Apple has long been the dominant player in the podcast market. However, if Apple Podcasts has evolved a lot since version 1.0 of the “cassette player”, it is not perfect. Today I want to take a look at the good, bad and ugly of Apple podcasts with a special focus on how the app still struggles to sync across multiple devices.
I’ve been listening to podcasts since 2004, so I consider myself somewhat of an industry veteran. I have used all the major podcast apps on the market. I remember downloading MP3 files to iTunes using iPodderX. I remember when Apple didn’t approve third-party podcast apps because they “duplicated functionality”. As a result, I’m pretty convinced of how the podcast app should work and strongly believe that this is not a podcast unless you can subscribe in the app you want ( don’t try to convince me otherwise).
Apple Podcasts is a good app, but it’s not great. This makes it easy to find new shows, follow them and find the most recent episodes. This works great for shows where you need to listen in a particular order. Plus, it makes it easier to share a show on iMessage with friends. With iOS 15, it’s even easy to see which shows have been shared with you. I really like the interface because it follows the same general style as Apple Music. It is tightly integrated with the operating system, so it is easy to use.
I love the end user experience of paying for premium content for specific shows. I subscribe to several premium podcasts directly with the creator, but the subscription process is not as seamless as when you do it now in Apple Podcasts. I know Apple’s payments aren’t as easy for creators as Patreon or Memberful, but it’s easy for the user.
Overall, the app provides a great interface for sharing and finding new shows.
Apple Podcasts isn’t intended for power users, and that’s okay. Apps like Overcast, Castro, and Pocket Cast can fulfill the functionality that advanced users want. However, Apple must continue to strive to make it a great experience.
As I added more shows to my next list, the app got slower and slower. I noticed this on iOS 14 and iOS 15. Apple Podcasts feels great heavier than Overcast in daily use. When you mark an episode as played, it can often take 4-5 seconds to actually reflect that state in the UI. With Overcast and Castro, tagging as played is automatic and the user interface is immediately updated. I’m not sure if this issue is a symptom of the number of shows I subscribe to, but it makes the app almost unusable /
The ugly one
Syncing watched shows on Apple podcasts seems to be working well. What doesn’t seem to sync well is the Listen Now and Latest Episodes section of the app. I mainly listen to podcasts on my iPhone, but sometimes I like to listen to my Mac or iPad. Every time I launch the apps it is a mess because it tries to sync everything and never ends up syncing Listen Now and the latest episodes with what’s on my iPhone. Then if I do finally sync them manually, the iPhone sort of gets out of sync.
What tends to happen is that an episode marked as played on one device will show as played on another, but it will still be in Play Now. So why would it be in Play Now if it’s marked as played?
The image above shows what happened when I turned on Apple Podcast syncing on my Mac. It completely screwed up my library on my iPhone and brought back episodes previously marked as read in Up Next despite the fact that they have already been marked as played.
Technically, I’m sure it’s not easy to implement Apple-wide. On the other hand, Overcast and Pocket Casts figured out how to keep all in sync across all your devices, so why not Apple?
In 2021, seamless syncing with other devices is a tabletop issue for a podcast app, and Apple has yet to figure out how to keep apps in sync. Do you know how slow iMessage is on your Mac if it’s been shut down for a week while you’re on vacation and trying to catch up with processing messages? Apple Podcast sync behaves this way Daily.
Apple is focusing on podcast content, but I want them to put as much effort into making the app faster and understanding what’s preventing apps from sticking around. exactly in sync while adding new features. I want love Apple Podcasts, but I found out that the only way to use the app is to only use it on my iPhone. Otherwise, it’s hot garbage. I find myself wanting to use it every few weeks and quickly realize why it never sticks to me. The app is slow and struggles to sync across all of my devices.
Are you using Apple podcasts or are you using a third-party alternative? Leave a comment below with which app and why.
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