Back in October of last year, Google announced their plans to include an official podcast portal within the Google Play Music app. While the announcement divulged very few details, Google immediately launched a portal for content creators to submit their podcasts to, promising that users could take advantage of the new feature in the “coming months”. The company hasn’t said very much about the matter since that announcement, but it appears they’re preparing for an official rollout soon. I say that because a recent trip to the Play Music app on my Nexus 5X revealed a “Podcast” entry in the app’s nav drawer.
So, a little bit of background. Both my Nexus 5X and 6P are on the most current version of the Play Music app, but the podcast portal only shows up on my 5X. Google could be performing some server-side A/B testing that might account for the differences, but whatever the case, I now have a podcast portal on at least one of my devices.
The portal blends in perfectly with the current play music app, resting just below the music library entry inside the navbar. Selecting the option will take you to a screen that looks very similar to the playlist and “new music” screens, and it includes tabs for featured and subscribed podcasts. Overall it looks similar to most of what you’ll already find in the Play Music app, making it fairly consistent with the app’s other features.
The search icon at the top right-hand corner provides the same universal search functionality that you get for music, and I can already see that it’s problematic. For whatever reason, the search function within the portal is not restricted to podcasts, meaning that all the other search results get mixed in with podcast results. To make matters worse, podcast results are usually at the very bottom of the list, meaning i have to slog through a collection of songs, albums, artists, videos and playlists before I get to the podcasts. Google has time to tweak this formula before they do a wide release, so hopefully they think of a better search solution than this. Being able to easily search for podcasts is a pretty basic feature for this kind of app.
Individual podcast pages contain a long list of associated episodes. When you hit the subscribe button, you’re given the options to have the app download the five most recent episodes and/or receive notifications for any new episodes. Clicking on individual episodes will give you the same playback interface that you’d find for regular music, with the inclusion of two 30-second toggles that jump you backwards or forward through the episode (a standard feature for podcast apps). Like music albums, Google includes a description of the podcast within the individual pages, along with share options at the bottom.
In general, Google’s done a fine job of seamlessly integrating the podcast portal with the rest of the Play Music experience. For me, the only real area of concern is the search feature which clearly needs a little more work. Users typically don’t like digging through mountains of search results to find one podcast, so Google needs to find a more streamlined option if they want to compete with current third-party offerings. Outside of that one quibble, I’m really looking forward to a large-scale rollout from the Play Music team. There’s still nothing official on when that’ll happen, but given the progress we’ve seen thus far, I doubt we’ll have to wait much longer.