Apple's rumored dedicated podcasts mobile app has arrived surprisingly early, with new features like streaming in tow.
Last week we reported on speculation surrounding Apple's podcast app (RAIN coverage here), which observers thought would arrive with iOS6. "This would increase the importance of podcasts," commented CultofMac, with analyst Mark Ramsey calling it a warning call for broadcasters to "develop sensible and effective podcasting strategies."
The free app is now "somewhat surprisingly" available for free in the Apple App Store and offers "one-stop access" for all things podcasts (or, as Engadget writes, "pre-recorded talk radio-killing entertainment"). Podcasts were previously a sub-section of Apple's native Music app.
The "Podcasts" app (here) includes "more robust tools for managing podcasts on iOS devices," as Ars Technica writes, but the biggest changes involve adding features common to web radio. This includes adding the ability to stream podcast episodes directly, without needing to download the entire episode (as was previously required).
Apple also borrows from radio lingo in its new "Top Stations" section, which delivers podcast recommendations to users. "This is certainly the most compelling new feature -- at least from an aesthetic standpoint -- mimicking a radio dial to divide up different categories like Business Comedy, Music , News and Technology," writes Engadget. Notes the Verge, "There's quite a few main genres, and many of them have sub-genres, each with five podcast selections underneath. If you're new to podcasts, or just looking to find something that you've never listened to before, this feature should make discovery an even easier process."
Other updates include improved playback controls, AirPlay support, sleep timer and other features. "In all, there's not a heck of a lot of breakthrough content here, but as usual, Apple's offering things up in a clean, instantly navigable way," comments Engadget.
Ars Technica muses that the inclusion of streaming may "smudge the line" on podcast subscriptions. "We wonder if the newly blurred lines between subscribing, streaming, downloading, and listening won't muck up the listener counts that podcasters are so fond of using as a metric."