Since I picked up my Google Nexus One a few months ago, I’ve tried a number of different tools for downloading and listening to podcasts.
Google Listen is a free podcast manager from Google which makes it easy to find, subscribe to, and listen to podcasts. But I find that it’s a bit unpredictable when it comes to actually downloading the podcasts. When I fire up the app, I usually have to manually start downloading an episode before I can listen to it. And I’m amazed how often Listen will start to download a podcast only to stop after a few megabytes — something I usually don’t notice until I’m about 10 minutes into a podcast and suddenly the audio stops.
I’ve also tried configuring my PC and Android phone to automatically sync podcasts from iTunes to the Nexus One. This works reasonably well, but it requires you to connect your phone to your PC regularly.
BeyondPod is a full featured podcast manager for Android that does pretty much everything you need on the phone itself — no PC needed. You can search for and subscribe to podcasts or import feeds from an OPML feed or from Google Reader.
You can also configure BeyondPod to automatically update all of your feeds on a regular basis so that episodes are ready for you to listen to as soon as you hit the play button. I’ve been testing BeyondPod for the past week, and it’s set up to automatically check for new episodes while I sleep so that most mornings I have something new to listen to.
BeyondPod is available as a free download from the Android Market, but in order to use all the features (such as scheduling downloads), you’ll want to purchase the BeyondPod Unlock Key which costs $6.99. The free version of the software comes with a 7 day trial so you can use all of the pro features for a week before deciding whether to pony up $7.
The app gives you a lot of control over your podcast subscriptions. For instance, you can sort feeds into categories, set the maximum number of episodes you want to keep on your SD card, or set a time limit so that all podcasts older than 30 days (or 360 days, or whatever number you like) will be deleted.
There’s also an integrated feed reader, so you can read the show notes for episodes before downloading them.
BeyondPod also creates a detailed log file every time it connects to the server to download episodes, so you can quickly see if there were any problems retrieving files.
The Settings menu gives you a ton of options over how BeyondPod downloads and plays media. You can configure a SmartPlay feature to create playlists based on your listening preferences, set the length of time you want to be able to skip ahead or back in a podcast using the forward and backward skip buttons, and enable support for media buttons on a phone headset.
BeyondPod can also handle video podcasts, and you can choose to use either your default video player or BeyondPod for video playback.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the range of features BeyondPod offers. It’s basically the podcast manager I had hoped Google Listen would be… even it the full version is $7 more expensive.
BeyondPod is available for download from the Android Market, or you can just scan the barcode to the right.