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Apple’s Podcasts app gets playlist creation, iCloud syncing and custom stations

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When Apple(s AAPL) broke out Podcasts as a separate iOS app from iTunes last year, a rather glaring omission was the ability to create playlists. Six months later, Apple has added that feature along with several other improvements to the app in an update released Thursday.

Podcasts 1.2 updateNew features in the Podcasts 1.2 update include: playlists synced from iTunes now appear in the app; the ability to create automatically updating stations featuring preferred podcasts; customized stations that are stored in iCloud and automatically synced across your iCloud-enabled devices; a choice to start playing either the newest or oldest episode; and the ability to add any podcast episodes to On the Go playlists.

Apple has also toned down some of the corny design to make it look more like the iTunes app and less like an old tapedeck — perhaps related to Jony Ive’s elevation to head of software and hardware design at Apple — and a playback bug has been fixed.

Apple’s Podcasts app has been lambasted by users since its introduction last fall (see the ratings and reviews in the App Store). The updated design and functionality should be welcome news to those frustrated with the iOS Podcasts experience; that is unless they’ve moved on to any number of third-party podcast apps that have moved in to fill the void.

30 Responses to “Apple’s Podcasts app gets playlist creation, iCloud syncing and custom stations”

  1. dynamdrew

    Am I one of the few people who actually liked the reel-to-reel animation in the podcast app version 1.1.2? I deleted version 1.1.2. before I learned they dropped the reel-to-reel animation in the new version and regret doing so! Does anyone know where I can find version 1.1.2 for download? Thanks!

  2. I really miss the reel-to-reel animation in the podcast app! Too bad I deleted Post app 1.1.2 before I found out the new update dropped reel-to-reel! Does anyone know where I can find version 1.1.2?

  3. If you delete your podcasts from your computer as you listen to them, then the iPhone app is no longer able to determine if you have listened to them or not. This means everytime they update the app, all your old (listened to) podcast start showing up in your playlist again. I have yet found a way to fix this problem except for using iCloud (of which I am not a fan).

  4. Jerry Ballard

    2 improvements still needed before I can make it my main casts player…
    1) enable links in show notes
    2) provide a large button area for skip forward/back for eyes free skipping.

    But the syncing between devices makes this a contender now.

  5. cmasontaylor

    I think the “Jony Ive hates skeuomorphism” thing was way, way overblown from a single interview. I suspect this UI change has much less to do with Ive and much more to do with user complaints.

  6. The reel to reel thing was literally the only compelling thing about the Podcasts app, which is the most infuriating, sh*tty app I have ever made the effort to “push through”. I spent sooo many hours trying, and retrying, to get this just right, only to have it randomly sync and lose everything. Having moved onto Instacast, I cannot imagine what Apple could do to make me use the Podcasts app again. Hint: not even a free phone would not be enough.

  7. Christopher Hickman

    Have you actually used the new app? It had usability issues before, but now it won’t even play podcasts I’ve already downloaded without streaming them. It is wasting my bandwidth and won’t play AT ALL in Airplane Mode (which I have to use a lot because of my job). I’m very irked by this update.

    • cmasontaylor

      Honestly, I think Apple made a mistake by separating out the iPod app at all. More icons to take up space on my (cramped) home screen and folders (which, unbelievably, are space-limited so I can’t organize sensibly), and, yeah; worse apps. I mean, did they really think I was so eager to keep “playlists, artists, songs, albums” ALL in the main toolbar for the iPod app? Playlists, Artists, Videos, Podcasts was just fine with me.

  8. Court Kizer

    Can you please fix the article so we can click the screenshots and have a look? In this day in age having thumbnails the size of postage stamps on a web blog is pretty silly and very frustrating.

    Erica you did a good job writing the article!

  9. It looks better and functions smoother than before. However, as far as I can tell, there’s still no way to rate an episode of a podcast, so I’ll be sticking with Music app. I listen to a lot of short fiction podcasts, and I like to be able to rate them and share the stories I think are particularly well written with friends/family/etc. And I like having a record of what I’ve listened to and what I thought of it. So, until I’m forced to switch to Podcasts, or Apple implements ratings in it, I’ll be sticking with Music app.

  10. Kazuya Mishima

    Apple has updated its Podcasts app, adding a much desired iCloud syncing feature along with the ability to create custom stations and On-The-Go playlists.

    With custom stations, users can compile their favorite podcasts into lists that will be automatically updated when new episodes are released, and a new option allows listeners to decide whether custom stations begin playing the newest or oldest unplayed episodes.

  11. mattand

    Thanks for the heads up, Erica. I just re-downloaded this after a minor crash on my iTunes server. I had no idea that Apple had updated it.

    Looks-wise, this is all I wanted: a simple interface to interact with my podcast. That reel-to-reel was just one of the worst design decisions Apple ever made.

  12. Mcbeese

    Does the podcast app sync with iTunes and the cloud such that Podcasts will sync across Macs? If not, that means I must manually sync between my iMac and MacBook AIR. Fail.

    Does the AppleTV podcast app sync with anything? If not, fail.

    Who is the product owner of Podcasts at Apple? We need to hear from this person. He/She is an embarrassment to the company.

  13. lesposen

    Since I still possess – but haven’t used in a decade – a TEAC 10″ Reel to Reel – I had a soft spot for the tapedeck in the previous podcasts app. That said, it seemed more like an exercise in “see what we can do” rather than “this is a very practical way to manage your podcast experience” approach.

    I did like how the tape guides lifted off in fast forward/rewind and how the take up spools filled or emptied as the podcast progressed, but it ultimately felt more like a history lesson than a useful metaphor. Bit like Microsoft’s persistent use of a floppy disk as a metaphor for the “save” function in Office.

    • The reel to reel was pretty, but it didn’t add any functionality.
      You couldn’t grab & rewind the tape etc. The remaining duration was nice but it was too much wasted space for something that essentially did nothing.

      I’d rather Apple spent it’s time on making basic features work like syncing play status with iTunes before adding layers of pixie dust.

  14. Does the device now remember that a podcast was playing, not music, so when I hit the play button on the headphone a day later it continues where it left off instead of playing a random song?

  15. Jerry Ballard

    Now, make the jump forward/back controls big areas instead of tiny buttons (to allow eyes free) and ill try it again. Until then , it’s still pocket Casts by shifty jelly for me.

  16. Jim Hassinger

    Presumably, after they got the evil Scott out of there, Jony Ive fixed up the interface. No scarce resources for stupid tape player. And it actually gives youthe ability to stream or play the latest two (your decision) of a podcast from your iThing.

  17. Does it support podcasts with chapters? If not, I’m still sticking with the old Music app. Can’t believe it’s still better for podcast playback than the supposed “Podcast” app.