Podcasts were one of the later arrivals to the iTunes landscape, but have become one of the fastest growing areas because of its open submissions and because its free. The content has always been traditionally handled by the Music section of the iPhone in that they are basically audio files, but since they are on a subscription format, often tie to other content, and are related to the iTunes radio stations, it made sense to give them their own app. This follows the recent release of the iTunes U app, which separates the iTunes U content from the rest of the audio files since it operates somewhat differently. You will have to download the free Podcasts iPhone app from the iTunes App Store, but it will be a central app for the use of iPhone content. Here is a look at how to use the Podcasts app on the iPhone.
The Podcasts app is broken down into two distinct tabs: Podcasts and Top Stations. In the Top Stations tab you can simply browse through a few of the most popular podcasts in iTunes from specific genres, such as Arts or Business. You can then select the icon for the podcast and it will immediately begin, or you can press the small “i” button to the right of the image and you can then get a relevant list of recent episodes for that podcast and will then allow you to select which one you want.
In either tab you can press the Catalog button, which will take you away from your Library space and into iTunes so you can find podcasts you may want to download and / or subscribe to. This format is similar to that of other apps that plug into specific areas of the iTunes Store. The tabs are Featured, Top Chars, and Search. The Featured section is simply popular podcasts that may be of attention, and Top Charts simply breaks down the most downloaded podcasts into a list. It is important to remember the incredible number of podcasts that are available, so this is not going to give you the detailed browsing tools that you may want. Instead, you will want to go into the actual iTunes program on your computer. The Search function will probably allow you the most detailed results and will allow you to find the right thing you are looking for.
Podcasts are unique in that you find one that you want to look at and it has multiple episodes to choose from. When you see the list in Podcasts you can press the downward pointing arrow button to the right of the name of the episode. The button will change to a Downloading signal to indicate that it is moving to your library. You also have the option of simply selecting the podcast and having it beginning to play, without having it actually download to your Library. This is often a superior option in the Podcasts app since it allows you to simply play a podcast when you want to listen to it without actually having to take up iPhone storage space.
There are two types of podcasts offered by iTunes: audio podcasts and video podcasts. The video podcasts work in a similar download function, where you press the button to the right to initiate the download. If you just press the podcast it will begin buffering and then playing the video. Both the audio and video playback comes from within the Podcasts app, but only the audio will continue playing when you close out the app. This is done so that you can have the podcast play as a background when you are using other apps.
When you download the podcast to your Library it will appear in the Podcasts tab on the main screen of the app. From here you will see the icon for the podcast with a number to its upper right hand corner. This will indicate how many individual podcasts you have from this producer, which will be one if you just downloaded a single podcast. When you select it the list for that podcast will be similar to the display for that podcast’s page when you are actually downloading it.
When you choose to play the selected podcast from the Library you will have a unique playback interface that is similar to the one in Music, though slightly different. There will be a play and pause button, and it will be surrounded by buttons that will either let you jump forward or backward in the podcast. There will also be skip forward and backward buttons, which will let you easily go through multiple podcasts. That function is most relevant when you have subscribed to the podcast and have multiples in a list. If you are watching video podcasts then the format is similar to that of the Videos section, but with the same unique features as the audio playback option.
If you are looking at the Episodes for a particular podcast you have the ability to share it in a few different ways. If you hit the Share button to the right of the word Episodes you will be given three primary options: Email, Tweet, and Message. You will have the additional option of going to Facebook with the iOS 6. If you, for example, decide to Tweet the podcast then it will tie in the Twitter account that you have already logged in to on the iPhone with a little message that you can alter.
If you decide that you like a podcast enough that you want to listen to it regularly as it is released, then you can Subscribe to it. When looking at the podcast’s page in the Catalog you will see the Subscribe button above the podcasts you can download individually, and when you press it then the automatic download process will be started. What this will do is have automatic downloads of the podcasts as they come out, and you can ensure that you will have the latest release. This only works, however, if you have the Auto-Download selected.
The list of individual podcasts for a specific production in your Library has an “i” button to the right of each podcast. This will list some information about that specific episode, such as the date and who was interviewed. You can all choose to mark it as having been read already, which will put a blue dot next to it. If you select the icon at the top of the list then it will go into options for that specific download. There will be an On / Off switch for the subscription of the podcast, as well as a switch for the podcast to Auto-Download. Below that is an Episodes to Keep section where you can choose to keep episodes in the list by different qualifications such as All Episodes, All Unplayed Episodes, Most Recent Episode, or Last 3 Episodes. Below that is an option to mark all as either played or unplayed, which is a way you can clear them out or save them from being deleted. These functions are the way that you can deal with the fact that automatic downloads can end up filling up your storage space and Library.
If you want to get rid of a podcast entirely from your Library you can begin by hitting the Edit button in the upper left hand corner. When you do this, the podcasts will have an “X” icon in the upper left hand corner. You can then hit this and it will then disappear, and will be gone from your Library.
It is important to note that podcasts used to be in the Music section and now will only be over in the Podcasts section. This is actually still available to you and in the Podcasts area in the More tab of your Music app, you will still see the podcasts that you have downloade in the Podcasts app. You can choose which one you would like to listen in, but the Podcasts app is actually built towards the podcast format.