Google Podcasts may not be superior to many third-party podcast players out there, but it's free and readily available on any device and lets you pick up your listening session on a smart home speaker via voice. That alone might be worth a lot to many people, and it seems that Google Podcasts resonates with at least 50 million users — that's the milestone the app just reached on the Play Store.
The Podcasts app in the Play Store isn't much more than a direct shortcut to the Podcasts section of the Google search app, also accessible by searching for a podcast of your liking. But the shortcut app is pretty much the only comfortable way to access Google Podcasts through your launcher, so if anyone is serious about using the service as their podcast player, they'll likely install the app, driving up its download numbers.
Considering that Google launched the first version of its podcast player back in 2018, 50 million downloads doesn't seem to be an impressive stat for a multi-billion dollar company, but in typical Google fashion, Podcasts only slowly started picking up steam. Things like automatic downloads, a much-needed interface revamp, a home on the web, a queue, an option to share time-stamped links, and a personalized news update only made their way into the service over the last 12 months. It looks like these efforts have been rewarded, as the app jumped from 10 million installs to 50 million installs in the span of only 11 months while it took 7 months for the meagre jump from 5 million to 10 million, as AppBrain data shows.
We also have to remember that there might be an equally large amount of people out there who solely use Podcasts through its web interface on podcasts.google.com, its pendant on the Apple App Store, Google Assistant, or the search app — these obviously aren't counted towards the Play Store download number.