Google Listen: My Commuting BFF

Google Listen Queue Screenshot
Podcasts are a very big part of my life: for running, for my bus commute, for occupying my brain while I've been preparing my house for showings (we're in the middle of selling)... I even make my family listen to them in the car if I'm in the middle of a good one when we're leaving the house. :)

I generally, have a couple of hours of audio on my phone at all times. I've already done my Favourite Podcasts list, so today we're going to look at my favourite podcasting tool. I briefly mentioned this one in my 6 Android Apps I Can't Live Without, but today I thought I'd tell you why.

Google Listen is (surprise, surprise) an Android app. You iThing lovers have your iTunes, we have Google Listen to double as an audio manager and player. LifeHacker users voted it the most popular Mobile Podcast Catcher earlier this year.

The user interface is clean, simple and unobtrusive. And it has NO ADS. So many apps force you to stare at AdWords or banner ads. This one has none of that.

I can search, subscribe and download podcasts from within the app and it has a handy "Refresh" button that I can click to download my subscribed feeds at a moment's notice. To manage my wireless data usage, I've got it set to only Refresh and download new items when I'm on wifi. That's a handy feature since I don't have to worry about it refreshing randomly when I'm on 3G and chewing through my data plan.

While the repository might not contain the same breadth as iTunes (I'm guessing, since I've never used it), it does contain all my favourites (listed in my other post) as well as gems from Harvard, CBC and CNET that I have become completely addicted to. And How Stuff Works. I do wish it had a list of topics to browse (especially since this IS a Google product) but the search comes up with a variety of suggestions since it queries the show notes in addition to the podcast category.

One very handy feature is that my Listen subscriptions show up in both the Listen app and in Google Reader. I can subscribe to audio feeds through reader and have them sync with the Listen app the next time I turn it on. I can also double check whether there are updates, manage my subscriptions and mark items as "read" so that they don't download if I'm not interested in them. And it's in Reader, which I check daily anyway. Very, very convenient.

The best thing about the app is that it's pretty light: doesn't use up much power. When my battery is pretty much dead, I can still play audio for a while — handy when I'm too tired to read on the bus. On my Kobo. Which I love. I guess Kobo is my other commuting BFF. But that's a post for another day.