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The Best Podcast Apps for Android – September 2019

Posted by William Sattelberg on August 29, 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.

Everyone else

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.

3 thoughts on “The Best Podcast Apps for Android – September 2019”

Mary says:
This is one of the best reviews I’ve seen. I’ve been testing Catholic, podcast addict, and Pocketcast to see which I want to put on new phone. I love Castbox and I’ve been trying to see what is so much better about the others. Details in this review let me know what to look for and confirmed my choice. Thanks!
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Victor Hason says:
I can’t find the September review
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Nancy VanGorden says:
I’ve been using Castbox for almost a year and love it. Until this week. Something has changed. All my podcasts sound like the hosts are talking a mile a minute! Or like they’ve all had a million cups of coffee. I can’t find a speed setting. Any suggestions on a fix for this? Or do I just need to start using a different app? Thanks!
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William Sattelberg says:
Hey Nancy! When you’re in the player display for CastBox, look in the upper-right hand corner for an icon with two sliders and tap it. That will load the adjustment menu, which has options for playback speed ranging from .5x all the way up 3.0x. If your podcasts sound fast, that slider might have been messed with by accident; just lower the speed back down to 1.0x.
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