And another one bites the dust — this time, it’s Google Podcasts, which is being discontinued in favor of YouTube Music.
Back in 2018, Google moved its Play Music service over to YouTube, and while some people felt it was an improvement, others weren’t so thrilled. I have to say that I count myself among the latter; I usually listen to rather than watch my music, and I didn’t find the YouTube Music interface any kind of improvement.
Now, as is its wont, Google has decided to drop yet another of its apps and instead add those features to another. It sent this letter out to its users:
Over the coming months, podcasts in YouTube Music will be made available globally and we will start rolling out tools that will enable you to transfer your podcast show subscriptions from Google Podcasts. In YouTube Music, you will be able to listen to your podcasts just like you did on Google Podcasts, no paid subscription required. If YouTube Music isn’t for you, there will also be an option to download a file of your show subscriptions, which you can upload to an app that supports their import.
According to the YouTube blog, Google will be discontinuing the Podcasts app “later in 2024.”
I like — liked — Google Podcasts. It’s simple, easy to navigate, and, well, comfortable. I even started using it instead of my old faithful podcast app Stitcher — which, unfortunately, I can’t return to because it was shut down on August 29th by owner SiriusXM. So now I’m going to have to look for something new.
What follows are my impressions of a few of the more popular podcast apps currently available for Android phones. So far, of those that I’ve tried, Pocket Casts and AntennaPod stand out; Spotify’s features are also pretty good. However, it’s a fair assumption to make that as we get closer to the 2024 deadline, other apps may pop up, and if they do, I’ll probably check them out.
Note: Podcasts apps typically use the OPML format to export and import subscription data. At this point, Google Podcasts does not export via OPML; according to its announcement, it will offer that feature eventually for those who choose not to migrate to YouTube Music. In the meantime, I tested these apps by adding several podcasts manually.
When I began to research podcast apps, the one whose name always came up as the first to try was Pocket Casts. (One of my colleagues here at The Verge, when he heard I was writing this article, commented, “Pocket Casts yesterday, Pocket Casts today, Pocket Casts forever.”) It has an interesting history: it launched in 2010, was sold to NPR, along with other public media groups, in 2018, and was thereafter purchased by Automattic (the owner of WordPress.com) in 2021. Its mobile apps are now open source.
After installing Pocket Casts, I could immediately see why it was such a favorite. The free version is slick and filled with useful features. The main page shows your subscribed podcasts as either a list or grid; if you’ve got too many casts to immediately view, you can add filters for such options as In Progress, Starred, or Release Date. You can advance your audio by 30 seconds or back it up by 10 seconds, create a queue of what to listen to next (very handy on long drives), and if you’re at all curious, see stats on how long you’ve listened for. You can download episodes (either manually or automatically), put them in a playlist, set a sleep timer, mark episodes as played, and archive them to get them out of the way.
Other things worth noting include the ability to adjust playback speed, boost the volume of voices, and eliminate pauses between words without making it sound unnatural. It also syncs across platforms, so you can listen on Android, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Windows and keep your place.
In other words, this is a solid, well-thought-out podcast app with lots of options — so, yes, worth the good word-of-mouth. And wait, there’s more: it’s ad-free. The paid version, Pocket Casts Plus, adds the ability to organize your podcasts in folders, access to desktop apps, and 20GB of cloud storage, among others, for $3.99 per month or $39.99 per year, with a one-month free trial.
Castbox is an ad-supported app that has a busy main page that constantly advertises a variety of podcasts. You can search for your desired podcasts through a search box on top; from the results, it is easy to add the pod to your playlist. (As soon as you do, you will get some “You may like” suggestions that, as far as I could tell, had little to do with my selection.) I did find I had inadvertently subscribed to several of the podcasts on the opening page and that auto-download was automatically enabled. Another slight irritation: although Castbox has an email sign-in, there is no way to register using your email — if you’re not already registered, you can only sign in via a Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Line account.
There are four tabs at the bottom of the page. Discover is where you can find and add podcasts. Community is a social network for discussion of various podcasts, and from a brief look, it is best ignored unless you enjoy the type of commentary found in today’s Twitter / X. Personal is your settings.
Finally, Library is where you’ll find your subscribed podcasts; from here, you can go to your downloads, new episodes, and favorites. There is a reasonable set of features: you can go 10 seconds back or forward, set a sleep timer, and select an episode to be next up. But be warned: in some cases, you will only see the podcast’s cover for a couple of seconds; after that, it will be covered by a Google ad.
If you want to get rid of the ads, have unlimited subscriptions (the free version is limited to 100), and set different playback effects for different podcasts, among other features, it will cost you either $19.99 a year, $7.99 quarterly, or $3.99 a month.
When you look at its website, it’s obvious that PodBean is more of an app for podcasters than for podcast listeners; still, it has a useful mobile app. The app comes loaded with a variety of sample podcasts, three of which are already checked for you (and are easily unchecked). The free version does show ads at the top of the home page, but there are no ads on the main page of each podcast.
There are also a number of nice features. For example, you can change the language of the interface, auto-delete played downloads and auto-download episodes from specific podcasts and, if you suddenly realize you’re running out of space, clear your storage.
If you want to change your home page to the “Following” page, you can get a Podbean Golden Member Subscription for $9.99 annually. That also removes the display ads and allows you to create unlimited playlists,
Like Castbox and PodBean, the first page you come across in Podcast Addict is rather busy, with changing ads on top and a variety of suggested podcasts below. You can search for your favorite podcasts and choose from the resulting list (nicely, you are immediately asked whether you want to stream or download your episodes). You can also tap on a selection for more information and subscribe from there.
Podcast Addict offers a wide range of personalization features right out of the box. For example, the settings for each podcast allow you to not only keep it updated but also edit the podcast URL, edit the podcast name, override the podcast artwork, or prioritize it in your podcast lists. You can even set an alarm. This app is, in other words, tailor-made for anyone who wants to really futz around with their podcast subscriptions — and while it does include ads, those are mostly out of the way, confined to the bottom of the page.
To get rid of the ads, you can make a one-time payment of $6.99. There is also a Premium version for 99 cents a month or $9.99 a year that adds a playlist widget and lets you select your opening screen, among other features.
AntennaPod is an open-source, volunteer-built app. As a result, it’s straightforward, simply formatted, and offers some interesting features. A pop-in side menu lets you add a podcast to your list, see your queue, check out recent episodes, and see all your subscriptions, among others.
Once you’ve set up your subscriptions, the homepage has selections to continue listening to any podcasts you’ve already started, lets you see any new episodes, or use “Get surprised” to access a random episode. You can also download the latest subscribed episodes or manage your downloads.
Tap on the cover for any of your subscribed podcasts to go to the podcast page. There, you can choose to either stream or download the latest episode. Three buttons at the top let you get additional information about the site and filter the episodes by a number of methods (played or not played, downloaded or not downloaded, paused or not paused, and others). There are also a number of interesting settings, such as the ability to change your username for specific podcasts (in case you’re particularly nervous about listening to it), tagging, playback speed, and the ability to automatically skip introductions and ending credits. And you can get stats for time played, episodes on your device, and space used.
In other words, while Pocket Casts is a known favorite among many listeners, AntennaPod may also be worth a shot.
While all the other apps listed here are dedicated podcast apps, it would have been remiss not to mention Spotify — especially since, about the same time that Google announced it was sunsetting Podcasts, Spotify announced it was adding new podcast-specific features, including additional transcript capabilities, chapters to allow listeners to browse through a cast more easily, and additional content on the podcast pages. (Of course, most of this depends on how a podcast is coded by its creators.)
While I have used Spotify for music listening, I have not used it for podcasts until now. A button on top of the home page on the Android app takes you to Podcasts & Shows, where there is a series of suggested casts. There is a search button on the bottom; tap that, and you can either browse through suggested podcasts or do a search. Once you find the podcast you want, you follow (Spotify’s version of subscribing) to it.
Each podcast page allows you to add specific episodes to your playlist, download that episode, get notifications of new episodes, and other features. The settings for each let you decide whether to automatically download an episode or mark all the past episodes as played. On each podcast’s Now Playing page, you can back up 10 seconds, go forward 30 seconds, switch the speed, or trim silent sections. And, as with Pocket Casts, Spotify syncs across platforms.
In short, Spotify has a fairly impressive set of podcast features — however, you still have to specify Podcasts & Shows if you want to pick them out from all the music in your Spotify library.
Spotify’s Premium plan adds offline music listening (you can download podcasts on the free plan), removes ads, and increases the sound quality. It costs $10.99 a month for individuals, $5.99 a month for students, $14.99 a month for two accounts, and $16.99 for up to six accounts, including Spotify Kids.
Of course, if you feel that using a single app for podcasts, music, and other media is an advantage, you may want to wait and see if YouTube Music will actually work for you — unless you already use Spotify. But if you are more attuned to using an individual podcast app and want to avoid both ads and payment, then Pocket Casts or AntennaPod may be worth a try.