The popular streaming podcast application Stitcher made its official debut in the Android Market last week and we couldn’t wait to put the Android version through its paces. For those unfamiliar with Stitcher, it is a podcast streaming application that lets you queue up your favorite podcasts and play them back sequentially in a streaming radio style format. Unlike other podcast applications that download the audio content to your device’s internal storage, Stitcher streams the content over your active wireless connection. Streaming media over a cellular connection is a difficult task, so hit the jump to see how Stitcher fares.
Once you launch Stitcher, you begin by selecting podcasts to which you would like to listen. Stitcher has an extensive database of podcasts that are organized into pre-categorized, ready to stream stations for ease of selection, as shown below.
You can also browse individual podcasts that are organized alphabetically, or search for podcasts by name. Once you find content that you like, you can create your own personalized station by adding those individual podcasts to your “Favorites,” as shown below.
Unfortunately, you are limited to the podcasts in Stitcher’s database, so if your favorite podcast is not listed then you are out of luck until Stitcher adds it. Thankfully, Stitcher wants to know if they are missing content and you can submit a request to help get your podcast of choice into its database. Once you have selected the content that you want to play, the application will launch its player interface and all of the podcasts in that station will playback in a stream. Playback is limited to the most recent episode for each podcast, as back episodes are not available.
As shown above, the player interface is intuitive and the controls are responsive. Present in the player are like and dislike buttons which you can use to rate content and help Stitcher recommend new podcasts that you may enjoy. Also present is a a movable slider that allows you to move to any point within the podcast, a play/pause button, a next button, and a favorites button. If you want to check your email while listening to your podcast, no problem as the player streams in the background and resides in the notification menu so you can easily switch back to it.
We have taken a look at the user interface and now it is time to evaluate performance. We are happy to report that Stitcher does an excellent job at streaming podcasts over a cellular and/or Wi-Fi connection. It detects your connection speed prior to launch and will only run when your connection is fast enough to support streaming. We used Stitcher on a Verizon Wireless DROID and only ran into problems when our connection dropped to 1xRTT. The application was very stable and did not force close once in five days of extensive usage.
All is not a bed of roses as the Android version is still in its infancy compared to the versions for the other mobile platforms. Lacking in Android is the ability to share podcasts with social networks, bookmarking, and a location-based feature that serves up content relevant to your location. Despite its limitations, we are pleased with how the application performed and look forward to future improvements. For those that want to check it out, Stitcher is available for free in the Android Marketplace.