Today Apple released Podcasts, a stand-alone podcast management app for iOS devices that offers direct access to podcasts available in the iTunes Store. The app was expected with the release of iOS 6, which is planned for the fall, following a report earlier this month from AllThingsD. However with this release, iOS 6 is clearly not a requirement.
Podcasts app is the easiest way to discover, subscribe to and play your favorite podcasts on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Explore hundreds of thousands of free audio and video podcasts from the Podcasts Catalog, and play the most popular podcasts, organized for you by topic, with the all-new Top Stations feature.
- Enjoy all of your audio and video podcasts in a single app
- Explore hundreds of thousands of podcasts including shows in over 40 languages
- Try the innovative new Top Stations feature to find new podcast series in a variety of topics, including arts, business, comedy, music, news, sports, and more.
- Browse by Audio or Video podcasts, or see what’s most popular in Top Charts
- Tap subscribe for your favorites and automatically receive new episodes for free as they become available
- Stream episodes or download to listen while offline
- Skip forward and back using simple playback controls
- Turn on Sleep Timer to automatically stop playing a podcast while listening in bed
- Share your favorite episodes with friends using Twitter, Messages and Mail
- Optionally sync your favorite episodes from iTunes on your Mac or PC
- Sync your episode playback for seamless transition between devices
Third-party podcast management apps have been available for years, offering increasingly advanced features over time like automatic and background downloads of new episodes and cross-device synchronization (available in Instacast and Downcast, my preferred podcast management app). This free new offering from Apple will likely give these paid apps a run for their money in offering a boatload of features at no cost with a clean interface you’d expect from Apple and direct access to the podcast section of the iTunes store to discover new audio and video podcasts.
Note that there are a couple of areas where paid apps like Instacast and Downcast beat out this new Podcasts app and those are automatic cross-device synchronization and the ability to subscribe to podcasts not available through the iTunes Store. You can synchronize podcasts between your computer and the Podcasts app on your iPhone or iPad using the Podcasts tab in iTunes (available when your iPhone or iPad is connected) but your current playback location within episodes does not sync between devices automatically over the air. So, if you switch from listening to an episode on your iPhone to your iPad, you’ll have to manually find your last playback location to pick up where you left off. Instacast and Downcast will synchronize playback location for you automatically between devices via iCloud. Also, these paid apps let you subscribe to podcasts through the manual entry of a URL, whereas Podcasts only lets you subscribe to podcasts available in the iTunes Store.
Podcasts is universal and requires iOS 5.1 and iTunes 10.6.3 or later. If you’re looking for a good iPhone and iPad-related podcast to listen to, I’ll put in a shameless plug here for the one I co-host with Chris Meinck in my spare time (link opens iTunes).