BeyondPod Takes the Tedium Out of Podcast Playlist Creation
When you're sacrificing sleep to make sure your podcast app is doing its download job so you won't have to make a radio-signal-barren commute with nothing to listen to, you have a problem. That was my situation when matters got even worse: The free app I depended on, as unreliable as it was, would be going away. I decided to pony up for BeyondPod, and my sleep has been undisturbed -- and my ears filled -- ever since.
BeyondPod Podcast Manager, a mobile app from BeyondPod, is available for US$6.99 at Google Play.
I was horrified by the prospect of Google's Listen podcast manager app for Android being discontinued when I first heard the news some months ago.
The idea of having to find again, pay for and then configure an alternative podcast app was annoying. I could really think of better things to do with a few bucks and my time -- like buy a coffee -- than mess around with a replacement podcast management app that would no doubt be tedious and frustrating.
This was partly due to the fact that I had settled on podcast manager app Listen, an app chosen because it kind of worked and was free. It was also partly because every podcast app I had ever tried -- from the early Windows Mobile smartphone days to the Android present -- had never really worked properly and took days to verify working functions like downloading.
Why was I going to be spending time and money on something that was likely never going to work as intended -- that is, download podcasts overnight so I could listen to them offline?
I've lost count of the number of times I've grabbed my shiny phone in the morning, jumped into the gas guzzler and set off on a network-starved canyon commute only to find the anticipated podcast hadn't downloaded overnight as it was supposed to, or wasn't streamable. Multiple phones, multiple podcasts, multiple apps.
I'd even taken to manually kick-starting podcast downloads on waking in bed in the early morning in a sleepy, often-futile attempt to solve the auto-download or failure to stream problem while still within range of WiFi.
It was a pleasant surprise when, after a bit of scrambling -- as Listen finally and quite rightly descended into the discarded app ether as abandonware -- I discovered that BeyondPod actually works.
BeyondPod Podcast Manager, published by the BeyondPod team, is a steep $6.99 in the Google Play store -- a major investment after paying zilch for so many years. Still, if it works, which it appears to do, this may well be one of the best $6.99's I've ever spent in Google's virtual cathedral to consumption.
What Are They?
Podcasts, for those unfamiliar, are prerecorded snippets of audio or video media, often episodic, that are available for subscription. The chunks are delivered as a feed, and the podcast manager is used to poll the feed and download or stream the media.
The downloadable nature of podcasts makes them great for offline media consumption -- that is, when the podcast manager is up to the task and actually does the job, as Listen so often didn't.
I'm pleased to say that this app works flawlessly.
BeyondPod features include the ability to select how many episodes to download, as well as how long to keep them.
This can be accomplished for individual feeds -- useful in the case of serial-following -- or alternatively, news. For example, keep only one audio of a nightly news broadcast for catching up with in the morning, plus multiple episodes of a favored radio show.
This control functionality becomes almost obsessive once you get into it. For example, you can update single feeds manually or in categories; set specific download times; download when connected to WiFi and not cellular service, and so on. You can turn WiFi on for downloading and then off on completion.
Podcasts are tracked, so you know what you've listened to. Categories like news or shows can be generated, and podcasts can be deleted automatically when you've finished listening. The usual widgets are available, as is integration with Google Reader -- one of the few features in Listen that made it worth keeping for all those years.
A confusing purchase process -- or perhaps my inattention -- caused me to download the phone version on my tablet. At least I have matching versions on phone and tablet now. However, despite now knowing there is a prettier tablet version, and after spending many hours configuring BeyondPod for phones on the tablet, I'm not migrating. Sorry, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
Overall, I have no complaints, with the exception of a marginally unresponsive and glitchy play button -- but a full playlist is sitting there each morning, and I couldn't say that with Listen.
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