For many things in life; the old saying, "You get what you pay for," holds true. Computers, DVD's, and car insurance come to mind. But the same cannot be said of Research in Motion's BlackBerry Podcasts app. Available at no charge in BlackBerry App World, the application handles virtually everything you can throw at it.
BlackBerry Podcasts is a tool for podcatching; it can automatically download and play both audio and video podcasts. But more than that, it makes finding new podcasts both easy and entertaining; it allows you to download or stream individual podcast episodes; and it makes sharing those podcasts as easy as pie.
Adding Podcast Feeds
After you've installed BlackBerry Podcasts from App World, finding and adding new podcasts is easy. Obviously, there's the option to manually add podcast feeds; but searching and browsing through the "Explore Podcasts" can be fun. Very similar to App World, the explorer first presents you with a variety of Featured Podcasts. Oftentimes, these are podcasts you'd never think to look for; but nevertheless turn out to be a rather interesting listen.
New podcasts can be found by browsing through 19 categories and over 1,300 available podcasts. If that's not your cup of tea, use Search to find feeds. The function searches through podcast names and descriptions to find what you're looking for. Finally, scroll through the list of the top ten most downloaded episodes to find out what other people are downloading. The list includes some rather interesting finds.
In the top ten list, it would be nice if there was a way to subscribe to the feed in addition to downloading popular episodes. If you enjoyed "Episode 057 - BlackBerry Torch / Tablet," it should be a simple click to add the "Crackberry.com Podcast" to your subscriptions. Instead, you have to back out of the list to search for the podcast yourself. Granted, that's a very simple process; but it could be simpler.
Previewing, Sharing, and Listening
BlackBerry Podcasts works best using a Wi-Fi connection, downloading your episodes quickly. Just want to download one episode from the feed? No problem. With BB Podcasts, you can choose individual episodes to download or even just preview them (streaming podcasts!).
Like many new BlackBerry features, BB Podcasts integrates easily with the social network and communication features of your Smartphone. Choosing to "Share" an episode allows you send a link via email, text message, BBM, FaceBook, Twitter, and any number of formats via Social Feeds. Clicking on the sent link immediately takes you to the episode's content; your friends and colleagues don't get presented with a page full of ads, and the link works in any browser.
Being a Research in Motion project, the BB Podcasts app uses the native media player for both audio and video podcasts. This provides both benefits and drawbacks. While playing one episode, you can scroll through other ‘casts in that same feed in much the same way you can scroll through multiple songs in an album. Listening via Bluetooth poses no challenges as the media player was built to handle that.
You can also save your spot in the current podcast (OS 4.6 only remembers the current podcast, where 5.0/6.0 can remember all podcasts) by pressing pause, then exiting the app with the End button.
The settings most important to the BB Podcasts app are the download options. You have the option to set the application to only download over Wi-Fi, only download while charging, and which episodes to download - among others.
Notably missing are the options to individually tweak each subscription and set a specific time for downloading new episodes. But if you think about it, those settings aren't really needed. Your specific time for downloading episodes would probably be while your device is charging; you can set BB Podcasts to only download while charging. Since you can download any individual episode within a feed and probably have at least 4 GB of storage on your BlackBerry, do you really need the option to manually tweak each subscription?
RIM's BlackBerry Podcast is a very well-designed app, incorporating the features you've come to expect from other podcatching applications. It also simplifies the experience, removing unused options and making the search for new podcasts entertaining, colorful, and easy. With the low, low price of free; the only thing you have to lose in downloading this app is a few moments of your time. And unless I'm sadly mistaken, it will be time well spent.
The BlackBerry Podcasts app is available for the BlackBerry Bold, Curve, Pearl, Storm, Torch, and Tour running OS 4.6 or later.
- Automatically download episodes over Wi-Fi and mobile network
- Podcast browser for adding new subscriptions
- Download individual episodes
- Top ten most downloaded episodes
- Share episodes via social networks, email, etc.
- No individual feed options
- No "recommended" or "related" podcast search
- Cannot change automatic update frequency
- Available only in the US and Canada for now (international expansion coming in the near future)