Google Listen

As we get closer and closer to the unveiling of Android 2.3 Gingebread, let's look back at one Google app that seems to have fallen by the wayside. Google Listen is the podcatcher of choice for a lot of us, whether it's for its Google Reader integration, its ease of use -- and that it's free. But it's not without its shortcomings, that's for sure.

We'll start: You can't have the best podcatcher app if you don't have the Greatest Android Podcast in the World indexed in your listings. That's right, the Android Central Podcast still isn't listed when you search for it in Google. (Here's how to add it manually.)

Let's hope that Google's secretly been working on something better (maybe as part as some grand music strategy, perhaps?). But how would you change Google Listen?


Reader comments

How would you fix Google Listen?


Im not really sure... Does what it's supposed to do. I get my Engadget and ESPN podcasts... don't really need much more **Kanye Shrug**

I would like for there to be an option to set it so it WON'T automatically start another podcast that I have downloaded after the one I am listening to stops playing even when I don't have items queued.

And this one I can't stress enough...ADD CONTROLS ON THE LOCKSCREEN!!!

This was one of the biggest features I wanted back when waiting to get CyanogenMod on my G2. This [having music/Listen controls on the lockscreen] is one of the many small features that make CM6 so valuable.

The big thing that keeps me from using it is that I love Google Reader and I like to have everything read in there. The problem is that when I have gone through everything and marked it as read, it marks the 'casts on my phone as listened to. I wish that it would sync the feeds so that I can manage my feeds in Reader, but not necessarily sync the read/listened to status.

I'm in the same boat as you as far as reading all my gReader items. I actually set up a separate google account for this reason. Luckily you can select what account Listen is syncing to.

I agree with putting controls on the lockscreen. I would also have some better streaming capabilities. Instead of playing while downloading, allow the ability to actually stream the podcast. I would also seriously considering adding video podcast capabilities. I like Doggcatcher, but it's not as easy to use as Google Listen.

Fix it so that it will close, instead of running in the notification bar. I hate having to go force close it.

This thing crashes, freezes, and generally screws up so reliably that I expect it to fail at least once a podcast playback. The biggest problem seems to be with streaming, but I also lose the notification icon almost all the time with downloaded files, podcasts freeze up or stop downloading completely, and heaven forbid you run it in the background with Navigation. It also updates when I set it not to at all. Maybe it's my low-memory Droid, but the experience is so bad that I'm back to using my iPod for podcasts (which has it's own walled-garden issues).

I doesn't crash for me very often but every so often it will just stop playing a podcast I was listening to. I also hate that it disappears from my notification bar but continues to play. Fix those two things and I would be pleased. Anything else would just be a bonus.

My Google Listen hangs whenever I try to get to the older podcasts of any new show I register for.
This is really annoying, since I can usually download the episodes manually.
Too bad I can't give it the MP3s to list a manually downloaded episode

I use Listen everyday, and I don't have any major problems with it... but since you asked, there are a few things that I would fix.

- Random pausing caused by Google Navigation.
- Lock Screen controls
- Controls on main screen (so when you open it, you can go right to playing/pausing what is in the queue)

I have not a clue how I added the AndroidCentral podcast without using this method... I had subscribed without doing that, I wish I knew how I did it! lmfao

Integration with Google Apps For Your Domain would be nice. Until that happens, I can't even run the program to see how I'd make it better :-(

Three things:
1. The search is painful. Make an option to search for podcasts only. I'm sick of seeing every RSS feed under the sun when trying to find a podcast.
2. The popular searches is pretty worthless. Maybe a "most subscribed" area would be better?
3. The ability to do a "download newest and sort by oldest first." I listen to a ton of morning show podcasts that break their show into twenty or so podcasts a day. When I "add to queue" it always puts them newest first and I have to manually go in and sort them. I know, it might sound like I'm being lazy, but having to do this to 60 or so podcasts a day gets very annoying.

I am using DoggCatcher as I also follow a few video podcasts so in order to use Listen it would have to support video content.

1) Lockscreen Controls
2) Better search
3) combine it with the built-in Music player (see DoubleTwist for example)
4) ability to re-order downloaded podcasts (create playlist)

I'd like it to start playing where I left off when I close out the app. For some reason if I pause a podcast, then come back to it another day, it starts over from the beginning.

That's strange... I'm not doubting you, but my fav feature is that it DOES keep track of where I left off for each podcast! I've never had it restart a podcast at the beginning.

This happens to me every single day. I have to make sure that I know where I am in the podcast before I push play so I can get back where I left off. This is the most frustrating problem with the app. Please Google fix this!

I have the same problem as edw. I am pasting my podcasts in a folder in the amazon folder that I have copied from my downloads from an Ipod syncronizer program. does that have something to do with it? Thanks

I's love an option to have it automatically "remove" a downloaded podcast once you have finished listening to it. Having to do that housekeeping manually is a bit annoying.

A more reliable search/index of available podcasts would also be helpful. It seems silly to me that Google would not be sophisticated enough to track the RSS podcasts being manually subscribed by x% of Android Listen users so this part of the app could operate even smarter during search. Sigh.

Change the reference from "podcast" to "Androidcast" or "Droidcast".

But seriously, I have found that if I try to advance or revert the timeline when streaming, it always reverts back to the beginning of the cast. If I am only a few minutes in, that's fine. But I am usually adjusting it well into a cast, 1/2 hr or better.

2x playback speed, don't force my subscriptions into my Google reader account, keep all podcast subscriptions in sync and where I left off each show, also let me keep as many shows as i want and let me look at all shows for all my subscriptions in a unified list from newest to oldest and let me refresh that list.

A "share" button. It's in every other Android app, but for some reason, not Listen. On more than one occasion I've really wanted to share a podcast with a friend and I've had no good way of doing it.

- Don't list the items in Reader as unread or don't remove them from Listen if they are marked as read in Reader
- Better queue management (instead of having to add them move to top and bottom
- Some of my podcasts don't get pulled down automatically if I don't listen to previous versions before the new onces come out
- Currently having a playback error on Droid 2 periodically

It is too damn buggy. It's what I use because it is free and does the job but some of the simplest things just don't work sometimes. I hope Google didn't really forget about this application.

Pretty much what everyone else said, plus... the ability to lock some podcasts I've downloaded so that they are stored "forever". Sometimes I really do want to hold on to an interview or story (happens often on This American Life).

It's just odd how buggy it is given that it's been out for so long. The loss of the icon in the notification bar is especially frustrating, along with random pauses or re-downloading of podcasts. Likewise, timeouts during download seem to happen regularly. Still... my go-to podcatcher.

I was using Listen on a daily basis up until just last week when I finally got fed up and bought Doggcatcher. The main thing for me was that every now and then, the podcast I was listening to would just restart. This wouldn't be so bad, but the fact that the skip forward/back controls and progress bar don't work make it impossible to get back to where you were in a podcast. I listen to a lot of 2+ hour podcasts, so losing my progress was an infuriating dealbreaker.

I've always just added new podcasts through the Google Reader website using the RSS address, so I never really used the search/index of podcasts within Listen, but I can't imagine that it's very good.

Wrote a carefully thought out reply.

Spam trap won't let it in.

Why do I even bother?

Why ask for input if you trap is going to catch most of it and nothing trapped ever shows up later?

I remember you posting suggestions on how they can rid the site of spam, now you have an issue with the filter. Do you just like complaining? :-) j/k

Most of your posts are complaining about the writer, the site, the app being reviewed, comments made by others or the time of day. At least that's all I've noticed from you in the past few weeks. I don't know what happened earlier because I wasn't really paying attention to comment tags that often. The only reason I started paying attention is that if the comment was someone complaining about something, it had a high probability of being you. If you're complaining most of the time, that's a decent enough definition of spam because it's not something created to further the discussion. Should they get caught by the auto spam catcher? maybe not. But that doesn't mean your posts don't smell of spam.

Remove the Google Reader integration. It's just not an intuitive idea. I don't want podcasts showing up in my Google Reader feed, and I don't want my Google Reader feed to mark my podcasts as "listened to".

Controls on the lockscreen.

Fix the notification icon. It disappears when it should be there, and it appears when it shouldn't.

Fix the ridiculous bug that causes a podcast to restart after I'm 5 minutes into listening to it, while leaving the scrubber bar in the same place so it's impossible to navigate back to where I was (confusingly worded I know, but if you've experienced this bug you know what I'm talking about).

Do a better job of remembering where I'm at in a podcast when I exit Listen. Currently it's a crapshoot as to whether it remembers my place or not.

Allow certain podcast series to be "pinned" to the main screen...there's a lot of wasted space there that could be utilized.

Support video podcasts.

This, exactly: "Fix the ridiculous bug that causes a podcast to restart after I'm 5 minutes into listening to it, while leaving the scrubber bar in the same place so it's impossible to navigate back to where I was (confusingly worded I know, but if you've experienced this bug you know what I'm talking about)."

By far the most annoying thing about Listen. That happened to me for the gazillionth time last week, I lost my progress on a long podcast, instantly shut it down, and bought the overpriced Doggcatcher just so I would never have to deal with that issue again.

-Adjustable playback speed. Adjustable playback speed. Adjustable playback speed. I'd love to be able to fit more podcasts in my life, and 1.5x would be AWESOME.

-Downloads always fail when switching between wifi and cell service, being able to pause/resume the download would help.

video podcast support
option not not auto-play the next podcast in the queue...sometimes i fall asleep while listening to the Android Central podcast (it's usually when phil is talking... :D ) and the next morning my whole queue is empty because it kept playing through.

My suggestion..... Uninstall it and install Podtrapper. Its not a free alternative but its the best alternative and the developer is updating it frequently. I used it on my old blackberry and when I found it in the market I didn't think twice about downloading it.

Another vote for Podtrapper from someone who relied on the Blackberry version and made the transition to Android. I use it every day. Very feature rich, rock-solid reliable, and the developer is almost fanatically responsive.

The issue I have with it is starting back up playback. If I listen to half a podcast, exit the program and go to start it back up 5 hours later, it always starts back at the beginning and I have to skip to where I was.

Not a HUGE thing, but still kinda a pain.. I guess we got what we paid for..

Another thing, once I listen to it, have an option to erase it from the phone's memory. I hate having to clear the cache every week and re-download everything..

Why are you clearing the cache and re-downloading everything you haven't listened to yet when you can instead manually "remove download" under the menu button of things you have listened to?

+1 for fixing playback bug from pause or returning to program. Is this so hard? yeah, its' free but that is pretty basic functionality.


I also would like the option to not integrate it with google reader.

It seems really buggy too. I listened to one podcast 20 minutes and then it reverted back to the beginning. No matter where I moved the slider it would only play from the start. Also had some that wouldn't play at all when I hit the play button.

I think Google should buy BeyondPod and use that for Google Listen. BeyondPod is the best podcast app out there.

I wrote a long and thoughtful post that got marked as spam. Tried to write a second that also got flagged as spam. . argh annoying!!

Make the player more robust when sending output to Bluetooth. If the Bluetooth connection dies and get reestablished then the player will not continue playing unless I force kill and restart it - some that is impossible while driving with it in my pocket and equally annoying when just at my desk.

Funnily enough I already kept my podcast RSS feeds in Google Reader. However you can't have nested folders which is annoying. For example I have 'music podcasts' and 'history podcasts' as top level folders but I can't also make them sub-folders of Listen Subscriptions.

I also have two modes of listening. When at my desk I want music playing in the background but when on the road I want mainly talking podcasts in the foreground. This would require two different queues and some sort of intelligent prefetching - eg when on wifi grab at least 6 hours of each but if on the road and it looks like I'll run out go ahead and start grabbing some more.

It needs to be able to save a podcast from where it leaces off. Mine does sometimes, and does not other times.
Also, You cannot fast forward the podcasts properly either. If a podcast from a particular day starts over, you have to listen to the whole thing again to hear the parts that come later.

Stop cutting out the sound in headphones completely when you get a notification!

I hate when I'm listening to a podcast and get a text message. Listen shuts the sound off from the podcast completely but lets the podcast keep playing. Two seconds is a lot of time to not hear when someone is talking.

Lockscreen controls.

Video podcasts.

Controls on the main screen.

I use Listen every day, the only bug that really bothers me is the fact that 9 times out of 10 it will forget where I was in playback. It will still usually show me the time that I stopped it at previously, but when I click play it will start over at the beginning. Very annoying.

I suppose the only other minor issue I have is how the sound cuts out when getting a notification.

Video podcasts as well as audio. This is the main reason I left Listen a month ago and started using BeyondPod. Also the ability to choose a time to see if there's an update to one of my podcast instead of having it check every hour, along with that, have a time to have it stop checking so it doesn't run on weekends when most podcasts aren't being published. Google has missed the boat on providing a quality item, their forum for Listen has turned into one big ad for anything you want and Google doesn't seem to care. Make these changes Google if you want people to use your product.

Yeah, if this spam filter nonsense keeps up, we should stop reading this site. As pointed out, the content never shows up. I'd like to know how good posts get flagged, and the damn spam still gets through. After being flagged as spam several times, my posts stopped posting altogether. They appeared posted, but if I logged out, they weren't there. I had to make a new account. The spam filter eats half my posts. If it continues, I will remove this from my bookmarks. They keep posting articles about fixing other apps. They need to fix their site, before it's too late.

1) Widget for easy play and pause without having to open the application
2) Bookmarks
3) Video
4) Move slider so that it doesn't easily get accidentally pushed away.
5) Save podcasts as regular mp3 files with names similar to the podcast itself

Not as important but it would be nice to be able to set playback speed.

+1 on #5.

I didn't think about that, but yeah it is annoying when looking at the files in the folder when connected to the PC & seeing gibberish instead of what the file actually IS.

It's been a while since I threw Listen off my EVO, but the camel's-back-breaker was its insistence on launching Listen and commencing playback whenever the phone connected to my Ford Sync system. There were no settings that I could find to have it not respond to Headset Controls (like MixZing and proper apps have) and it didn't matter if I was listening to the BT input - which meant I'd get two apps playing back at once - or not, it'd just fire up and run in the background. Stupid.

I have a 30-minute commute, but I listen to podcasts that run 60-120 minutes, so the ability to remember where the heck I left off is critical and while Listen was better than the utterly craptastic MediaFly (which couldn't remember at all and had a bovine manure interface to boot), it's playlist handling, etc. were subpar at best.

I had a great app called drPodder on my Pre that WORKED all around and have been appalled that Android has nothing that I've seen yet that's comparable.

I switched to dog catcher because the podcasts took forever in listen to show up. Ex....mike and mike podcast. It's a shortened version of their espn radio morning show. Zune, the podcast program I had on my blackberry, and dog catcher...the episode is available around 8am monday-friday. With listen, I could refresh all day and still not see it sometimes until late afternoon.

It does that if you use Google Reader, and select the Listen items tab. It knows which ones you have listened to.

Everyone has had such great ideas.

Coupla' +1's:

-Variable playback speed
-Video podcast support
-Scrolling past a podcast in Google reader shouldn't mark it as "read"
(better yet, keep "listen podcasts" folder hidden in Reader)
-Name the podcasts by title on the SD Card

Other Ideas:

-Better podcast discovery options
-A total web interface to search for, add, and manage podcasts
-Refresh the UI

Video podcasts first and foremost
and controls on the lock screen.

and some way of showing the oldest un-listened to podcast in a feed but marking that there are newer ones also.

-more predictable fast forwarding and rewinding
-once dl complete save as a normal mp3 in designated folder
-Auto download option
-if you hit a dead wireless area or if dl fails half way no way to force resume of download

Simple: just buy BeyondPod and use that instead. They have it all worked out, it syncs with Google Reader, it has a ton of features but is still easy to use.

The biggest problem I have with it is unreliable navigation controls. When I click the "back" button to back up a few seconds, it usually ends up jumping forward randomly. I also have the problem others have mentioned where the podcast spontaneously starts over, and navigation stops working entirely (usually while streaming via 3G).

Apart from the buggy navigation:

1) Widget
2) Lock screen controls
3) Pause playback during notification sounds

This is a cathartic comment thread, but I wonder if anyone from Google is paying attention. Or even maintaining Listen at all.

I'm on a Droid and my status bar icon disappears all the time while I'm listening to a podcast. Also it won't get rid of old podcasts I've listened to. And it screws up a lot on podcast downloads and it's not always easy to delete the bad one and re-download.

I want

Ability to save more than 1 podcast from a feed on my phone
Better podcast search
Download all button (not find all, but actually download all)

I normally use Google Reader on my desktop to listen to podcasts and occasionally use Google Listen. Listen does not stay in sync with Reader with respect to the Read/Listened state. Some people have complained that reading a post in reader sets the listened state in Listen, but I've experienced just the opposite. I WANT a read podcast post to be marked as listened, but usually Listen shows many podcasts as unlistened when I know that I listened to it on my PC.

I would love for both Reader and Listen to track where I am in each podcast so I could switch from PC to mobile and resume listening where I left off.

I usually listen with a headset & mic and would like to use the mic button to pause/resume playback. When I push the mic button now, it starts/stops the stock (HTC) media player on my Incredible, even if a podcast is already playing.

-Lock screen controls

-Visual way to adjust/move playlist order

-Either next podcast doesn't auto-start, or there is a pause/beep before the next one starts

It needs a widget
It needs to be WAY more reliable about caching where I left off on a podcast. I'm sick of hunting down where I left off. Even if it's in the queue and it shows where I was left off, it will often start at 0 and I have to scrub to where I was at.

Nothing new to add, but I might as well mention what irks me.

1. Search sucks beyond sucking. You'd think Google could get search right.
2. The advance/back buttons are useful. They just go to the beginning or end of the podcast.
3. The scrubber bar to indicate where you are in the podcast - also useless. I've tried advancing my podcast that way before, and it just keeps playing from wherever it was.

Save the audio with the original file name, this will allow the standard music player to index the files, and I can listen in a standard player. On a long drive, I can just set a playlist, start the player and listen to music and podcasts together without needing to take my hands off the wheel or my eyes off the road.

Ability to reverse queue sorting
Ability to set "skip ahead" time
Auto-download - maybe this is already there and I don't know how to use it