Jul 12, 2011

Podcasts: An Alternative to iTunes on iOS Devices

If you are unfamiliar, a podcast is a series of audio (or video) episodes that you can subscribe to and listen to using special software, sometimes called a podcatcher.  There are podcasts on nearly every subject from news to politics to sermons to sports to education to technology to old radio show...I could go on.  Some are short, just a few minutes or so.  Some are over an hour.  My own church has a podcast of each Sunday's sermon.  On my drive home from work I listen to MacOS Ken, a podcast with the latest news on the Apple world.

So how do you enter the world of podcasting?  You need a podcatcher.  If you are reading this blog, chances are good that you have one of the most well-know podcatchers in iTunes.  With iTunes, you can subscribe to podcasts (which are listed in the iTunes store) and then sync those podcasts to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.  I used to subscribe to podcasts via iTunes and then sync them to my iPhone.  I got away from this and turned to other options for two reasons:
  1. Getting the latest episode of a podcast required syncing with iTunes, which meant being near a computer. For very timely podcasts, especially those with news, that's a real challenge.
  2. Unlistened-to podcasts can take a lot of space on your iOS device.  My phone would fill up fast, which meant less room for apps and music. I wanted to be able to stream podcasts when I wanted rather than having to store them.
Primarily for these two reasons, I turned to podcatching apps.  I've tried several that were pretty good, including Stitcher Radio, Podcaster, and AudioPress before landing on Downcast, my new favorite.  Downcast streams or downloads, your choice.  I generally prefer streaming but if I'm going to have a poor internet connection, such as when driving through the country, or no internet connection, such as when flying, downloading is preferable.  Downcast has a great catalog, better than any of these other apps.  It even will Airplay the podcast to your Apple TV if you have one so that you can share an episode with everyone in your living room.

If you haven't tried podcasting, start by browsing the Podcasts section of iTunes and see if there is anything interesting to you.  Then go get one of these apps, such as Downcast, and start listening.

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