How to Understand What Apple Has Done With the Podcasts App

In April, Apple made some long-overdue changes to its Podcasts app, part of a rethinking of the company’s overall approach to the podcast market, which will allow podcast producers to charge subscription fees for their content through Apple’s own app. Unfortunately, these changes have disappointed many longtime users of the app, but there are ways to manage them.

An updated version of the app, launched with iOS 14.5, provides more guidance, changes podcast pages (users now “follow” rather than “subscribe” to podcasts) and, yes, allows for paid subscriptions. But it also caused some problems, with users experiencing problems syncing podcast episodes across devices, or seeing them randomly downloading old episodes , even when they had to struggle with changes to the app’s navigation tools. Apple released iOS 14.6 in May, offering some fixes, but there’s still a lot to get used to.

The revised app appears to be geared more towards serving podcasting networks and improving accessibility rather than making it easier to manage a library of existing subscriptions, which some people don’t. NextWeb called the update a ” crime against humanity .” Others, like Daring Fireball’s John Gruber , welcomed some of the changes . Regardless of Apple’s vision of the future of podcasts, there are ways to customize the app to work as it did before and get back to listening.

Check out the new Apple Podcasts app

The Podcasts app now has four main sections: Listen, Browse, Library, and Search.

  • Listen Now highlights what you are currently listening to as well as the latest episodes of the show you are currently subscribed to. It also includes channel recommendations and shows you what you might like based on your story. Below is a list of everything you recently listened to.
  • Overview is the main section for in-app discoveries that rotates Apple-designed collections, episodes, interviews, and shows. The New and Noteworthy section features recent, popular and interesting shows in a variety of categories; while Featured Channels lists dedicated podcast networks that you can subscribe to, it provides guidance on specific categories such as True Crime or Politics.
  • The library is where you’ll find all the shows you’re subscribed to, although the way of sorting them is a little fun. (More on this in a moment.)
  • Search is another feature of opening an application. It lets you search for whatever you’re looking for, but it also provides some basic categories to view: pride, top charts, comedy, news, true crime, society and culture, and more. Clicking on any of these categories will take you to the latest episodes of popular shows, or you can dive deeper into the subcategories.

How to navigate your podcast library

Until a recent update, the app made it easy to find a list of the latest episodes you downloaded. You can still do this, but it takes a few more steps – go to the Listen Now section and select See All to find a list of the podcast episodes you’ve downloaded in reverse chronological order.

The new library section is less straightforward and offers you several options:

  • Recent episodes: This section shows the new episodes of the show you are subscribed to, but by default it doesn’t show your entire list of uploaded content and it will show you everything, whether you’ve listened to it already or not. You can customize the display to make it easier to sort: click Change to sort from oldest to newest, or hide episodes you’ve already listened to. You can also choose to display episodes released in the last week, in the last two weeks, or in the last month. (Anything older than that is not displayed.) Please note that these are the latest available episodes of your shows – this does not necessarily mean that they were downloaded for you.
  • Shows: This section lists the shows you are subscribed to and you can order them (again by clicking Edit) by title, follow date, update date, or manually. You can also click Edit to unsubscribe from your shows or add a new subscription by manually entering the URL for the RSS feed.
  • Downloaded: This section shows you which episodes you actually downloaded to your device. By clicking “Edit”, you can sort their display by upload date, publication date, or group by display. (Unlike recent episodes, this section displays the entire library of episodes you’ve downloaded to your phone, but you won’t see available episodes that you haven’t downloaded yet.)
  • Saved: Displays the episodes you have saved (more on how to do this later) in case you want to come back and listen to them again in the future.
  • Most Recent: This section is a little confusing as it is essentially the same as the Recent Episodes section, but only displays the episodes that you actually downloaded.

How to use swipe in Apple podcasts

In each of the above sections, you can walk through a separate episode to do something with it:

  • Swiping to the right of an episode reveals a purple logo that removes that episode from your queue.
  • Swiping to the left brings up two options: save (yellow, with a save icon) and either delete (red, trash can logo) if the episode is downloaded to your device, or download (blue, with a logo arrow) if the episode is just available.

Using Show Pages in Apple Podcasts

The dedicated pages for specific shows are pretty straightforward: they display the cover art and description of the show, and there is also a button that allows you to resume any episode you last listened to. You can also view other available episodes with options to download, next play, save, share, etc.

Here you can also “follow” (think “subscribe”) the podcast or change its settings. The shows you are following are marked with a check mark; touch the three small dots to change the settings for an individual show. Here you can also try free episodes or subscribe to a paid channel, subscribe to the respective show network, provide feedback, or access the podcast creator’s profile (which also lists his other podcasts, if any).

Cleaning Apple Podcasts

If you’re a longtime podcast user, all of the above changes might seem a little overwhelming. Some critics of the update criticized it for messing up the customization and settings they were used to, and for messing up their libraries in many cases. I am one of them, but this is how I removed it:

  • Delete old shows . This was important: the updates forced some devices to download old episodes that users were already listening to. To fix this problem, go to Library> Shows> Edit> Edit Shows , where there will be little red delete bubbles next to all the shows in your show list. Deleting these old shows will result in you ditching them, and they will stop cluttering your main channel with new episodes.
  • Customize your show preferences . From the Shows section, tap each of them, then tap the little dots in the upper right corner to go to sSettings. This will allow you to customize your preferences for each show. You can choose whether you want new releases to be downloaded automatically or manually, restrict downloads to the most recent (1-10) releases, or releases from a specific time period (1 day to 1 month). You can also choose if you want the played episodes to be automatically deleted.
  • Clear your recent episodes tape . If you listen to a lot of Recent Episodes, watch it and swipe right through the episodes you don’t want to listen to, removing them entirely from this list. If you swipe left to delete a downloaded episode, it will not be removed from this playlist – the show will remain and you can download that episode again.
  • Delete old downloads . Go to the Downloaded section, scroll down and start swiping left to delete any old episodes of The Daily that may have accumulated on your phone that you’ve never listened to, or any old shows that might have been re-downloaded using Refresh. (Again, if you delete an upload in Recent Issues, it will remain in that feed until you mark it as played.)

Find an alternative to Apple Podcasts

After all this, if Apple’s changes have been too disruptive, it might be worth raising the stakes and switching to a different app. If you need guidance, Lifehacker will help you .

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