iTunes is a bloated and overly sophisticated piece of software on both PCs and iOS. Until now, it was the center of all media subscriptions and purchases on iOS. Apple understands that iTunes needs improvement, and they want to make media more readily available. Because of this, they have decided to take the first step towards slimming down iTunes by releasing a standalone Podcasts app. It provides all of the features found in iTunes and more.
The app, which has been available since Tuesday, is extremely similar to its section in the iTunes app. The major difference is the added functionality of subscribing to podcasts. Once you have navigated to a podcast’s page in the app, you have the options of streaming particular episodes or downloading them for future listening/viewing. Plus, there is a subscribe button that will add the podcast to the podcasts section of your library. Once you have subscribed to a podcast, you can easily access it via the podcasts page, and you can choose to have it update automatically with new content. Additionally, you can have new episodes downloaded to your device automatically. Episodes that have been listened to are marked accordingly, so you don’t have to remember.
There are several ways of finding and viewing new podcasts. The first way is in the catalog page. It presents podcasts using the old iTunes interface, and it breaks them into “Featured” and “Top Charts” sections. If you have a podcast in mind, you can perform a text search for it too. The other way to find and view podcasts is on the “Top Stations” section of the library page. It sports a beautiful visual presentation of the podcast categories and subcategories, along with the popular podcasts that are in each of these subcategories.
In my opinion, the podcast player is superior to that of the default music app. All of the necessary controls, such as the volume slider and play/pause buttons, are present, and they have a unique grey metal design. Additional controls include buttons for rewinding, fast-forwarding, and jumping either 10 seconds back or 30 seconds forward. These audio navigating controls are extremely useful when listening to long segments of audio content. Sliding the podcast art up reveals a sleep timer, a share button, and a togglable slow/normal/fast switch.
As of now, the podcasts section in the iTunes app still exists, but it is likely that Apple will discontinue it in a later operating system release.
Unfortunately, the app is only available on devices running iOS 5.1.1 or later, so users of older devices will be left out. You can download Podcasts from the app store here.