I’ve started using Apple’s new Podcasts app, rather than listening to my podcasts in the Music app. While I do like having the ability to subscribe, download, or stream podcasts directly in the app, rather than having to make a trip to the iTunes store, there are some design decisions I don’t agree with.
The first screen lists all of the podcasts you have subscribed to, but it doesn’t list them in alphabetical order. If you press edit, you can order them by dragging them, but there is no way to just list them alphabetically. I want them alpha-ordered so that they are easy to find, so I alphabetized them manually. You shouldn’t have to do that. I prefer the list view to the tiled view, because the list indicates the number of new episodes.
When you tap on a particular podcast, all of the episodes are listed in reverse-chronological order. If you play the most recent episode, once it finishes, it will continue playing the previous episode. I prefer to listen to episodes chronologically, but if I flip the order of the list, I have to scroll through dozens of episodes to get to the one I want to play. An option to only show unplayed episodes would fix this, or it could start at the bottom of the list when the sort is reversed.
There is also an “Unplayed Episodes” list, which I would likely use, except for the fact that it, too, is in reverse-chronological order, and you can’t change it. An option to revers the sort here is most desirable.
The application does not support landscape orientation. I tried it, expecting to see a Coverflow view. I never found Coverflow to be particularly useful, but I’m a little surprised by the inconsistency.
Once you select an episode, its artwork fills most of the screen with the controls below. The volume slider is tucked in awfully tight underneath the buttons, and the Airplay icon is squeezed in there as well. I’m afraid I’m going to hit the “next episode” button when I tap the Airplay icon. If the phone is docked with a device that controls the volume, the volume slider disappears, but the little icon labeling it remains, and the Airplay icon slides all the way over to the left side of the screen. That seems unintentional to me, and that’s not like Apple.
Tapping the cover art reveals more controls. The scrubber is there, and it retains it’s ability to scrub in smaller increments, but you have to move your finger above it, rather than below it, as there is more screen space, and fewer other controls, above. That’s another inconsistency.
A sleep timer can be set there, and the sharing button and playback speed switch are also there. Above the controls is an animated, reel-to-reel tape deck simulation. It animates while the podcast plays and stops when the audio stops. It can also be seen running behind the cover art, through a translucent cover. It’s a fun little touch that will annoy the skeuomorphic haters. I like it.
This initial version of the app seems like it is still one critique and revision away from release, by Apple’s standards.