Is Droid the perfect podcatcher?

In 2007 I wrote a piece outlining the features I wanted to see for a podcast player device. I didn’t feel that the iPod of the day was good enough. For some reason I wasn’t thinking of the iPhone as a podcast player, even though I had one. (Might have been the non-standard headphone jack.)

The three requirements were:

1. Be able to download podcasts on its own, without having to connect to a laptop or desktop. In other words, it synchs directly, not through an intermediary.

2. Be able to record podcasts as well as listen to them. If you get an idea you should be able to quickly communicate it. All good platforms are two-way.

3. Be programmable. The user shouldn’t have to buy a new device just to get a feature, they should be able to either buy software that does it, or even better, write it themsevles. Ideally the device would be user scriptable.

So, I’ve been using the Droid for about a month and Eric Neu asked a great question. Does it fit the description I outlined in 2007? I don’t know the answer, let’s figure it out together.

When I first got it, a bunch of people recommended I try the Google-supplied app called Listen. I did, and at first I was pleased with the way it worked. It’s really good at finding podcasts. I quickly searched for a half-dozen of my regular feeds, and added them to its library. I expected it to automatically check the feeds and download podcasts so I could listen to them even when I didn’t have good net access, but it doesn’t seem to be doing this. Okay, at least read the feeds regularly and let me browse the new stuff in a reverse-chronological river? Doesn’t seem to do that either. So what does it do exactly? I don’t know.

This is something the Droid itself suffers from. There are no tutorials. No clear English explanations showing you how to use the thing.

When I wrote about Stewart Alsop’s problems, a bunch of people called him names because he had probably maxed out memory, accounting for the slow performance. Maybe so, but how do you tell if memory is maxed out and how do you get apps to quit using memory? There are no docs that I can see that inform a user about the most basic things about the Droid. Google should get to work quickly to fix this.

As a further aside, my own Droid gets ridiculously slow sometimes. I notice it now that their ads claim that it’s like being strapped to a SCUD missle. That’s laughable. It’s like being hit by a SCUD missle. (Before iPhone users gloat, it gets unbearably slow too.)

Back to podcatchers.

To answer the question posed by this piece — no — the Droid is not at this time a good-enough podcatcher, at least not with the software I’ve been using. However with different software or with an upgrade to Listen, it should be able to do #1, even better than my initial spec envisioned. I assumed it would need wifi to be able to do it, and of course Droid has wifi, but it can also download podcasts over the Verizon network.

Can it record? Yes it can. I have Qik and Ustream recording software on my Droid, and both work very nicely. I don’t yet have audio recording software, but I generally use Cinch for that, and since the Droid is a phone, that’s really all that I need.

It would be great if there was system-level scripting on the device so that users could build custom functionality. But that seems a long way off. However where the iPhone loses points for having a closed platform, that they used to famously keep “third-party” podcatchers off the iPhone, the Droid has no such barriers. Long-term that may prove to be the most significant advantage of Droid over the iPhone, at least until Apple loosens up and lets developers route around them.

Posted in Droid. 20 Comments »

20 Responses to “Is Droid the perfect podcatcher?”

  1. Didi Chanoch Says:

    Personally, I’m not a fan of Listen. Potential is there, but it’s way too sparse. Whenever I’ve had an Android device, I’ve been using ACast. It’s free, and does all the automatic checking and downloading you can ask for.

    Search isn’t as good as Listen, but usually good enough.

    • Bob D Says:

      I don’t really like the Listen interface. Playing with ACast now, and it really does look like a nice full feature-set. Thanks!

  2. MG Says:

    iPhone is the best podcatcher with rssPlayer app. I think it does everything you want to be able to do.

  3. corq Says:

    drPodder is just a sample of frontends built upon bashpodder, the podcast-downloading script. http://www.precentral.net/homebrew-apps/prepod

    We’ve had it for the Open Sourced Palm Pre for a bit, but Android’s open platform should also make drPodder-like applications possible. I consider drPodder to be just about perfect. No need to sync *anything*.

    I can schedule the downloads over my phone’s wifi, or EVDO, (or just stream them with the newest option) and it’s set to tell you when new podcast episodes are avaialable. Naturally, the awesomeness of RSS is what made all this possible to build from.

    • Matt Kurio Says:

      Ditto….

      DrPodder is awesome on webOS. Since it came out, I’ve had no real need to every connect my Pre to my computer for any sort of syncing. I’ve even used Dr. Podder to download 850 mb video podcasts over the Pre’s wifi.

  4. Kosso Says:

    Doesn’t the Droid have a built-in Voice Recorder?

    I’m pretty sure my HTC Hero does. I would have thought it would be a default Android app?

  5. l.m.orchard Says:

    For what it’s worth, the Palm Pre has 1, 2, and 3 from your list – at least, if you’re open to using homebrew software.

    1) drPodder subscribes to and downloads podcasts and can stream them as they download. http://www.precentral.net/homebrew-apps/prepod

    2) There’s a video recorder named Precorder in the works, and I’m sure a podcast recorder / uploader could be whipped up if someone had the gumption. http://www.precentral.net/precorder-enters-alpha-testing-phase

    3) Once you enter Developer Mode (free, supported) you can develop apps on webOS in a Palm-supported manner using HTML/CSS/JS and in a not-supported (but not forbidden) manner using Java/C to access the underlying Linux. No jailbreaking, no alien technologies, just embedded Linux and most everything based on widely available Open Source libraries.

    And the main reason I post this is because nearly everything I hear that’s good about the Droid, the Pre has (and more). It just really seems to be drowned out by the big G, and people seem not to like Sprint. Maybe Palm can get the story out there better once they’re on more networks

  6. Droid basics: How to uninstall an app? « DROIDIE Says:

    […] Is Droid the perfect podcatcher? […]

  7. Matt Says:

    DoggCatcher is the podcast app you are looking for. It allows you to add a podcast by providing the URL of the RSS feed or importing an OPML. In the feed options of each podcast you can set the number of items to view and auto-download. The defaults are 10 and 0 so you will need to change the auto-download number to at least 1. The application options will allow you to set how often the application checks for new items. You can find the app in the market but here is a link to the webpage… http://www.snoggdoggler.com/FeatureOverview

    As for scripting… Google has a provided a way to system-level scripting. Here is a link to the blog post… http://google-opensource.blogspot.com/2009/06/introducing-android-scripting.html . The details can be found here… http://code.google.com/p/android-scripting/

    • Erik Neu Says:

      I have been using DoggCatcher for 4 months. It is pretty good. Nothing about it really sucks, for a start. They have an unusually sophisticated set of preferences for a mobile app, including such niceties as when to auto-synch, and how many seconds for the skip button. They also have good UI details, such as “long press required for skip button” and binding to bluetooth headsets. It does a very nice job synching OTA, but you don’t have to download at all–you can stream if you want.

      Probably the most obvious improvement I can spot is having default preferences for the Feed Options–rather than having to set manually for each feed you add.

      My other, really big idea for them would be to have a web page where you can add feeds. The main benefit would be just to ease of data-entry. But a nice secondary benefit would be to maintain a history of all podcasts you have ever downloaded.

      Note that it is a paid app. At $6.99, it is by far the most expensive Android app I have purchased. However, considering its quality and utility, I would say it is well worth it.

  8. Matt Cutts Says:

    “It would be great if there was system-level scripting on the device so that users could build custom functionality.”

    Do a search for [Android Scripting Environment]. It will let you do stuff like write a bar code scanner app in six lines of Python code.

  9. Christian Aubry Says:

    >> how do you get apps to quit using memory?

    Very easy. Launch the Android Market and search for “task manager”. I tried a few of them and my final choice is TasKiller by Thibault Nicolas. Version 1.x (that’s all we have in the Canadian market) is free. Version 2.x is add-supported but the paid version is not.

    * Review: http://www.androidtapp.com/taskiller/
    * Website: http://www.taskiller.com/

  10. links for 2009-12-06 « Scott Jangro Says:

    […] Is Droid the perfect podcatcher? « DROIDIE (tags: droid,) […]

  11. Chris Smith Says:

    Dave, I have been experiencing the same problem with Google Listen; it is broken, at least on the Droid. It plays completely different podcasts than the ones that I choose and it does not update regularly. I don’t get why it still has 4 stars…

    I have tried every podcast catcher app in the Android Market and I have to say that ACast is probably the best, although not exactly a perfect solution.

  12. Greg Billock Says:

    Agreed about DoggCatcher. It is really good.

    On the recording side, I have the “Voice Recorder” app. It is good, but I don’t think it has podcasting publishing features. It can email files, though, which might be “good enough” for your needs given server-side support.

  13. sivan Says:

    PodTrapper for BlackBerry rules them all. And I’m picky.

  14. RSS for BitTorrent, and other developments | BlogTheBrain News Source Says:

    […] On the Droidie site I look at what it will take to make it the perfect podcatcher. […]

  15. Ben Says:

    I tried a bunch of podcatcher apps on my Droid, including Listen, and settled on BeyondPod. Well worth the $7 for the full version. I review it on my blog at http://tech.benbuck.net/5396.

  16. Wayne Henderson Says:

    Since I don’t have a Droid, I don’t have a way to try manually adding my podcasting feeds into the Listen app on the Droid. I’ve heard that the only way to get Google Listen to start cataloging a person’s podcasts, is to have some people subscribe to them manually, and this will enable Google to “crawl” and recognize them as valid.

    Would you be willing to do me a huge favor, if you have a couple minutes? Could you please add these feeds for my shows into your Google Listen app on your Droid (even if you unsubscribe from them in a day or two)? If you could, and confirm that they work on this awesome new platform, I would really appreciate it! Thanks!

    The Voice-Over Journey podcast
    http://feeds.feedburner.com/Voice-OverJourney

    LOSTcasting With Wayne And Dan
    http://feeds.feedburner.com/LOSTcastingWithWayneAndDan

    FRiNGEcasting With Wayne And Dan
    feed://feeds.feedburner.com/FRiNGEcastingWithWayneAndDan

    The Tuning In With Wayne Henderson podcast
    feed://thewaynedear.libsyn.com/rss

    Thanks again!

  17. samsung Mythic Says:

    I think that Droid can compete and even dominate the market..


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