approval from Google themselves, allowing for newer podcast fans to grab the app and trust the source of the software. In 2016, four years after the death of Listen, Google finally added a default podcast application back into Android, albeit one buried inside their music-focused application, Google Play Music. If you’ve used Google’s music app before—either for local music playback or with Google’s streaming subscription plan—you already know how this app works. The user interface within the app is largely the same as what we’ve seen with Play Music, albeit with the addition of fast-forward and rewind buttons within the application. Podcasts can be added to your collection easily through the app, and you can even setup the auto-download feature that’s seen in most dedicated players.
The biggest problem with Play Music is the difficulty in discovering new podcasts. Although the app offers a dedicated top-charts list, the app’s search results lumps everything, including music, music videos, radio stations, and more, into one page of results, often pushing podcasts towards the bottom of the display. This puts Play Music in a tough situation, as the app is both solid at playing podcasts, but not quite as good as a free dedicated app like CastBox. Still, for users who are opposed to turning towards a dedicated, non-Google offering, Play Music isn’t a bad application so long as you stay keenly aware of its limitations. All of this said, however, Google is in the process of adding podcast support to Android natively, starting with the proper Google application installed on most Android phones on the market today.
Google has had a dedicated podcasts app for more than a year now, and for some, it’s become their default app on Android. While Google Play Music may support podcasts, it’s also on its way out, being replaced on the music streaming side of things with YouTube Music. For podcasts, Google has shifted to their Podcasts app, which syncs with Google Home and Google Assistant to offer synced playback across your multitude of devices. The idea is simple: when you look up a podcast through Google, you can tap on “More episodes” from the search result screen. This opens up a description for the podcast, the option to stream and download each episode, a subscribe button for the podcast, and the ability to add a shortcut to the podcast to your home screen (showing the podcast artwork with a small G in the corner of the display).
The player UI is pretty basic, but works well enough for basic listening. At the bottom of the screen, the player UI automatically hides itself, appearing on the show page and in your notification tray. You get options to play and pause, skip back 10 seconds and ahead 30 seconds, and adjust your speed between .5x and 2x; unfortunately, there’s no sleep timer as of yet. By default, all your downloaded episodes clear 24 hours after being finished and unfinished episodes delete themselves after 30 days. It’s a really basic player right now, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Google spins this out of the Google app and into an official podcast application sometime in the near-future to give Android a proper podcast player. It’s certainly usable (and free without ads!), but for podcast junkies, it probably won’t fit the bill completely.
When Google officially unveiled the new Podcasts app, complete with its own Play Store listing, the experience improved quite a bit. Everything has remained basically the same, but the app having an official standalone application outside of the Google App does allow it to become a more mainstream offering. The application also allows you to automatically pick up playback on any device with Google Assistant built in, but of course, that does remove desktop sync for the time being. Still, it’s good to see that Google has pushed forward with a more advanced podcasting application, and we hope to see the app gain more abilities as we move forward. First on our wish list: the ability to add podcasts to the app by RSS feed and URL, something you currently cannot do.
Another free podcast player, Player FM differentiates itself from the market by focusing on discoverability above all else. One of the best things about Player FM is its ability to help podcast newcomers find shows they’ll love by asking you to select from several different genres of shows. Some categories, like technology, expand into further subcategories, like gadgets, while others are more straightforward. Once you’ve selected your own favorite genres, you’ll get a list of shows worth checking out based on your interests. There’s some standard selections in here, like TED Talks and The Vergecast for technology, Comedy Bang! Bang! for mature comedy, etc., but there’s also plenty of deeper cuts for even experienced podcast fans to get into.
Once you’ve selected the podcasts from your curated list (you can select or deselect as many as you’d list), your subscriptions page within the app becomes populated with the most recent episodes of each show. At the bottom of this page are further suggestions to add to your queue and build out your library. And since each of these podcasts are logged by a genre, you can sort by comedy, pop culture, or any other genre you enjoy listening to on a regular basis.
We should also mention that the interface included with Player FM is pretty solid, and though it’s far from the prettiest app we’ve ever seen, when it comes to podcast players, it looks pretty great. PlayerFM does have a subscription model with three plans, ranging from Gold to Premium to Patron. Each are charged annually, and while they have similar features, as of writing, they’re all charging about $12 per year. It’s odd to see three different plans with different statuses costing the same amount, but regardless, the plans are cheap enough that subscribing to remove ads, gain themes, sync your player across the web, and build playlists is a great option for anyone leaving the new version of Pocket Casts. Overall, Player FM’s status as a free podcast app built for discovery makes it ideal for users new to podcasts.
Podcasty (or, as it’s listed on Google Play, “Podcast App”) arrived on the podcast scene last year from a single developer and offers a completely free application, both in terms of price and advertisements. So far, the app has been kept relatively up to date with new features and bug fixes (though the app hasn’t been updated in about six months as of writing), and has slowly been growing in numbers since it was launched last year, now reaching over 50,000 users. So far, the app has maintained a strong 4.5 star rating with its users, gaining solid reviews from podcast fans and novices alike. The app is cloud-based and supports Google’s login method, meaning your playback positions always sync automatically between devices. The app allows you to choose from a multitude of colors, and in a sea of red-shaded podcast apps, this is a lifesaver.
Podcasty also supports both audio and video streams, and generally speaking, the playback screen is clean enough for general use. There’s a sleep timer, Chromecast support, and playback speed control, all available in a completely free app. There’s even a Discover tab, similar to Pocket Casts, and though it certainly isn’t as well organized as what we’ve seen from the paid app, it is handy for finding new podcasts. Overall, Podcasty left us impressed; though the app is still in its early days of life, it’s an excellent offering that’s bound to please people looking for a simplistic, free application on Android.
More than ever, Spotify has been working to transform their app into a fully-formed podcast player. With the multi-million dollar acquisition of Gimlet Media, Spotify is slowly beginning to build out their podcast empire into something that could take podcasts into the next decade. With deals opening up for podcasts to host through Spotify instead of RSS (with the advantage being the ad revenue is automatic and always current, instead of the radio-esque show reads that most podcasts have now), along with the promise of Spotify-exclusive ads coming soon, it’s easy to see what Spotify wants to do with podcasts. But how exactly is the player experience in 2019?
Well, it’s mostly fine. It’s improved a lot of the last two years actually, becoming something much easier to use overall. Each podcasts plays back like a playlist, so the most recent episode of a show will be followed up automatically by the second-most recent. You can also follow and download shows from within the app, and Spotify’s podcast playback does not require a paid account on mobile. Spotify has added the ability to adjust the speed of a podcast, with choices ranging from .5x to 3x. A sleep timer is available right off the bat, as is the ability to skip back and forth fifteen seconds within the episode. The biggest problem with using Spotify as your podcast player right now is the lack of RSS integration, which means anyone looking at the app as a way to listen to Patreon-exclusive feeds will be left out for the time being.
Along with playing your favorite playlists, you can also find recommended playlists within the app, offering you new podcasts and other stations that are perfect for long car rides. Both user experience and discoverability are big things in Spotify’s plan for podcasting, and while we still think the experience for a veteran podcast listener doesn’t hold up to other dedicated podcast clients, for new listeners just getting into podcasts, it’s a great tool.
Stitcher is a bit of a different bit of a different beast than your typical podcast application. you don’t add traditional RSS URLs to your feed, as you do with nearly every application on this list. Instead, the app presents itself as a radio-based application created specifically for podcasts. Once you’ve logged into the app, you’re greeted with a list of topics (news, comedy, etc.) that you can mark as an area of interest, which Stitcher then builds into a playlist of headlines, interviews, and short-form audio pieces to listen to at your convenience. Though this curated feed acts more as a news or entertainment app than a library of podcasts, Stitcher also includes a “Browse Shows” section of the application, which allows for digging through recommended genres to find full-length shows.
For example, the Film and Movies category presents its users with Filmspotting, Slashfilmcast, and Doug Loves Movies—all well-known podcasts revolving around the spirit of movies and cinema. Technology, meanwhile, presents Reply All, TWiT, and Recode Decode. Stitcher’s a great app for those who don’t quite understand how to use an RSS feed to add a podcast to their app, but do understand the idea of talk radio. For a lot of pre-existing podcast junkies, Stitcher probably won’t fulfill what you’re looking for in an app. However, if you’re looking to get someone hooked on podcasts for the first time, Stitcher might be one of the best discover apps on the Play Store.