We’re big fans of podcasts — from true crime to science — but when we ranked the best podcast apps last summer, we found that nobody had truly nailed the ideal app with great controls, awesome search, great recommendations, and the flexibility to listen to podcasts the way you want to. It seemed like Google would be the ones to hit it out of the park with their new podcasts app, Google Podcasts.
But while the company does manage to pull off a fairly sweet app, it still needs some work. Expect version 2.0 to refine the issues; for now, there’s still a lot to like. Here’s what’s working and what’s not about the app.
Google Podcasts, currently only available on Android, nail the basics. The sound quality is great, whether you’re streaming or downloading episodes, although the download function can be spotty. The controls, which it pulls from Google Play Music, are simple and easy to use. It also offers a faster play function, if you want to listen to a podcast at high speed to get caught up. It has a useful interface, which tells you how much time is left on an episode in the notifications area, and as you add shows, it creates a convenient queue of new episodes so you can chew through them, one bit at a time.
The search feature is robust, as you’d expect; but the, for now, the recommendations feature just points you towards similar shows. Still, they are fairly good. One highly useful feature of the search function is you can search for a podcast network, like Gimlet or Maximum Fun, and find shows that way. One bonus feature we found particularly intriguing is that there are podcast playlists from podcasters that offer a sampler based around a theme, such as The Lonely Palette‘s Tamar Avishai’s favorite podcasts about art.
That said, the real killer feature here is that it’s tied to Google Assistant, and also the Google app. Once you add your podcast, you can, at least in theory, stop listening on your Android and use Google Assistant to pick up where you left off on any device that has Google Assistant — from the Google Home Mini to an iPad. You just boot up Google Assistant, and say something like “Hey, Google, play Disgraceland” or “Hey, Google, continue playing Dime.” Trying it out, with a Google Home Mini and an iPhone, it worked fairly well jumping from the app to the device, but not vice versa. If you half-finish a podcast through a device, it’ll likely take you back to the beginning when you return to the app. It’s also a bit fussy; you have to word what you want very precisely at the moment, and if a podcast you love has a title similar to a command you can issue to Google Assistant, you probably should just give up on that one for now.