Sunday, July 8, 2012

Podcasts app

7/10/12: It's possible there is some issue with my particular iPod usage (iOS 5.1.1), but in any case the Podcasts app performance is dreadful and I have deleted it. Today I observed that within the Music app, Apple has rerouted the Get More Episodes... link to the Podcasts app, away from the much-smoother-to-get-podcast-episodes-from iTunes app. The Podcasts app works okay from an iPad 2 running iOS 5.1.1, though.

On 6/26/12, Apple released the Podcasts app (version 1.0), which may eventually manage all podcast functionality in iOS 6. The Podcasts app requires iOS 5.1 or higher; I am using iOS 5.1.1.

On my iPod, I use podcasts almost exclusively for French language practice, which I wrote about here. My use of the Podcasts app is similarly focused on enhancing that, and I don't expect to write about much beyond that. On the Internet, other folks have already written broader commentary on the Podcasts app, and it is not my intent to duplicate their efforts.

The Podcasts and Music apps share much of the same local podcast episode data. A podcast episode downloaded by one app is accessible by the other app. However, each app maintains its own data about which episodes have been played, and about how much of each episode has been played.

PROS:
  • The Podcasts app allows mass marking of all episodes of a podcast series as played or unplayed. That capability is not present in the Music app. I often enough skip around among episodes and stop listening partway through various of them. Within the Music app, that means that when I listen continuously to episodes in a podcast series, when one episode finishes playing, the next one might (annoyingly) start partway through, instead of at the beginning. Unfortunately, as noted above, the effect of this mass marking is not accessible within the Music app.
  • The Podcasts app allows subscription to podcasts, so that when you run the app it will download all new episodes for you. This capability doesn't exist in the Music app.
  • Properly sorts podcast episodes by date (so far!). On multiple occasions, I observed improper sorting of such within the Music app, although it was always improper inter-group (not intra-group) sorting, where there were mistakenly two groups of episodes for a single podcast series. That is, episodes might have been ordered as D-E-F A-B-C, but not D-F-E B-A-C; an example from News in Slow French:


CONS:
  • The Podcasts app cannot play continuously multiple episodes of a podcast, unlike the Music app, preventing taking greater advantage of its ability (a PRO point listed above) to mass mark all episodes of a podcast series as unplayed.
  • Only one screen worth of text included with a podcast can be viewed within the Podcasts app, whereas all such screens can be viewed within the Music app. While it's probably only practical for relatively short duration podcasts to include all of their text, the much-favored-by-me One Thing in a French Day is one of them. The following images of the same podcast episode in the different apps show this limitation.

    Podcasts app, where the "[...]" indicates that there is more text, but it cannot be accessed:


    Music app, where you can scroll down 3 more screens (not included here) beyond this one to see all the accompanying text:


  • The Podcasts app is horribly "laggy" (slow response), and frequently crashes on my iPod (although it does not seem to have these problems on my iPad 2). Indeed, while using the app on my iPod to play a podcast episode as I worked on this blog entry, I turned Airplane Mode on, and the Podcasts app crashed soon afterward.

OTHER COMMENTS:
  • Organizational idea: Like many people, I have more apps than will fit on a single Home Screen. I keep the Music app on my first Home Screen, and, before deleting it, had put the Podcasts app in the same row and column position, but on my second Home screen. That allowed my mind and my fingers to easily switch between the two strongly-related apps.
  • Apple was apparently quietly testing various aspects of the Podcasts app transition prior to its 6/26/12 release. Here is an image from the Music app showing how the icon for the News in Slow French podcast oddly changed less than a month prior to that date:


  • Within the Music app, I historically used the Get More Episodes... link to directly switch to the iTunes app, but that now invokes the Podcasts app. If you don't have the Podcasts app installed, that link will (pointlessly, from my perspective) invoke Safari momentarily before switching to the iTunes app; I'm pretty certain that that intermediate Safari invocation started shortly prior to the 6/26/12 release of the Podcasts app.

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