Apple Releases Podcasts App, We Go Hands-On

Apple today released a universal standalone Podcasts app for iOS devices. Its purpose is to focus on the one type of media rather than everything iTunes has to offer, which is what the default app included with iOS did before. Apple wants people who really like to listen to their podcasts to “discover, subscribe to and play” their favorites right on their iOS device. In addition, they can now do so in a simple, but beautiful — design-wise, this app is very nice with a style that resembles the iOS 6 content stores — manner on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 5.1 or higher.

Podcasts includes the capability to sync episodes with your computer, which is optional, but can be beneficial if you’d like to listen to something that you’ve already downloaded without having to wait for it again. Such a task requires iTunes 10.6.3 or later. Other features of Podcasts include sharing with Twitter, Messages, or Mail, episode playback sync across devices (I hope they integrated some sort of iCloud sync here, but I’m not sure because I haven’t had a chance to look through the whole of Podcasts yet), streaming or download options, a sleep timer for those of you who like to listen to the comforting voice of your favorite talk show host, and lots more to be explored. First impressions after the break.

First Impressions

Podcasts is actually quite buggy and sluggish throughout. The user interface may be beautiful, but the core functionality has major issues and features like search don’t work at all. Images in the “Top Stations” tab don’t show up after you’ve browsed the first two shows in that category and the info screen has formatting issues with text. Switching to video from audio in stations leaves you with a ten second wait and then no image previews of what you’re looking at.

The lack of image functionality in stations — it’s a bug, not a feature they left out — messes up this entire element because there’s no other way to quickly read what a podcast is without the image. If there’s not one available, you have to tap the “i” button to bring up the info screen for that specific podcast to see the title and other information. Even then, the artwork doesn’t show up half the time.

In addition, tapping a podcast in the station tab doesn’t necessarily play it. Sometimes you’ll have to actually go to the Now Playing screen and then tap the play button to start it. Other times it’ll show up as having a 0:00 runtime so there’s no playable content at all.

I can’t believe Apple left out this much polish in their app and if I were reviewing it, Podcasts would receive a 5/10 for bugginess and broken core functionality.

Features:

• 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

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