It’s not a surprise that Google has decided to discontinue Google Listen, its podcast search and playback app for Android. It’s the latest in a long string of projects and products that have been shut down as the search giant tries to narrow its focus. But I’m still a little disappointed, and scratching my head over the news.

People who listen to the “favorite apps” episodes of our own GeekWire podcast know that I’ve been a fan of Google Listen for a long time. I think it might be my favorite Android app of all time. I was always disappointed that Google didn’t bring it to iPhone, as well.

The best thing about Google Listen, in my mind, is the search function. Whereas most podcast apps let you search by the title of a particular show, Google Listen seems to benefit from more detailed indexing of each particular episode, delving beyond the title into the description and other data. Using Google Listen, I often end up searching not for shows, per se, but for specific topics that I’m interested in at any given moment — a particular sports team, or new technology, or hot news story.

It’s a great way to discover shows I’d never heard about, discussing subjects that interest me.

Yes, in other words, it’s great search app from Google, leveraging the company’s core expertise. Hmm, a great search app, from Google. Wait a second, why are they killing this off again?

Here’s the official blurb from the company’s post announcing the decision.

We launched Google Listen through Google Labs in August 2009, to give people a way to discover and listen to podcasts. However, with Google Play, people now have access to a wider variety of podcast apps, so we’ve discontinued Listen. People who have already installed the app can still use it, but after November 1, podcast search won’t function. You can access your podcast subscriptions in Google Reader in the “Listen Subscriptions” folder and download them from the Import/Export tab.

I know lots of people are fans of Stitcher and similar apps, and I use them, as well, but I’ve yet to find another app as good as Google Listen at finding relevant episodes based on searches for specific topics across a large database of shows.

If you have any suggestions for iPhone, Android or Windows Phone, I’m listening.

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  • Guest

    For me, there were some advantages to using Google Listen: it had a simple, ad-free interface. It had web-based configuration via Google Reader. It was built by Google and it looked and worked like an Android app.

    There was also a disadvantage: it didn’t work. Many times I’d find that all my podcasts were suddenly gone. The root cause was usually a change to Google Reader that unintentionally broke Listen. I got the impression that Listen was not actively supported anyway, so the news that it’s officially been killed was unsurprising.

    I eventually plunked down $7 and bought DoggCatcher. It’s ugly as sin and completely unGoogley, but it has one feature Google Listen never had: it works.

  • Jane Hadley

    Hi Todd — I wasn’t aware of Google Listen’s search capabilities. Listen came preloaded with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone and I use a lot of Google services, so I tried Listen — and found it wanting. For one thing, it frequently crashed! None of my other apps crashed the phone, but Listen did. I thought that was odd that a Google app would be the one to crash the Google OS. I also found the UI confusing. I switched to Podkicker and much prefer it for podcatching and podlistening. Jane

    • Todd Bishop

      Thanks, Jane, good to know. I didn’t have the crashing problems, but I agree with you that the UI was confusing. I’ll try Podkicker. Have you given Stitcher a try?

    • Todd Bishop

      Thanks, Jane, good to know. I didn’t have the crashing problems, but I agree with you that the UI was confusing. I’ll try Podkicker. Have you given Stitcher a try?

  • John Thomas

    Had a look at BeyondPod. Doesn’t appear to have the queue capability of Listen. Just tell Listen what you want to hear about, allow it to refresh occasionally and it would play you stuff you were interested in while walking the dogs/riding to work etc.

    Seems likely Google have killed it because of some deal with Copyright holders involving copyright material. Which is weird, because I think much of the stuff I listen to is copyrighted for free distribution… bad move Google.

  • Pqlty

    This is kind of ironic. For years the IOS people have had to purchase a podcaster if they wanted one that would automatically download wirelessly and cache for later playback. Apple just released a free apple sponsored podcaster with the functionality I considered close to that of Google Listen (this was likely done because of the initiative to never make you sync with your computer… which is how you would have previously gotten the automatic downloads… and not as competition to Google Listen). I have to say that Google did not even leave itune’s equivilant of being able to find and download podcasts one at a time while wireless.

    I have used Google Listen every day since 2009 (even with its bugs in early OS’s that caused me to try other podcasters and then come back). I kind of considered it a phone feature… and a feature advantage. I like Android… but I can really use one of the many OS’s just fine. I hope they keep it in mind. They do have to sell more apps to get more 30% service fees and increase revenue.

    This is a multi-mobile OS household. I get to use them all. I am certainly purchasing new mobile hardware this fall… I now have yet another item to consider in my choices. RIP Google Listen.

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