Aren’t podcasts just the coolest things to hit the Internet? Well, if you listened to the BBGeekcast, our BlackBerry podcast, you’d surely think so.
Podcasts allow for the vast expansion of radio shows, off the limited space that is AM or FM frequency, and onto the Internet, where bandwidth if relatively cheap. It also opens up broadcast possibilities to people who, for some reason or other, don’t pass through a radio station’s gatekeepers.
In short, podcasts, like blogs, are democratic. Now, wouldn’t you like to listen to podcasts right on your BlackBerry? It makes all the sense in the world. And as the BlackBerry gains more functionality, it’s going to become easier and easier. But how do you do it now?
Over the air streaming
Unfortunately, this option is not currently available on any BlackBerry device. Ah, but there is hope. We know that the BlackBerry Bold browser is going to have an option to view web pages as you would in Internet Explorer.
While that’s exciting by itself, I’m wondering if you’ll have the ability to access rich media through the browser. I’m actually kicking myself for not trying this at WES. If anyone with a Bold wants to email me (jpawlikowski at bbgeeks dot com) and let me know about this functionality, please please do so. Apparently, RIM doesn’t think I’m as important as John Mayer, so I don’t have one yet.
This is probably the most simple and effective option for listening to podcasts on your BlackBerry. It’s basically like sideloading podcasts onto your iPod. You simply download the MP3 file and transfer it through BlackBerry Desktop Manager. If you download the podcast through iTunes, you can right click it and hit “show in Windows Explorer.”
Either that, or locate the file in your iTunes Music directory. Once again, the Bold comes in with a save. While the process described above isn’t too inconvenient, it is still not an optimal function. The Bold, though, will allow you to sync with iTunes. So you’re just a drag and drop away from having your iTunes-subscribed podcasts on your BlackBerry.
Alternatively, this can be done with any old podcast feed collector. These automatically download podcasts when they’re posted. You can then use Desktop Manager to load the songs onto your BlackBerry.
Phone it in
Have you ever heard of Foneshow? Most people have not. A podcaster myself — and in the mobile industry, no less — I hadn’t heard about Foneshow until reading this AP article. And I have to say, I came away intrigued enough to give it a whirl. Once you sign up for the service, you can subscribe to any number of feeds available through Foneshow.
Once a feed updates, you get a text message with a phone number to call. This is perfect for the BlackBerry, where you can scroll to the number and click on it to dial. This is where you hear your podcast. The best part is that if you get disconnected — say you hit a drop zone, or the boss comes ambling by — you can quick hang up in the middle of the show. Just call back, and it will pick up where you left off.
This is quite impressive to me, since I wouldn’t think the initial launch of a service would have an advanced feature like this. Foneshow plans to make money from advertising, which is understandable. It’s tough to charge for podcast content, especially when the service costs you money in other ways (more on that in a minute). The alert text messages have non-intrusive ads at the moment, though I presume that you’ll start to hear audio ads before each podcast begins playing.
It’s just a matter of Foneshow finding interested advertisers.
There are two downsides to the service. First is the carrier cost. Since Foneshow uses SMS and voice to convey the data, you’ll be using a portion of your monthly resources, rather than part of your (presumably) unlimited data plan. This might be a boon for users in Canada, though, as they can use minutes rather than incurring hefty data charges. But for those of us with lesser calling plans, Foneshow might send us over our monthly limits.
The SMS alerts can be a problem, too, if you don’t have a large bundle or an unlimited messaging plan. The other is that once you sign up for Foneshow, you can only access it from the phone number you signed up with. So if you’re looking to save a few cell minutes by calling from, say, your office phone (on lunch break, of course), it won’t let your call go through. Hopefully, Foneshow will change this policy once they see a degree of success.
More options are coming
I don’t think it’s any stretch to say that we will certainly be seeing advances in streaming audio and video with the new BlackBerry OS and devices. As data becomes cheaper and cheaper (which it should over time), we’ll see the ability to send these rich multimedia files over the air — kind of like we saw with the evolution of Web 2.0. But for now, you still have a few options for listening to your favorite amateur broadcasters. Is it appropriate at this time to plug the BBGeekcast feed?