The first in our tour of the apps that are available for Android Auto starts with one of our favorite podcast players.
Pocket Casts has been one of our favorite podcatchers for quite some time, employing an excellent mix of form and function. And it's one of the initial apps available with the launch of Android Auto. As we explained in our intro post — Getting Started with Android Auto — this isn't a separate app built just for using in your car. Rather, Android Auto adds a few hooks to leverage the existing code base and rendering it specifically for use on a 7-inch, distraction-free UI in your car. If you don't use Pocket Casts — that is, if it's not already on your phone when you plug it in, then you won't see it on the head unit. That's the way this all works.
So ... How is Pocket Casts for Android Auto? Let's take a quick look.
For all intents and purposes, Pocket Casts looks and feel like other audio apps once it's rendered as an Android Auto app. That's by design. Google doesn't want you having to hunt all over the display to play or pause or find a playlist. So everything is tucked neatly away in the menu system that you very quickly get used to. You have your list of podcasts you've subscribed to. You have podcasts you've downloaded to your phone already. You have unplayed episodes.
One little issue we've run into is with the number of podcasts we're subscribed to. If you have to scroll too far down to get to one — I'm using Start Talk Radio in our example picture here — Android Auto throws and error, saying it's not safe to show you that content. (That certainly could be worded a little better, but that's also the sort of thing you run into as an early adopter. Figure Google and developers can get that figured out.) But episodes can appear in more than one place — the "unplayed" list, for example, can show new episodes of Star Talk and thus make them available that way. And you can always search with your voice.
The real power of Pocket Casts is in the syncing. You can listen on you computer through their new web interface, then pick up where you left off once you're in the car. Or pick up from another Android device.
A couple other details: The reverse button goes back 10 seconds, forward leaps ahead 30 seconds. And if you're subscribed to a video podcast, Android Auto will play back the audio, but not the video. (Again, it's a safety thing, folks.)
All in all, it's Pocket Casts on Android Auto, as you'd expect it to be.