Can't wait for the inevitable release of iOS 6 to get an Apple-sanctioned standalone podcast app of your own? Great news! Those rocking 5.1 and higher can roll on over to iTunes to pick up the straightforwardly named Podcasts, right this very second. The iPhone / iPad-friendly app is designed as a repository for the manner of pre-recorded talk radio-killing entertainment that Cupertino inadvertently helped name. We downloaded the app and took it for a spin. Check out the results after the break.
Apple's Podcasts app hands-onSee all photos
Those familiar with the iTunes app will find the whole thing fairly familiar -- in fact, one gets the sense, using Podcasts, that Apple really could have just made some tweaks to the music app, rather than letting podcasts live on their own. Open the app up for the first time, and it will load the podcasts on your computer, populating the front page with the programs' icons. This view can be toggled for a list format, featuring a small icon for the show, the show title, the number of episodes loaded onto your device and the number of unplayed episodes you have left. Click on the show and you get a description of the program, the aforementioned episodes and a link to the settings for that particular show, where you can turn subscriptions on or off and alter the way you sort things.
At the top of the main page is a Catalog button that'll bring you straight to the iTunes store through a rotating wall animation. Here you can view featured shows, charts and search for new programs. Clicking Categories on the top toolbar, meanwhile, will bring up a simple list of topics, ranging from Arts to Government & Organizations. The Library button will rotate the wall back around again, dropping you off where you started. The main page also offers up access to the app's new feature, Top Stations, which is, essentially, yet another way of serving up recommendations for you, the podcast connoisseur.
This is certainly the most compelling new feature -- at least from an aesthetic standpoint -- mimicking a radio dial to divide up different categories like Business Comedy, Music , News and Technology. The feature certainly isn't any easier to scroll through than the old fashioned topic breakdown, though it does offer up the opportunity for more categories, letting you swipe to bring the dial to sub-topics. Under Technology, for example, you get Gadgets, Podcasting (meta!), Software How-To and Tech News. The interface offers up large artwork, which takes a bit to load, making the current navigation a little bit choppy.
In all, there's not a heck of a lot of breakthrough content here, but as usual, Apple's offering things up in a clean, instantly navigable way. It's not exactly a must-download (though with iOS 6, it may become so), but it offers an opportunity to break through the clutter of iTunes. For those who stick solely to podcasts and third-party music apps like Spotify, it may well be an excuse to ditch iTunes altogether.