BeyondPod: Podcasts for Control Freaks

BeyondPod is a popular Podcast/RSS manager for Android that, on the surface, works like you’d expect any application in this category to function. Find enjoyable podcasts, subscribe, listen, repeat. With a crowded, competitive field BeyondPod Logoof podcast managers and podcatchers available for virtually every platform, BeyondPod distinguishes itself from competitors by offering users the ability to tweak and refine the individual user experience. The incredibly robust options and settings menus hiding underneath the primary user interface can be initially overwhelming, but the degree of customization offered by BeyondPod is exactly why it deserves to be on any Android user’s homescreen.

Find some Podcasts, Subscribe. Find More!

If yBeyondPod-Discover1ou’re new to podcasts and are curious about what’s available, there are plenty of places to look. Apple’s iTunes Store is an amazing resource for discovering popular and trending Podcasts, as well as the lesser-known offerings unique to your interests. More recently, Stitcher has become a good resource as well.  BeyondPod has built similar functionality into their software, allowing users to discover, preview, subscribe, and listen to Podcasts all in one place.

On the primary interface an inconspicuous Add Feed button sits in the bottom-right corner and provides several ways of finding content you’ll enjoy. The Trending menu is always full with recent popular episodes and is a great way to find new content. Under Collections, podcasts are organized into providers, making it easy to view all offeringsBeyondPod-Discover2 from a particular network, such as NPR, NASA, CNN, and more. Scrolling the menu ribbon to the left reveals categories such as News, Business, Comedy, Technology, Science & Medicine, Education, Culture, Arts, and the list goes on! BeyondPod will also recommend feeds based on feeds to which you are already subscribed. Finding relevant feeds via text search works brilliantly and is a great way to find content in a particular niche.

Once you’ve found a feed of interest, you can preview text, audio, and video before adding it to your subscription list. Feeds can also be added individually by URL, in bulk from OPML file, or via your Feedly account.

Listen Up!

The BeyondPod player is functional and intuitive, though admittedly lacking the kind of polish and design you get with apps from Stitcher Radio or PocketCasts. From a usability standpoint, however, it has all the buttons you’d expect in all the right places (i.e. play/pause, skip forward/back, advance track) as well as some unexpected gems.

From the player menu, you can also adjust the playback speed of a Podcast from 1x, 1.5x, and 2.0x speed to move through content at a variable rate. Don’t like those speed options? You can edit those presets in the playback settings. There is also a Sleep timer which will pause playback at a given interval of time, or at the end of an episode, allowing you to resume the playlist at a later time.

Organizing your playlist is straightforward and touch-friendly. Drag an item up or down on your playlist with the swipe of a finger. Holding your finger on an item for a second brings up a secondary menu where you can remove it from the playlist, delete the episode from your device, view episode notes, or share it via another external app on your device.

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While well-thought-out, BeyondPod at times lacks style and polish.

BeyondPod-Playlist1

Playlists can be composed of any combination of content downloaded to the device and content you intend to stream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t like the internal player? You can set BeyondPod to default to external player software [e.g. MX Player, Winamp] for video, audio, or both.

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Dive a little deeper into the settings and you’ll discover the SmartPlay feature. BeyondPod gives you the flexibility to create and organize your own podcast categories, and the SmartPlay feature lets you generate playlists effortlessly based on rules you create.

For example, a SmartPlay playlist can be built automatically from the most recent episode of every feed in my custom News category, then play the oldest episodes of a particular feed I’ve been neglecting.

In addition to the internal player, there are also Widgets to add to your Android’s homescreen and an optional lockscreen player, letting you seamlessly manage your playback. Similar to other audio players, you can also control playback via Android’s sliding status menu.

Settings Galore.

BeyondPod’s most outstanding feature is the robust settings menu. If there’s a variable within the application you’d like to tweak, it is very likely the BeyondPod developers have given you the option to do so.

Under General Settings you can define where Podcasts are stored (internal memory, SD card, or a custom path), set how feeds are displayed and sorted, change the default orientation of the App (landscape, portrait, automatic), and change the default page to display when the app is launched.

Player preferences gives you control over how episodes are downloaded or streamed, what actions to perform after playing an episode, custom skip forward/back intervals, and more. When you unplug your Android’s headphones, do you want playback to continue or stop? That’s an option! Are you on a limited data plan and only want to stream episodes on WiFi? That’s an option! Do you have a video podcast that you’d rather listen to while you go for a jog? No problem. If your earbuds, headphones, or bluetooth listening device has playback buttons, you can even define what each of those buttons does. BeyondPod-PlayerSettings

Feed content settings allow you to change the font size for episode information, change feed background defaults, open links in a browser of your choice. You can also define whether you’d like to attach audio and video files to episodes when you share them, or choose to just share the download links.

You can also change how episodes are downloaded. While updating feeds, you can define the application to download a user-defined number of  episodes automatically on WiFi, mobile data, or only on-demand. If local storage is an issue, you can also define how many files to keep within each feed and a maximum number of days old any episode can be before automatic deletion.

Improve. Always.

BeyondPod has been actively developed for years. I’ve been using it since Windows Mobile 5.0, long before Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms distinguished themselves as the two major players in the mobile space. Though the app is entirely unrecognizable from those early days, the BeyondPod developers seem to always push forward with their product, continuously improving the user interface and adding features. Before Google Reader was discontinued, you could import feeds into BeyondPod with your Google credentials. In its stead, BeyondPod has now adopted Feedly as an option. Recent support for Google’s Chromecast has also been announced, allowing you to blast Beyondpod out to your television or other HDMI-equipped receiver. Beta features are available in the app as well, including an EpisodeSync feature that will synchronize the played positions for episodes across multiple devices.

Where it Falls Short

BeyondPod is a purely Android experience. While there is a really nice version optimized for Tablets, there currently is no variant for iPhone/iPad, OSX, Windows, Linux, or for the Web. And though EpisodeSync promises to someday perfectly synchronize your experience across multiple Android devices, that feature is still in beta and falls well short of the multiple-device, multiple-platform synchronization we often expect today.

The Bottom Line.

There is no lack of choice in the podcast app category (DoggCatcher, Stitcher Radio, Pocket Casts to name a few) and the actual content you consume will be the same regardless of the platform you choose. However, if the ability to customize and dial-in your settings matter to you, it is well worth the $6.99 cost to unlock all the Pro features. I don’t buy many mobile applications, and I rarely consider an application with a price over $0.99. But, the time I’ve spent customizing my BeyondPod experience has dramatically decreased the amount of time I spend managing playlists, files, and playback adjustments. That, coupled with BeyondPod’s continued support and development, has kept me a loyal fan for years.

BeyondPod acknowledges that each of us may want a slightly different experience, and it delivers personalization aplenty. This app really only performs one function – delivering video and audio podcasts to your eyes and ears – but it does it really well.

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