Android App Quick Review gives you short impressions of an app, because you are in a hurry and don't have time for long drawn-out reviews!

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Monday, June 27, 2011

AAQR: Pocket Cast (free on Amazon for 27-JUN-2011, else paid) Podcatcher

Pocket Casts Library Screen
screenshot via Amazon Appstore
Pocket Cast is an impressive debut podcast searcher / player (aka Podcatcher) for Android. However, there are a few quirks that prevents it from being the best podcatcher for Android period.

Upon entering the app, you're presented with a mere 5 buttons along the bottom. It's clean, and the initial "help" screen explains that those buttons are.

Library -- index of all your podcasts subscribed to, with a number indicating how many episodes are available.

Listen -- which podcast is playing (video or audio)

Refresh -- presents which subscriptions have downloads available, and whether to stream or download offline

Search -- add new subscriptions to your library

Setup -- settings and whatnot

The interface is VERY clean, so the initial impression is very good. However, the problem here is mostly under the hood.

I start by adding some of my own favorite podcasts. 

The search interface is not bad, as you can search, browse by subject, browse by network (TWIT, CNET, NPR, etc.) There is an "import" function but it asks you to import the OPML file manually by looking for a .TXT file. Huh?! This is Android, not DOS! I mean, this doesn't even integrate with Google Reader! Still, this is how most podcatchers operate. However, the interface leaves a little to be desired. Instead of being able to subscribe right from the list view, I must click through to the "detailed description" page of the podcast, and hit "add" from there. This is annoying and not necessary. 

I went into settings and things started to look bad. Offline downloads cannot be cleaned up by date (keep only last X epsiodes) or by space (keep only 1 GB worth offline). The ONLY automation you are allowed is delete after full playback. Otherwise, it's deleting the downloads individually, purge all played, or purge all (played or not). The max refresh to find new podcasts is every 3 hours (else it's manual), but this is more of a nitpick. This is starting to get annoying. 

I go to the "refresh" screen, and this is where the app starts to really look bad. It automatically picks up 2 episodes (or is that two weeks?) from each podcast stream. You can't adjust this threshold (that I can find). From there, you can choose to download or stream. I chose a few to download, intending to try it out. 

In the "library" view, your only choice is 3 x 5 grid view of the "picture" shown as icon. While it's nice and big and readable if there's text inside, not all podcasts use a useful picture WITH description. For example, the podcast "Inspiring Words of Encouragement" just have the guy's portrait, no words at all. Unless I know the stuff intimately, how would I know what podcast that was without clicking through?

So how does it perform when it comes to actually playing a podcast?

Unfortunately, it failed terribly. I cannot get a SINGLE podcast to play, either streaming OR offline. I tried half a dozen different shows, and not obscure shows, but major ones like CNET's Buzz Out Loud, Leo Laporte's The Tech Guy, and so on. NADA. I click on "play", and bounces me right back to the library screen. Else, it force closed (which happened multiple times during testing).

I admit, I have an older phone, OG Droid with CM 7.02 (I have problem with 7.03 keep boot looping on me)  However, this should not be an issue. All OTHER podcatchers I tested work just FINE on my OG Droid.

I hate to say this, but this app ain't worth the download, even if it's free. You may have better luck with it on a different Android device, but for me, this app is a total bust.

Rating: skip it (until the bugs get fixed, or if you can try it within 15 minute refund window)
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  1. Yep, same for me. I can get it to play offline, but streaming fails most of the time. Offline doesn't always work either. After downloading, sometimes I'll force close the app and then reopen it in order to get the downloaded podcast to play. The UI and everything else is nice, though.

  2. It seems the app calls upon too much memory with its own playback service rather than calls upon the existing one. We shall see.