This week, Apple released a stand-alone version of its podcast aggregator, which traditionally has been a part of their iOS iTunes app. Simply called Podcasts, the new app enables you to browse, discover, and subscribe to literally hundreds of thousands of free audio and video podcasts uploaded to the Podcasts Catalog (found in the iTunes Music Store.)
The Podcasts has the look and feel of the Podcast section of the traditional iTunes app, but it also includes features for navigating shows and creating playlists. When you launch the app, you tap the Catalog button on the upper-left of the screen to access available podcasts. You will see the familiar mobile iTunes layout featuring highlighted podcasts, Top Stations, Top Charts, and a search section for podcasts.
While the user interface of Podcasts should be familiar to many iOS users, the hidden features of the app are what are most different. When you tap the cover image of a Podcast episode, you are presented with a reel-to-reel image interface which allows you to navigate the currently playing show.
This feature allows you to skip ahead in streaming or downloaded episodes by 10 or 30 seconds at a time. There are also controls for speeding up the audio, as well as setting a sleep timer to automatically stop playing a podcast while listening in bed.
Podcasts and episodes can also be shared via Twitter, Messages, and Mail. In addition, you can sync between iOS devices the most recent playback settings for each episode. Podcasts requires iOS 5.1 or later.