Apple has launched a standalone podcast app, which is now available on iTunes and lets you discover and subscribe to new podcasts.
Presently both iOS’s native Music and iTunes apps feature podcast sections (the first for playing podcasts and the second for finding and downloading them). Now, you'll be able to discover podcasts using a dedicated app.
The main UI of the Podcasts app consists of two sections, ‘Podcasts’ and ‘Top Stations’. The first offers fast access to all of your currently downloaded video and audio podcasts, cover art intact. By hitting the ‘Catalogue’ button in the top left, you’re then transported to the Podcasts section revolving bookshelf-style, much like iBooks. Browsing between ‘Featured’, ‘Top Charts’ and ‘Search’ is nothing new, aside from the standalone nature of the store now.
The other key part is ‘Top Stations’, which is designed to help users discover some of the most popular podcasts on iTunes. Interestingly, navigation takes place over a radio-tuner style dial which rather than frequencies, groups content by category and subcategory, you can then scroll up and down within each subcategory and hit the information button to select a recent episode and/or subscribe. There’s also a toggle switch to filter video-only podcasts as well.
The Podcasts app feels a little out of place on an iOS 5.1.1 device, where access to all of the same features is already catered for, however the ease of search, navigation and download is far simpler. Interestingly in iOS 6 the podcast option has been removed from the Music app, forcing you to use the app, otherwise the Podcasts app in iOS 6 is virtually identical, although the store front has been redesigned with more options (right pic).
Apple is offering Podcasts as a free download from iTunes and you can pick it up now. For those not following along with the progression of the current iOS 6 beta timeline, this app could be recognised as the first official step towards their new OS.