Plex Podcasts feature is amazingly bad

2 minute read

I recently (re?)discovered that the podcast app I use on Android was using an annual subscription model instead of a one-time fee. I’m OK with paying $10-15 for a mobile app that I like, but that much every year seems excessive – perhaps I’m not properly valuing the development time, but c’est la vie, I will deal with the ad-supported version if needed.

Anyway, this raised the opportunity to see if there were other options. I use Plex a lot for other things that work really well and I saw it had a Podcast feature, so I thought I’d try it out. I’ve used the mobile apps for Plex for various video and audio content in the past and it worked great.

Trying the Podcast feature was a very bad experience.

First, apparently podcasts are part of the new selection of Plex’s “online features”, so all the podcast subscription and listening information is hosted on their cloud service. This flies in the face of how I want to use Plex, with all my media and play data stored locally. (hopefully I’m not wrong about this or I’m going to be more annoyed)

One consequence of this is that when you try to sign up for a podcast, that podcast’s feed has to already be setup and working in Plex’s cloud service – if it’s not setup it just doesn’t show up in your Plex UI, or you get an error.

Another consequence of this is that when I imported my OPML feed (the way to share podcast information between apps) from my existing player into Plex it certainly imported a bunch of private feeds from Patreon and other sources, which is super shitty. Hopefully they won’t add those to their public library of feeds for other people to use.

So basically I imported over a hundred podcasts in my OPML feed, and about 50 showed up in the Podcast UI, without any useful information about why. Potentially some might show up later, but there’s no information about when or why they might be delayed.

Second, the mobile app experience for using podcasts is horrible.

I’m used to the normal Plex setup on mobile where I can, for example, configure a TV show to download the next 5 unplayed episodes, and it automatically refreshes those as I watch or new ones come in. For Podcasts I tried the same thing – marked episodes as listened on a podcast, then told it to download the next 5 unlistened. It appears to have downloaded all 70 episodes in the podcast, and I’m unsure if it kept them all or only the ones that are unplayed.

Also, the main interface for viewing podcasts in the mobile app doesn’t hide episodes I’ve already played, so when I hit play it always starts with the first episode in the feed even if I listened to it years ago. To start at the new episodes that I haven’t listened to already I have to go into the Download section of the app and play through there, which has a basic and bad UI.

So, anyway… I’m going to keep looking for ways to organize and listen to podcasts, Plex podcast support is horrible, and from their forums this has been the case for years and isn’t likely to change. Super disappointing.