Apple pulled podcasts out of the iTunes Store app in iOS 6, but we don’t have to wait for iOS 6 for the company’s official standalone podcast app.
Today Apple released Podcasts, a standalone podcast app that combines the iTunes podcast directory with features we’ve previously only seen in third-party podcast apps. The app is free in the App Store, and any iOS user with iOS 5.1 or later can use it.
The new universal app gives users access to Apple’s full directory of podcasts which users can choose to download or stream to their device. Unlike third-party podcast apps, there’s no way to manually add shows by a URL, though users have the option to sync the podcasts to iTunes. Users can sync unlisted podcasts that way.
The app also includes a way to discover new podcasts. In the Library view there is a feature called “Top Stations.” Top Stations breaks down podcasts by categories. Each category has a playlist of five popular podcasts, similar to the stations in the popular Stitcher app. We assume this feature will change every so often. Categories like news should at least be updated every week or so, so users can listen to the latest news.
The new app also brings more options for playback. Users have the option to go back 10 seconds or skip forward 30 seconds, and can speed up or slow down the podcast. Apple also included a sleep option for users who like to listen to podcasts just before bed, or who only have a few minutes to listen.
Apple also included a button to share podcasts with friends through email, Twitter, or SMS.
From our few minutes with the app, it seems like a good replacement for podcasts in the Music app, and some users might prefer it over third-party apps. The third-party apps still have some features like iCloud sync, more skip options, and more speed options, but not everyone will need those. For the casual podcast listener this app seems good enough. Those who paid for extra features in other apps might not want it, however.