Today Apple released a new app for iOS called Podcasts. So what? They’ve had podcasts in iTunes for years. What’s the big deal? It has one feature that people who like podcasts have been craving ever since iOS was released: the ability to automatically get updates without syncing.

This is great if, like me, you only sync with your computer once every few days (or, like many people, you never sync). While the ability to automatically get updates and the option to automatically download new episodes is cool, there are two options that I think are missing: the ability to toggle how often the app checks for updates (I presume it’s doing it in the background) and the ability to tell the app only to automatically download episodes when you’re connected to Wifi.

Checking for updates often could not only eat up battery life, but also bandwidth, and downloading podcasts automatically would easily devour the arcane bandwidth caps that wireless providers have in place. As of right now I don’t have the option to automatically download enabled until the “only over wifi” option is created.

Another thing that is purely speculation on my part is that with this new emphasis on podcasts I wonder if it’s the beginning of Apple putting in an infrastructure to unseat cable. Hear me out: now with the ability to subscribe to new podcasts as they appear, why would you need to DVR a show? As soon as it airs just watch it on your chosen device (assuming Apple TV gets something similar, or just use AirPlay). I just watched the entire first episode of The Newsroom (which was superb by the way, do yourself a favor and check it out) and it was delivered to my phone as a podcast.

I realize that HBO probably won’t do that with the rest of the series (as far as I know there’s no legal way to watch their shows online unless you have HBO Go and for that you need to be an HBO subscriber, which is why Game of Thrones is pirated so much, but that’s another conversation), because as of now podcasts are free in iTunes, but I can definitely see Apple monetizing podcasts or “channels” for a reasonable fee (there’s already evidence of this with the “Redeem” button showing up in the iOS 6 beta version of the app that I’ve seen reported elsewhere). It wouldn’t replace live television, but it’d be a step in the right direction and would certainly be a lot more reasonable than buying a show for $3 per episode.

Edit 6/27/2012: Another feature that’s missing that I just realized is the ability to subscribe to podcasts that aren’t on iTunes. You can do it on your desktop, they’ll even sync, so why not on mobile?

So in short, my wish list for a future update is:

  1. The ability to edit the frequency that the app checks for updates*
  2. The ability to tell the app to only download automatically over wifi
  3. The ability to subscribe to podcasts that aren’t on iTunes*

*feature present in desktop version of iTunes

Edit 7/4/2012: I learned that you can subscribe to non-iTunes podcasts by typing in the podcast RSS feed URL into the search bar. Upon searching you will be prompted with an option to subscribe.


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