June 30, 2012, 7:35 AM — Good news, podcast fans! No longer will you have to dig through your iPhone or iPad’s unaptly-named Music app in order to sate your listening appetite. On Tuesday, Apple released a new free app—titled, much more appropriately, Podcasts—which now serves as the one-stop shop for all of your iOS podcast needs.
Podcasts’s closest relative is probably iBooks, in that it not only organizes your podcasts into a library and lets you listen to them, but it also provides a front end for downloading them as well. Of course, since podcasts are free, Apple’s opted to call this last feature a Catalog instead of a Store (though it looks pretty much the same as the iTunes Store).
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When you install Podcasts, it’ll move any existing audio podcasts out of Music and video podcasts out of the Videos app, and instead store them in Podcast’s library.
Much like in iBooks, the first screen you’ll see in Podcasts is your own library. You can organize this either by thumbnail or as a list. In the former case, you can tap on any of the thumbnails to view information about the show, including a list of episodes. Tap any of the episodes to play them back. In list mode, you’ll see a number indicating how many unplayed episodes you have for each podcast. There’s a search field (for the iPhone or iPod touch, you’ll have to swipe downward to reveal it) and an Edit button, which lets you delete podcasts.
Podcasts also lets you manage subscriptions. Tap on any podcast in your library and then tap on either the podcast’s name (on an iPhone or iPod touch) or the gear icon (on an iPad). From there you can turn on or off a subscription for that podcast, decide whether you want episodes sorted by newest first or oldest first, or mark all episodes as played or unplayed. Once you’ve turned on subscriptions, you also have the option to activate the auto-download feature; turn that on, and you’ll be prompted to specify how many episodes you want to keep. While Apple says auto-download requires a cellular data or Wi-Fi connection, there doesn’t appear to be any way at present to limit it if, for example, you only want to download while you’re on Wi-Fi.
Apple’s also spent some time beefing up the podcast discovery process. A new feature called Top Stations lets you quickly flip through genres via a radio-style tuning dial. Swipe the dial to flip through top-level topics like Comedy, News, Games & Hobbies, Technology, and more. Some categories include sub-genres: Under Education, for example, you’ll find Educational Technology, Higher Education, K-12, Language Courses, and Training.