What Apple Should Do with Podcasts in iOS 6: Put Them in the Cloud

Reports have pointed out that podcasts are no longer listed in the iTunes app in iOS 6. This is the app that you use to purchase or download content (with the exception of books), and this suggests that Apple will be releasing a separate Podcasts app for iOS 6. This would be similar to what Apple did with iTunes U, releasing a separate app, and what they did with iBooks from the app’s launch. (Though I suspect that the reasons for iBooks’ separateness are either a) books are not sold in all countries, so the app can’t be included in iOS everywhere, and/or b) there may have been antitrust issues in bundling the app rather than having users download it expressly.)

While making a standalone Podcasts app would be great, what would be even better would be to sync podcasts via iTunes Match (or Podcast Match?). If there is a separate app, this would be used for finding podcasts, subscribing to them, downloading them and listening to them, all of which are done using iTunes on the desktop. But why should users have to do this on two devices: a computer and an iOS device? Why can’t these settings by synced to the cloud so users can access the same lists of podcasts easily without having to sync a device with iTunes?

Here’s how it could work. In iTunes on the desktop, you can choose which podcasts you want to subscribe to, and download them to listen to on your Mac or PC. When you open the Podcasts app on your iPhone, you’ll have the same list, with the little cloud icon next to each episode. You can either download the episodes you want to hear, or stream them when you listen to them. As you listen to episodes, they’ll be marked as listened on iTunes, which will update its information from the cloud. And when you listen on iTunes, the same will happen on your iOS device.

You would also be able to delete a podcast on either a computer or device, and have it deleted from all your devices. You could subscribe on your iPhone and find the new podcast in your iTunes library. All of this could be easily done via the cloud; even more easily than with music, since there is no matching involved, but each podcast has a unique name.

This would make one less type of media to sync, and make podcasts not only easier to manage and use, but also more prominent, as they would have their own app.

Naturally, this wouldn’t entail a separate desktop app; there’s no logical reason to remove this functionality from iTunes, in part because iTunes still syncs with non-iOS devices.

With the existence of separate apps on iOS for different types of content already – Music, Videos and iTunes U – splitting out podcasts makes sense. But adding the ability to sync via the cloud would go even further.