I never really got into podcasts. Not that I don't enjoy them; the ones I've listened to were awesome, but I just haven't really put the time into exploring the maze-like underground world. As a result, I never touched the functionality inside the Music app. (That's also due in part to it being really buried.) Now that Apple's new standalone Podcasts app is out, I figured now's as good a time as any to jump headfirst into the bustling podcast universe. Here's my quick hands-on impressions.
Creating a standalone offering really underlines Apple's commitment to separating its entities, rather than integrating everything, or some, into one encompassing app: Newsstand, iBooks, iTunes, Videos, Music, and now Podcasts.
When you open Podcasts up , you're greeted with a similar layout to everything else Apple (shown above). There's a Featured, Top Charts and Search tabs on the bottom, along with Categories and Library buttons on the top. If you click on a program, like HBO's The Newsroom, you'll have the option to subscribe and download each episode. It's extremely easy to navigate, and should be familiar for anyone who has used something like the App Store.
If you click on Library, the app will rotate to display anything you've streamed or downloaded before. For me, it's populated by The New Yorker Fiction podcast. Clicking on it displays the show's description, along with the episodes I've previously listened to (or downloaded) and its info. Likewise, clicking on the show's icon in this menu will give users a few more options, such as a way to turn subscription for that particular show on or off, a way to sort the podcast and a mark all as played/unplayed.
There are a few options available to users when you start listening to an episode as well. At first glance, you'll immediately have access to buttons that skip between whichever episodes that are in your catalog. In addition, there is a 10 second rewind button, and a 30 second forward button. That's not all.
Swiping up on the podcast artwork will unveil an old school tape deck that lets users set a sleep timer, share through email, Twitter, and iMessage, and tweak the speed to go slower or faster. Another nice little touch Apple added is a way to sync between devices, so if you stop listening to that podcast while using your iPhone on the road, you can pick it back up with your iPad in the house.
People loooooove podcasts, and this is aimed squarely at that crowd. There are a lot of hoops and menus to navigate through, and I can imagine subscribing to a lot of different shows would get a bit overwhelming the way the app is designed now, but it's a good start. As I said before, this is no doubt a way for Apple to further separate its mobile store entities into neat standalone offerings in order to make the experience of content consumption more manageable.