Podcasts – iPad App of the Week
This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.
This week’s App is Podcasts.
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.
One of the issues I have had with the iPad and more so with the iPhone is how awful they were when it came to managing podcasts. The only real way to make it work was to sync with iTunes and be done with it.
If I didn’t sync with iTunes and then tried to download an episode of a podcast that I was subscribed to in iTunes, but wasn’t “transferred” to the iPhone, then when I next synchronised with iTunes, I would have two “copies” of the same podcast. What made it worse was that then this would be synchonised and transferred to the iPod classic I normally use for podcasts resulting in a duplicate of the podcast feed and duplicates of the podcast episodes. That caused me problems as these duplicates would then take up disk space.
There have been separate podcast apps in the iTunes App Store, but despite my problems I have never actually downloaded them and tried them… came close, but never quite got there. This was partly as I heard about them on a podcast, like MacBreak Weekly, but couldn’t remember the name when I actually came round to downloading the app.
Apple has finally decided that the iPad and the iPhone needed a decent podcast app and have released their own. This takes podcasts out of the Music app and puts then in their own Podcasts app, as they did with movies and putting them in the Movie app.
It’s a really nice app and works really smoothly. There are also some really nice design features, which is something you kind of expect from Apple now. Like some of their apps there is also a retro design that I think works well, and appeals to people like me!
If you already subscribe to podcasts on iTunes that you transfer to the iPad or iPhone then these will be transferred automatically. Unlike the Music app, the Podcasts app will download new episodes in the background, so you can be sure that the next time you pick up your device it should have the latest episode on it. This is part of Apple’s wider strategy in doing more updates wirelessly in the background rather than through iTunes. In the future you can expect to see Apps updating in the background, as well as podcasts.
If you haven’t been using your iPad for podcasts then you will get this screen.
You can then choose how you want to add podcasts. Clicking catalogue takes you to a subset of the iTunes store where you can see the full catalogue of podcasts.
As well as browsing for podcasts and searching for them, you can also see the podcasts that are been featured by Apple.
Clicking Library takes you back to the Podcasts app. Another way to find podcasts is to click Top Stations. Here you will find a combined Coverflow interface with a radio tuner feel. You can switch between audio and video. At the top are the different categories and when you have found a category there are a selection of podcasts.
As you might guess I was quite pleased to see that the eLearning Stuff podcast was in the list of educational technology podcasts.
When you click the podcast, it will start playing… At first it appears there is no way to turn this off! You need to click the Now Playing button in the top right corner.
This takes you to the playback interface. Here you will find retro looking metallic controls, they reminded my of the controls on a 1980s cassette deck in a hifi system. Subtly in the background is a reel to reel tape winding round.
The + button allows you to subscribe, and the podcast is added to the Podcasts home screen.
Your home screen, once you have subscribed to various podcasts will give you immediate access to the latest episodes and you can also download previous episodes too.
Overall this is very much an Apple app and I am sure most people will like it and use it if they listen to podcasts. I found it easy to use, easy to find and subscribe to podcasts and it looks great. I am pleased Apple have made a separate app for podcasts and it works so much better than the default Music app. I am guessing though as it won’t be part of the standard build in iOS, it may reduce the number of people who “find” podcasts, though I doubt it. You never know it might be part of iOS 6. Of course if it isn’t your cup of tea then there are other podcasting apps available.