Windows Phone users know that Podcast support has never been stellar on our devices. Ever since the launch of WP7, podcasts have always seem to be more of an afterthought than anything else. While the good news is that Microsoft is slowly taking steps to address this issue, users are still left out in the cold until the company pushes out a fix.
Luckily for us there are a number of podcast apps in the Windows Phone Store, including Podcast Lounge which we’re reviewing here.
Podcast Lounge is by no means a new app in the Windows Phone ecosystem but recent updates have made it, in our opinion, the best third party alternative available. The app only comes as a paid version, though a free trial is available. However, this disables podcast downloads, meaning users will only be able to stream their desired content. The app supports both Windows Phone 8 and WP7 so users on older devices can still enjoy it.
The app’s design is very straight forward and there’s nothing outstanding about it. That being said, it stays true to Microsoft’s Modern design principles and it offers a highly usable and intuitive interface.
Upon first use users will be greeted by a list of podcast categories that they can use to select what they’d like to listen to. Of course, there’s also a search function that works very well, which lets folks find specific podcasts.
Once selected, your favourites show up in a tiled view with a counter on each tile letting you know the number of new episodes available for download or streaming. Tapping one of these tiles shows you a list of podcast highlighting those you haven’t listened to yet. By long pressing an episode you can download it, mark it as played/unplayed, or open it to see its description and access a few other functions. Users can also pin their favourite shows to the start screen.
Finally there’s a list of app functions which users can access. These include the proper Settings pane as well as the Downloads folder, “My library” which allows users to add their own podcast sources, and the obligatory About section of the app.
The reason why we like Podcast Lounge so much is that it’s full of features that work well. First of all the app features over 20,000 podcasts in its library so you’re sure to find whatever you’re looking for. And if by any chance you don’t, you can always add your own Podcast RSS feed.
You can stream or download new episodes from your favourite shows, including video podcasts. The app also supports auto-downloading new episodes but this comes with some caveats. First of all it only works on devices with Windows Phone 7 and WP8 with GDR2. Secondly, you need to have your phone plugged in and connected to Wi-fi for this to work and it takes a long time before any episodes are actually downloaded. But if you leave your phone to charge overnight you’ll have fresh podcasts ready in the morning when you go to work.
For those worried that downloading podcasts may use up their space there’s good news. You can set a limit on how much storage the app is allowed to use and you can delete all downloads with a single tap. You can also program the app to delete older podcast, and you can even set it to auto-delete downloads once they’re played in full.
Podcast lounge also offer some nice features during playback. First of all the app integrates nicely with Windows Phone, showing up in the Music Hub, and handles all interactions with the OS very gracefully. The app also supports playlists and auto-playing the next episode in a series.
Users can also import podcasts from gPodder and Skydrive and access password protected series. They can also export and import their data if they exchange phones or reinstall the app.
The only real issues we've encountered so far are related to bad connectivity when streaming episodes. If your data connection isn't stable the app will have a hard time streaming your show, and even if the connection improves while playing you may have to toggle the Pause button a few times before streaming resumes.
Finally the app gets a lot of updates, with bug fixes and performance improvements being pushed every couple of days. Plus, the devs are open to feedback and will quickly reply to e-mails giving us a lot of home that this app will only improve in the future.
Podcast Lounge is available in the Windows Phone Store for $1.99, and if you’re a podcast fan this is money well spent.