Though podcasting is has been around for over a decade now, it’s still a relatively new genre for lots of people. Thus Apple’s recent release of its new Podcasts app is a useful introduction to discovering, managing, and playing podcasts on your iPhone or other iOS device. You can think of podcasts as mini radio and television shows, but with a wider range of topics and little or no commercials.
Apple helped popularize podcasting and it has been a part of iTunes for both the Mac and mobile devices for quite some time. But now Apple has released Podcasts as a separate app with additional features for discovering, managing, and listening to programs. If you’re fairly new to the world of podcasting, this article walks you through some of the useful features of Podcasts.
When you launch Podcasts, there are several ways you can browse and discover audio and video programs. On the top-left side of the app you can tap Catalog and it takes you inside the podcast section of iTunes. From there you can browse the front page of the Featured and Top Charts programs, and conduct searches for particular podcasts.
If you tap the Catalog button again, you will get a breakdown of all the categories of podcasts, including Arts, Education, Games & Hobbies, Music, Sports & Recreation, and Technology. These days, there’s probably a podcast for any topic you’re interested in. But if it doesn’t exist, it’s pretty easy to create and broadcast your own.
Many of the popular podcasts, such as This American Life and NBC Nightly News, are offshoots of existing radio and television programs, while the vast majority of programs are independently produced.
You can also browse podcasts by tapping the Top Stations button on the homepage of the Podcasts app. In this view podcasts are presented in a Cover Flow presentation, categorized by topics. Tapping the small “i” will bring up a list of episodes for a selected podcast.
Subscribing To Podcasts
When you select a podcast in one of the browsers, you will get a preview list of current and past episodes. From there you can stream and listen to individual episodes on your iOS device, or you can download it for later listening.
If you like a particular program you will probably want to subscribe to it. Most if not all podcasts are still free of charge. The advantage of subscribing of course is that the episode list for a program automatically gets updated when you launch the app, and you can choose which app you want to listen to at anytime.
When you tap the top portion of the podcast, you will get more options for managing your subscription to that program. You can turn off the subscription to keep it from updating, you can sort episodes by the newest or oldest; and you can mark all podcasts as played or unplayed.
I tend to listen to podcasts in bed on my iPhone, while I’m cooking in the kitchen, or while driving my car. Apple’s Podcasts app includes some useful features for navigating podcasts. First off, you will definitely want to use the skip forward and backwards buttons while in play mode of a program.
Sometimes podcast hosts can jabber on and on about something you’re really not interested in, and these skip buttons are great way to get past that annoyance. Also, when you tap on the cover art of a program in play mode, you can get additional features for playback.
In this hidden feature of Podcasts, you get a cool reel-to-reel design interface, which will be most familiar to users over the age of 35. In this mode, you will get a visual timeline of the episode, and there’s also a little turtle and rabbit icon for actually slowing down or speeding up the audio. I often speed up the audio when the hosts are talking slowly about a topic, and I want to quickly get the gist of what they’re saying.
There’s also a timer button which you will probably use if you’re listening to an episode right before you go to sleep. You can set the timer to shut off the podcast after say 30 minutes.
Lastly, there’s a feature for emailing, tweeting, or texting a link to selected podcast episodes.
Podcasts is not the most advanced podcast client app in the iTunes App Store. I’ve been using Instacast ($1.99) for nearly a year now, and it includes additional features for bookmarking parts of an episode, creating smart playlists, and starring favorite episodes.
Let us know what you think of Apple’s Podcasts app, or share other iOS podcast apps you especially like.