Apple Podcasts has always been my podcast app on iPhone. While it doesn’t do anything fancy compared to the likes of Pocket Casts, I’ve always found it more than adequate for my on and off relationship with podcasts.
But that changed when Google released its own podcast app for iPhone called Google Podcasts. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that Google has created some of the best (free) third-party alternatives for iOS.
While I wanted to stick with Apple Podcasts, I knew I had to at least give Google Podcasts a try. And let me say this up front – it really impressed me. But was it good enough to get me grounded on Apple’s Podcasts app? Let’s find out.
Note: The name of the podcast app next to the feature indicates a preference or winner.
User Interface – Google Podcasts
Like all other Google apps, Google Podcasts is built based on the Material Design visual language. Material Design not only makes it great to look at but also helps to pack the app in many elements without complicating the UI. Buttons and menus also feel fast and responsive.
Plus, Google Podcasts’ three bottom-of-the-screen tabs – Home, Explore, and Activity – make it super easy to navigate the app.
The Home tab lists all subscribed channels and new episodes, Discover provides quick access to new shows and search controls, and the Activity tab and its related sub-tabs, subscribed channels, queue, downloaded episodes etc. makes management quick and effortless.
In contrast, fonts, icons, and thumbnails in Apple Podcasts look huge. Navigation also includes lots of scrolling and menu dives, especially with the Browse and Library tabs. Needless to say, this often creates confusion.
Discovering Shows – Google Podcasts
Apple Podcasts falls short of helping discover new shows. It lists featured shows and podcast categories, but scrolling and scrolling through those huge thumbnails quickly gets tiresome. The same is true when searching for shows where I need to be pretty accurate in my queries to get decent results.
On the other hand, Google Podcasts has a For You tab under Explore that recommends shows based on my activities and listening history. Also at the top of the screen News, Culture, Education, etc. It provides quick navigation by providing sub-tabs.
Google Podcasts’ search capabilities also outstripped Apple Podcasts by miles. Search is a kind of Google thing and it shows. The app quickly makes recommendations and quickly generates relevant results.
Playback Controls – Google Podcasts
Google Podcasts provides three nifty buttons below each episode that let me easily play, queue up or download what I want. Tap elsewhere and I can see additional information like episode notes and download size.
Apple Podcasts, on the other hand, start playing as soon as I tap on an episode (even accidentally, this will end everything I’ve been listening to all along). This allows at best to perform tasks such as queuing and downloading. I like the approach of Google Podcasts better.
When it comes to actual playback controls, Apple Podcasts offers buttons to skip forward and backward (customizable via Settings), a seek bar, and speed controls. Just enough to get the job done.
At a glance, the playback screen on Google Podcasts also looks strikingly similar to its native counterpart. But on closer inspection, there are a few options that actually make a difference.
For example, tap the playback speed icon and you can actually make minute adjustments instead of relying on presets.
Google Podcasts also has an option called Trim Silence that eliminates pauses and gaps in podcasts. You even get an adjustable sleep timer. Neat stuff.
Downloads and Notifications – Google Podcasts
Both Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts support automatic downloads and notifications. But the latter actually streamlines the whole process from the very beginning.
Subscribe to a new show on Google Podcasts and I’ll automatically decide if I want to download it or get notifications when a new episode hits the shelves. I can also visit the Settings panel in Google Podcasts to manage my automatic download settings and notifications for each show I subscribe to.
Apple Podcasts provides quick access to notification controls via the Listen tab. But dealing with automatic downloads is another matter entirely.
For starters, I have to go to my iPhone’s Settings panel to change my download preferences. Come on, apple. Even then, there are no automatic download settings for individual shows, which taste bad.
Multi-Device Availability – Apple Podcasts
Apple Podcasts are tightly integrated into the Apple ecosystem. It’s available on Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac so I can listen to my favorite podcasts on any of my Apple devices. The same cannot be said for Android or Windows, where Apple Podcasts are practically unavailable.
In such cases, Google apps often save the day due to their cross-platform availability. But not with Google Podcasts.
Except for iPhone, Google Podcasts is only available as a dedicated app on Android. But that’s about it. Nothing for the iPad or Apple Watch (at least for now).
Google Podcasts is available in web app format, so it’s possible to listen to subscribed shows from a PC and Mac. But it’s bare bones at best, with poor navigation and playback controls, and it feels nothing like the stellar app on the iPhone.
Verdict — Google Podcasts
Google Podcasts beats Apple Podcasts on almost every front. A better user interface, superior playback controls, easier management of downloads and notifications etc make it a clear winner.
But as I just mentioned, Google Podcasts falls apart when it comes to availability on other devices. Besides Android, Google Podcasts cannot do it justice with its poor quality web app.
Personally, I’m not afraid to use either one. I rarely listen to podcasts outside of my iPhone, so I’m switching to Google Podcasts full time. It’s that good.
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