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November 7, 2010

App Review: BeyondPod for Android

As I've said before on this site, I love talk radio. That's why the evolution of the podcast is a dream come true for me. I have also become a fan of bloggers. From our own Hal Astell's Apocalypse Later to the weekly comics from our friends over at IDK, I love that the web is open to the world's creative population through these two simple avenues. If it's great, people catch on. If it sucks, people don't bother with it.

I'm also a huge fan of our current phone technology. A year after buying the first generation MyTouch 3G, I still marvel at the fact that I have a computer, mp3 player, camera, voice recorder, GPS, thermometer, etc., etc., etc. in my pocket at all times. My favorite thing is the Android market. The iPhone has a similar setup and almost all of the same apps. I'm not one of the Apple sheeple, and I like to be able to make phone calls, so I went the Android route. It also helped that this is not my first HTC phone. They make good products so far.

One of my favorite apps is a reader called BeyondPod. BeyondPod allows you to sign up for as many RSS subscriptions as you like. The best bet is to login to your Google account from a computer and add the subscriptions to your Google Reader. You can then login to your account with BeyondPod and download it right into your phone. Subscriptions can be sorted into categories. I split mine into Blogs, Podcasts and Sports. You can customize your categories to your specifications. When you look at your list, feeds with unread posts are shown in bold. A number on the logo shows you how many unread posts you have, and a note with a number to the right shows you how many podcasts have been downloaded. If you look at the pictures (all from my phone), you can see the simplicity and aesthetic appeal of the layout. The user interface is customizable in black or tan.

BeyondPod has many customizable features. You can set automatic download times, set it to download on WiFi only, set how many posts to display and whether or not to show read posts. My favorite customization is called SmartPlay. With SmartPlay, you can preset your playlist by blog title. For example, SmartPlay can be set to play the two newest Cinema Head Cheese podcasts, followed by the three oldest Adam Carolla podcasts, followed by the newest SModcast. With the touch of the play button either in the app or on the widget, the playlist will automatically form and play based on what has been downloaded.

The player is also nice and simple. It shows both time played and remaining. You can drag the marker to any point in the podcast if you want to back up or skip during the show. The "next" button can be hidden to prevent accidents. This is useful if you choose the option to have podcasts automatically delete once they finish playing. This is a big help in saving memory space. If you're really concerned about space, you can choose to stream all of your podcasts instead of downloading, and this still works with SmartPlay.

Another favorite item of mine is the widget for the home screen. From the widget, you can update your SmartPlay, open the app or just click the play button and get started. This is great for listening without having to run the app. I would suggest adding BeyondPod to the ignore list of any task killer you may have. For me, this is best because I tend to open several apps at once and need to close them out quickly without interrupting my listening, which can be up to six straight hours per day.

I also like the ability to read a blog right on my phone. That is one of the reasons we switched this site over to a blog format. Everything in every post comes up with few exceptions. If it works in Google Reader, it works here. Video can also be downloaded, but it plays in your phone's default player. I suppose this saves space and makes the app smaller. It works well, so it doesn't matter.

In the time that I've owned BeyondPod, the developers have made many upgrades. The icons on the list page are nice. The orientation can be locked in either position. All playlists can now be edited in a simple drag and drop format. I had one issue many months ago, and the developers were quick to respond and repair the issue.

BeyondPod has a free version in the market which gives you full capabilities for fourteen days. The neutered version afterward is okay if you don't download or read many RSS feeds. If you have as many as I do, it's worth it to upgrade for a few bucks. It was $7.00 when I did, and I can't imagine that has changed. The market doesn't show me a price anymore since I own it. Either way, if you love the podcast as I do, this is definitely the app to have.

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