A Google Listen Review

You may know that I recently got a new phone. Specifically an HTC desire. It runs android, specifically android 2.2, and I will be reviewing it and a few apps over the coming weeks and months. For just now, I’m going to talk about a little product on my phone that I use every day. Even if I don’t consciously use it, it still runs. It is called “Google Listen”.

Google listen is a podcatcher. Most of you should know what one of those are, but just incase you don’t, I’m going to tell you. A podcast is a constantly updating list of audio files (ok, thats not quite right, but it is a simple explanation of it) that are posted on the internet and you can download them. Many people use a desktop client to download podcasts, and then sync them to their media device. However another, possibly simpler, solution is to have an application on your phone, and with the dawning of phones that are very powerful, constantly connected to the internet and allow third party apps, this is a great idea. Google listen is one such application.

When you open google listen, you are presented with 4 options. “My listen items”, “My Subscriptions”, “Popular Searches” and “Recently played”. You can add feeds by going to “My subscriptions” and adding a feed, or by searching their database. I find that their podcast database is very lacking. I found stuff like TWiT shows, and Linux Outlaws, but not UbuntuUKPodcast or thecommandline podcast. If they get their database properly up and with a lot of shows on it, this would be a huge plus for it and give it a huge edge over the competition.

Once you have a feed added listen will constantly search it for new additions to it and will automatically download them. You can turn this off in the settings, or tell it to only do it on wifi. This is a huge plus, the fact that it automatically refreshes and downloads them. You will forget to check the feed every so often, and walk out the house and go “aw…I forgot to download that podcast”. I used to do that with my old Nokia 5800 before.This is not a problem when it happens automatically.

A downside to this automatic is that it can’t handle losing network connectivity. If you are trying to download it and it loses signal you have to restart it manually, and occaisionally it won’t ever download the podcast (this only happened once to me, but it is a problem). It is very uncommon, but still not good.

It has problems with the notifications it has, and when it shows it. When I pause my music app, it sometimes shows in the notification bar as playing, which is quite annoying, and the only way to get it away is to play and then stop again. It also seems to steal the “play/pause” button from my bluetooth headphones. I do not know whether this is because my music app can’t handle them or whether google listen is taking them and not letting anyone else have them. Either way, I need to find out what this is and fix it, because it is quite annoying.

There isn’t much else to talk about this app. Apart from the fact that there is only 1 way to automatically delete episodes, and that is by saying how many downloads it can have. After it hits the limit, it deletes the oldest episode. This is a problem if you occasionally don’t listen to podcasts, and you end up having a lot of unlistened episodes. This is 1 thing I would like them to have.

The other thing to mention is that this is beta software. It is prone to bugs, and for that reason if you are worried about that do not use it.

If you are happy with using non-stable software, then I would recommend this app. I have tried many podcatchers (desktop and mobile) and this is the best. It is automatic, it is simple, you can forget about it, and it treats podcasts as different from music. Music players never do podcasts justice. Google Listen does. It does simple things like save the point that you last played it at, that normal music players don’t do, that just makes a whole huge amount of difference. I would highly recommend this app to anyone who is happy with using beta software.

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3 Responses to “A Google Listen Review”

  1. RIch C Says:

    Another handy feature is that you can manage your feeds using Google Reader…

  2. YaManicKill Says:

    Ahh yes. I forgot to say that. They are handled using Google Reader and put into the “Podcast” folder. This means you can add them in google reader, and they automatically are synced onto Google Listen.

    The 1 disadvantage of this is the fact that you have to have a non Google Apps account so it can sync with reader, but I’ll need to test if the new Google Apps accounts (the ones that are meant to be feature-parity with normal Google accounts) work with this, because you can have reader with them. Will investigate…

  3. Andy C Says:

    Many thanks for this review which inspired to try Listen out on my HTC Legend.

    Agree completely about the Automatic, set and forget nature of Google Listen. I have also tried a lot of podcast apps on Windoze, Linux and iTouch and never really embraced one fully. gPodder probably got closest as I could have the same set of podcasts accessible from multiple ‘devices’.

    I suspect this is because I really only listen when I am not distracted by a PC (ie. on a morning commute) so Listen on Android makes perfect sense for me.

    Really interested in the Google Reader synch feature as this would be great for me.

    Also agree that podcasts are different from music. Resuming from where you left off seems like the most obvious feature but not many software packages offer it.

    Also, I view a podcast as ‘Listened’ when I have listened all the way through not as soon as I it ‘Play’ (gPodder).

    Agree about better criteria for deleting old content – I would like to ‘Purge listened podcasts’ rather than a configurable raw count.

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