I started listening to podcasts back in high school, when I used to use iTunes to sync music with my iPod Classic — I discovered that the iTunes Store had a boatload of great episodic content that I could grab for free, so that I could listen to more than just music when I was commuting or relaxing outdoors. Does anyone else remember Ask a Ninja? Either way, podcasts are a wonderful way to catch up with the news, dig deeper into your interests, discover new music and keep up with your favorite sites, aurally.
I’ve been getting back to podcasts over the past few months to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world of technology, gaming and digital culture, and I recently stumbled upon a new app to help me do just that — Player FM. Originally launched as a web app by ex-Googler Michael Mahemoff, the service includes a live directory of great podcasts from the around the web for you to discover and listen to. Player FM recently came up with a companion Android app to help you find, curate and enjoy your personalized content on the go. Let’s see how it works.
Player FM is a companion app to Player.fm, a free web-based podcast discovery and playback service. You can track podcasts that you’re interested in, listen to the latest and previous episodes, and curate your favorites into a personal channel too. The app syncs your subscriptions with the web service, features a pleasant interface inspired by the Holo design language and Google’s card-based UI elements, offers basic playback controls and is available for free in the Play Store.
Player FM sports a clean UI that’s delightful to use
You can begin using Player FM either on the web or via the app, and creating an account takes just a few seconds. Once you’re logged in, you can browse Player.fm’s directory of podcasts which are categorized by topic into Channels — so, if you’re looking for a podcast on Batman comics, you can find them by searching, or by navigating into the TV and Cinema category and exploring the Batman Channel to see which ones you want to listen to, such as the Batman Universe Specials.
Find Channels you like, sorted by category (left); Look up and listen to podcasts easily (right)
If you find the channel interesting, you can star it and the channel will be added to the drop-down list of channels you’re into. Each channel usually has several podcasts within it, and if you find one you like, you can add that to your personal channel that plays back your favorite podcasts like a playlist. Your Channels (and the podcasts within them), meanwhile, become available for you to browse by simply swiping left or right.
Player FM follows Android’s design guidelines pretty closely and as a result looks pretty good on every screen you encounter. The interface allows for easy reading, so you know what each of your selected podcasts and their individual episodes are about. When you tap the play button on an episode, a small expandable playback bar pops up at the bottom of the screen with basic controls. Tapping the up arrow on it reveals a second bar which has buttons to share, auto-advance and skip to the latest episode in the next podcast on that channel. You can also manage playback using the controls in the notification area as well as with the 4×1 widget.
Control podcast playback using the notification area controls or the home screen widget
Using Player FM
The first thing to remember when you’re using this app is that it’s a companion to the web app and so, for the most part, the content you’ll be able to access is restricted to what’s listed in Player.fm’s directory. However, said directory is constantly growing — users are encouraged to submit links to their preferred podcasts via email and they are added within a day. There’s an option to import your collection of podcast subscriptions by loading an OPML file (exported from an app like iTunes) from your device’s storage, but I just couldn’t get that to work.
Add your favorite podcasts to your own channel to listen to at leisure
That’s not to say that Player FM is low on variety in the content it offers — the collection of podcasts is pretty large and there’s something for every area of interest, from poetry to cooking to design to photography to bodybuilding to game development to (of course) podcasting. This is a lovely app for those who are just getting into podcasts and don’t know where to look for content they might like, but power users who already follow shows might be a tad disappointed.
Can I Ditch My Other Podcast Player?
If you already use another podcast player like DoggCatcher or Pocket Casts (which we covered last year), you probably know your way around the world of podcasts and enjoy the flexibility and control they offer over playback, queuing and downloads. While Player FM is no slouch, it doesn’t allow you to adjust the playback speed or create playlists by choosing episodes. If you’re already using a different player and have a list of podcasts you subscribe to, stick with it — but consider Player FM if you’re hungry for more and don’t mind switching between apps.
Player FM can manage downloads well (left); While it’s mostly basic, Player FM has a few neat tricks up its sleeve (right)
I enjoyed using Player FM a lot — there are tons of great podcasts in there, neatly organized and easy to find. It’s excellet for those who aren’t very familiar with podcasts and have been looking for a simple way to find content to listen to, and as far as doing what it says on the box, it scores pretty high.
However, power users who know what they want to hear will find it lacking in features and may not enjoy it as much. Heck, power user or not, give this a try — it’s free and it wouldn’t hurt to discover a cool new podcast or two, right?