Apple’s Podcasts app needs work

Apple has released Podcasts (free, universal), a new standalone app for finding and listening to podcasts. It’s very nice-looking and is similar to the iBooks app for iOS, in that you “flip” it over to switch from your library to the store.

Overall it works well and looks nice. Subscribing to a show is easy, and a download icon clearly identifies episodes that are stored locally and those that aren’t. The playback UI resembles a reel-to-reel tape player, which is cute and perhaps a questionable choice.

There are thoughtful animations, too. The tape “jerks” with each stop and start, and the bulk of the tape moves from the left reel to the right as you listen to your podcast. Both are very Apple-like touches that enhance the experience. If you don’t like the tape player’s look, you can swipe down to hide it with the show’s cover art.

I do have big problems with the app, though. First, links in the show notes are not clickable. This is inconvenient for listeners and problematic for sponsors. Apple has taken away a listener’s opportunity to click a link on his or her device as he listens. Now, sponsors must hope he will remember to do it when he gets back to his computer.

Also, the way the store is laid out makes it look like the “top stations” are the only shows that exist. For instance, “Sports and Recreation: Professional” only lists five shows. “Games and Hobbies” lists two. “Education: Training” lists seven. It’s true that customers can flip the app over to visit the complete store, but what’s the motivation to do so when Apple is saying here are the best shows in each category?

Finally, it doesn’t sync subscriptions between devices. I imagine iCloud could handle that.

It’s a nice-looking app and it does what it’s supposed to do, but I can’t recommend it until Apple fixes these problems.