As Chromebook users, I think we’ve all been there. We have an app on our phone that we think we should be ready to install on our Chromebook via the Google Play Store, only to get the dreaded “Your device isn’t compatible with this version” message. Such is the case with Google Podcasts, which became my podcast player of choice since I started transitioning away from Spotify.
Accessing Google Podcasts from the web
Luckily, Google Podcasts can be accessed from the web by simply navigating to podcasts.google.com. This web version has been slowly but surely getting improvements over time. Back in 2020, it got a full redesign, and in 2021 Google added the ability to add subscription sources directly via RSS feed. Later on, the subscription tab began showing the familiar horizontal carousel that we find in the Android app. Aside from some cosmetic changes, features like queue and listening process sync across devices make Google Podcasts on the web feel like a very similar experience to its Android app counterpart.
Navigating the web interface
On at the main Google Podcasts page, you will find a persistent bar at the top with a very prominent search field. You can use this to search for your favorite podcast and subscribe. Underneath the search bar, you will find the main “Explore shows” page which is broken down into two main horizontal carousel sections shown to the right. These sections are “Your subscriptions” and “For You“, which feature recommendations based on your listening history.
Right below, you will find an additional category called “Top podcasts“, which shows you several carousels of the most popular podcasts in several categories, which are also catered based on your interests. Clicking within any of these sections will either drill down to a list of available episodes and/or present you with a “subscribe” and “play” button that shows the episode’s length.
To the left, you will find a very simple sidebar that allows you to switch directly to your “Subscriptions” or your “Queue“, and also gives you the option to “Add by RSS feed“. If you press play on any podcast episode, a persistent player will appear on the bottom of the page with controls to rewind, play, fast forward, and adjust the playback speed.
How Google could improve Podcasts on the web
As good as the web interface is, Google Podcasts is one of those apps that could definitely benefit from having a true Progressive Web App (PWA) in the Play Store. There are several advantages to a PWA installation such as having app shortcuts and being able to cache data locally: both of which I consider important features to have in a podcast or music player.
Apps like Twitter and Youtube Music already offer up the PWA as the default option on a Chromebook. Why can’t the same be done for Google Podcasts? It feels like an oversight on Google’s part that should not be too difficult to remedy. I imagine a day when I’ll be able to open Google Podcasts and download my favorite podcast episodes on my Chromebook before boarding a plane, and then be able to listen in-flight without the need for an additional device.