One of the features I’ve enjoyed the most from the combination of iOS and the iTunes store has been their huge library of podcasts. No matter what your interests may be, there’s likely more than one podcast out there covering it. Entertaining, educational, informative; podcasts are an unheralded gem of iTunes- and best of all, the content is free (so far).
Apple made a strategic error in their recent versions of iOS, muddying one of their stated strategic missions of providing the best possible user experience. The iPod app that once encompassed all media on the iPhone was split to mimic the iPad into Music and Video apps. While the change was logical, the deployment of the Music app made enjoyment of podcasts more arduous. To get to your content you had to open the Music app, then tap the ellipse icon to access them as podcasts were no longer listed as a default selection. Drilling down through an app to find what you’d like to listen to hardly embodies the ‘magical’ experience iOS devices were touted to provide. I eventually turned to Stitcher Radio, a third party app that allows streaming access to your subscribed apps as well as other audio content and listening suggestions. While Stitcher is a very good app, it hasn’t been exactly what I was looking for. Power is typically inversely proportional to the need for interaction, and many times I just want to listen to my subscribed podcasts without having to pick specific episodes from a favorites lineup (not to mention the other functionality of Stitcher that I simply wasn’t taking advantage of).
Apple recently revealed that the next version of iOS would correct their oversight by providing a standalone Podcast app. This welcome move was further compounded by the announcement that the release of the Podcast app was moved up, and was to be available as of this June 26th. I quickly installed the app when I read the news, and have had a few days of testing to evaluate it. I’m happy to say that Apple exceeded my expectations as the new Podcast app has more than corrected the clumsy way of provides accessing to your synced podcasts.
The new standalone Podcast app includes streamlined access to iTune‘s podcast section, allowing easy browsing of selections tailored to iOS’ touch interface. Syncing is no longer the only way to enjoy content- streaming is now supported for quick access to new episodes as you find them. The app also provides bilateral sync support with your Mac or PC; meaning that as you listen to content your episodes will be automatically ‘bookmarked’ on your computer for seamless transition between platforms. Both audio and video podcasts are featured, broken down into a wide range of categories displayed in a horizontal Coverflow-like manner. Browsing within a category is elegantly done by just scrolling the podcast tiles vertically. A new Top Stations feature is provided to suggest new podcasts you may enjoy.
I’ve found that I will rely on my podcast subscriptions more than my music collection when commuting to and from work or on longer trips. They make a great break from Pandora when my playlist has become a bit repetitive as well. While Stitcher is still installed on both my iPad and iPhone, I’ve been happily using the new Podcast app instead the past few days. If haven’t explored what the iTunes Podcast library has to offer I urge you to give it a look. If you have, check out the new app- I think you’ll be glad you did.