Google has rolled out a series of small but significant updates to several of its apps for Android smartphones.

Google Listen

Google Listen is a podcast manager for Android that lets you find, download, and listen to podcasts on your phone. Two of the coolest features are the ability to subscribe to search results instead of just individual podcasts, and the ability to sync your subscriptions with Google Reader so you can manage your podcasts from any PC.

But as much as I liked the idea of Google Reader synchronization, there was one thing that was driving me batty. I use Google Reader to catch up on hundreds of RSS feeds every day. And I like to keep my unread item count near zero by sitting down to read the news and clicking the “All items” link and working my way through each and every item until I’m done. Unfortunately, this marks my podcasts as unread, which removes them from my Google Listen queue on the Nexus One.

This week Google released an updated version of Google Listen with one killer feature: Support for multiple Google accounts. This means that if you have (or sign up for) a second Google account that you don’t use for Google Reader, you can sync Google Listen with that account instead of your primary account. That way you won’t accidentally mark items as “read” and delete them from your queue.

In order to sync with a different account, here’s what you need to do: Go to your phone’s settings tab and click the “Accounts & sync” option. Next, hit “Add account” and then choose Google. Go ahead and create or sign into your account, and make sure not to select the option to sync your Gmail unless you want really want to synchronize another Gmail inbox with your Android phone.

Next, fire up the latest version of Google Listen (which is available as a free download from the Android Market). Open the settings dialog and choose “Accounts. You should see all of the Google accounts available on your phone. Just pick the one that you don’t typically use for Google Reader, and you should be all set!

Of course, if you’d rather just synchronize your podcasts with iTunes, you can always check out my tutorial on automatically synchronizing your Android phone with iTunes.

Google Voice

Google Voice is a nifty app that lets you link multiple phones to a single number. Give your Google Voice number to your contacts, and when they call your cellphone, home phone, or office phone will ring. You can configure Google Voice to ring all your phones all the time, or set preferred times of day for ringing each phone.

But my favorite Google Voice feature is the automatic transcripts of voicemail messages. Sure, the text is usually garbled, but you can get a decent idea of what your contact was trying to say by glancing at your phone instead of dialing into your voicemail. You can also click the play button to hear a message, and organize your Google Voice messages pretty much the same way you do your Gmail messages.

I’m using Google Voice as a replacement for the T-Mobile voicemail service on my Nexus One. But there’s another feature I don’t really use that much. Google Voice allows you to receive SMS text messages free of cost. But up until recently, Google Voice could take as long as 15 minutes to notify you of new text messages.

Last night, Google issued an update that lets you select “Inbox Synchronization” to receive near-instantaneous alerts when new text messges arrive.

The new version of Google Voice also includes a new contact feature that lets you tap on any contact’s picture to bring up a bar that will show all the ways you can contact them — by email, chat, IM, or phone. It’s similar to the pop-up menu you get when clicking on a picture in Android 2.1’s contact apps.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...

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