Apple released a stand-alone app for podcasts. Prior to this release, Apple introduced an application for iTunes University, an app for setting up RSS feeds with advanced coding features to display multiple tabs for audio recordings, videos, and pdfs. The podcast category in iTunes has been the primary vehicle through which the public accessed podcasts as one of the premiere aggregators available, and which helped lay the foundation for iTunes U. Apple's decision to release a special stand-alone app specifically for podcasts makes them more easily accessible.
The release of this app is important for Apple because up until this point the void was being filled by third party developers like Downcast, iCatchers, and Instacast. These applications have provided a great service to those who listen to and produce podcasts. They offer a lot of features, including the ability to set up playlists. Apple has designed its own podcast app, but one that distinguishes itself from the competitors. First, Apple introduces an app that graphically is far superior than its competitors. Reminiscent of the the high quality graphics in apps like Garageband for the iPhone and iPad, the Podcasts app offers a beautiful graphic design with touch controls that mimic the iBooks store, but which introduces new design elements in areas like "Top Stations." Apple's deep respect for graphic/industrial design is reflected in the playback controls for audio podcasts by duplicating the designs from Deiter Rams TG 60 Tape Recorder.
There are some critics who find Apple's Podcasts app "underwhelming." For example, Christopher Breen, of Macworld, finds the app to be okay if you are light user of podcasts or just listening to podcasts for the first time. Breen does not feel that the app is for serious podcast listeners. Let's consider several of his points.
1. You can subscribe to podcasts that are not available in itunes, but it's not intuitive or easy to figure out. Yes, that's true, but why would someone who is downloading Apple's podcasts app want to subscribe to feeds that are not available in itunes?
2. Apple does not offer playlists This is true, but it's a mistake to compare Apple's Podcasts app to other apps. The distinguishing feature that separates Apple's app from the others is the design. Apple is more visual in its presentations and has given great thought the touchscreen interface to make it simpler and easy to use. Playlists would complicate the simplicity of Apple's design, but this feature could be implemented the same way as apps on the iPad by dragging and dropping them on top of one another to form albums? If you compare Apple's app with the others, you will find the graphic designs uninspiring, and the user interface more one dimensional and less dynamic.
3. Top Stations needs a lot of work. Breen observes that the artwork thumbnails do not appear at times and you cannot identify the podcasts. I agree. I found this to be an issue, but a very minor one. Due to the great emphasis placed on artwork (other apps do not care to focus on this much, beyond very small static thumbnails), it takes some time for the artwork to fully load. Hopefully, Apple can tweak this. There is nothing available out there that compares to how Apple designed this feature. The other apps have one basic interface. Apple offers the iTunes Store, the Library, and Top Stations as three separate interfaces, each one impressively designed and easy to use. Check out the thumbnails below for an app comparison:
Dissenting opinions help to provide a more robust discussion about the pros and cons of what we value as consumers, but in the end it boils down to personal preference. Form and function is Apple's forte. If you want to have a great experience listening to podcasts with a beautiful graphic, touchscreen interface, I would highly recommend Apple's new Podcasts app. It's far from "underwhelming."
Tim Brown, My Apple Podcast Updated, July 4, 2012
Apple released 1.2.1 with a lot of new updates for the Podcasts App. The Dieter Rams tape reel had been removed and replaced with more functionality, such as the ability to set up "My Stations". You can add podcasts to the "On-the-Go category or customize your own playlists. It is also easier to edit and delete podcasts. From a design standpoint, the Podcasts app still reigns supreme! Below is my original review, along with some criticisms from some tech blogs (many of which were addressed in the latest update).