Apple's Podcasts App - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Back in 2004 I began listening to podcasts rather than my daily fare of talk radio and I’ve never looked back. I’ve listened to the episodes on a variety of devices, but since beginning to use the iPod touch in 2008 I’ve been satisfied with the Music app as the player software.

In June of this year Apple released the Podcasts app and I wasn’t impressed. No, it wasn’t because of its skeuomorphic design, which nearly everyone else panned; rather, it was due to its failure to sync the playback position of each episode with iTunes. Unfortunately, this meant that I couldn’t pick up on my Mac where I left off on my iPhone. (Although playback position syncing with iTunes only happened when the iPhone synced, at least one third-party app made it immediate and seamless.)

However, with iOS 6 came a new version of Podcasts, one that corrected this deficiency. Although some users still seem to take issue with how the app works for them, syncing works as I’d like and features not found in Music make it easier to use for podcasts. No longer will I accidentally tap the next or previous button, losing my place in the currently playing podcast, when I meant to pause; instead, those buttons have been replaced in the multi-tasking bar and the lock screen with skip forward and back buttons. (Oddly, those skip by fifteen seconds each, while the buttons in app skip back by 10 seconds or forward by 30.) A variety of playback speeds exist, too, as well as a sleep timer.

That’s the good. The bad is the app’s inability to subscribe to authenticated feeds, so a podcast like Interesting Thing of the Day isn’t available in the app. Apps like Downcast and Instacast do support these so-called “premium” feeds; however, until one or the other supports Mac syncing I can’t use them full-time (a Mac version of Downcast is apparently in the works).

There is one ugly issue with Podcasts: normally the last-used player is shown in the multi-tasking bar and on the lock screen, but I’m finding that after a short period of time my iPhone goes back to showing the Music app—even though I’ve not launched it. This forces me to unlock the device and re-launch Podcasts in order to resume playback of my podcasts. I’m hoping this bug is fixed sooner rather than later.

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