Nearly two years have passed since Google first launched support for Podcasts. During that time, it has often felt like podcast support on iOS has been something of an afterthought for the search engine giant. That has changed now with a welcomed iOS launch. Amid a sea of competitors, Google’s podcast app immediately stands out on iOS thanks to its algorithmic search and clean design. Why should you choose it over Apple’s own app or the other big names? Let’s dig in and find out.
It’s All About Design
Apple’s podcast app has unquestionably become the default choice for millions of listeners thanks to its availability right out of the box. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it a better app. The design leaves a lot to be desired, even if it is Apple’s familiar minimal style. On the other hand, Google’s designers opted for a straightforward experience with only three tabs. After opening the app, you are brought right to the “Home” screen. This screen focuses on all of your existing subscriptions. Its scrollable feed offers a choice between download, queue up or play. Apple and Spotify do not offer the same functionality without extra clicks and, in the case of Spotify, almost too many options.
The second tab centers around “Explore.” Quite possibly the most important piece of most podcast apps, this tab is a mix of discovery and recommendations. As one might expect with Google, the algorithmic approach to helping you find new podcasts to enjoy is second to none. Many apps have tried to master podcast discovery, and few come close to what Google can do.
The “For You” tab is the default landing after jumping into the Explore tab. It is a mix of new shows and recommendations that relate directly to your interests. Apple’s “Browse” function offers no such personalization. Instead, it only focuses on what’s popular. With its app, Spotify has almost no discovery function and instead relies on you to know what you want to listen to ahead of time. As one might expect with Google, it will continue to learn your listening interests, which allows for improved recommendations over time.
The Activity tab is another sharply-designed page with everything you need right up front. Again, there is little in the way of comparison with Google’s two biggest competitors in Apple and Spotify. This tab is full of your listening history, downloads and queued up episodes for future listening. Managing your subscriptions is easy thanks to a dedicated tab appropriately labeled “Subscriptions.” Overall, the Activity tab is a simple and easy way to see what podcasts are available to you. You can skip ahead in a series, remove a podcast you don’t want or download them for offline use. Ultimately, Google’s decision to go with a basic set of menu functions pays off with almost no learning curve.
It’s All About Search
Even as Google Podcasts focuses on episodes you can jump into right away, it’s still enjoyable to search. Apps like Apple and Spotify are solely reliant on pushing you to subscribe to shows of your choosing. They then leave you to figure out what you want to listen to next. The better experience is absolutely with Google Podcasts. Perform a search for “Movies,” and you are shown episodes and podcasts that relate to your search. The more you search for keywords like this, the more your personalized recommendation engine will suggest relevant podcasts.
That’s what makes the For You section on the Explore tab so invaluable and unlike anything Google Podcast’s main competition can offer. With every search result, you are shown a quick synopsis so you know if you want to listen. If you ever want to stop the personalized recommendations in order to discover topics you might have otherwise ignored, that’s easy, too. Head to Settings by tapping on the three dots near the top right of the screen in the Activity tab. Look halfway down the screen for the option labeled “Show personalized recommendations.” Just turn that off.
Syncing Adds Another Layer
To be fair, syncing is by no means an exclusive feature to Google Podcasts. There is something truly enjoyable about being able to listen on the Web and then pick up where you left off on the iOS app. Apple offers a similar feature with its desktop/iOS app combination, but it requires a desktop app. That leaves Web users in a lurch, as does the ability to listen on any computer. That’s one more feather in the cap of Google Podcasts. Using the Web rather than a dedicated desktop app means almost no limits on where and when you can listen.
The podcast market has ramped up in recent years as giants like Apple and Spotify do battle with plenty of smaller independent players. In the end, Apple and Spotify are both good enough apps to get by with. If you want a more complete podcast experience on iOS with a recommendation engine that is second to none, Google Podcasts on iOS is a no-brainer.