How to get started with iPad podcast app Instacast HD

Instacast HD is a slick podcast app for the iPad that features iCloud support for syncing podcasts across your various iOS devices.

You can enable iCloud Sync from the start. Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

With Instacast HD just released last week, the iPad gets a slick and easy-to-use podcast player that also offers iCloud support.

I sync my iPad more than I used to before iOS 5 and Wi-Fi Sync, but with its excellent battery, syncing my iPad is still far from a daily occurrence. Thus, the podcasts I subscribe to via iTunes don't make it to my iPad on a regular schedule. And managing podcasts through the iPad's iTunes and Music apps is a pain. With Instacast HD, streaming or downloading and playing audio and video podcasts is dead simple. And with iCloud support, your podcasts are magically synced across your other iOS devices.

Launch the app and the first thing you'll want to do is hit the "+" button in the upper-left corner to subscribe to podcasts. They are arranged by popularity, genre, just added, and video. There is also a search function, and if you tap the link button in the upper-left corner of the subscribe window, you can manually enter a URL of an obscure podcast not listed. Lastly, you can add podcasts you've previously subscribed to by tapping on the Music App button.

It's easy to browse or search for new podcasts to subscribe to. Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Your podcasts are then listed in a column along the left side; each gets its own artwork tile. At the top of the column is a tile that houses all of your unplayed episodes, and at the bottom of the column is a tile that shows the last podcast you were listening to or watching. You can rearrange the order by tapping and holding on a tile to drag it to a new spot.

You can browse the podcasts you subscribe to by swiping up and down the column on the left and read show notes for episodes on the right. Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Tap on a tile to see show notes of the latest episode. You can swipe to browse through older episodes. At the top above the show notes is a play button to stream an episode. Oddly, you must tap on the podcast's tile at the bottom of the column to pause, rewind, and fast-forward. (I think it would make more sense for those controls to be at the top of the screen next to the play button.) The other controls at the top let you mark an episode as read or unread, star an episode, and download an episode. You can view starred episodes by tapping the star icon in the thin, gray sidebar that runs down the left edge of the display.

Video podcasts, such as Molly Wood's Buzz Report (I trust you all are watching), look great on the iPad. Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Instacast's use of iCloud requires no work on your end. When you first launch the app, it'll ask you if you would like to enable iCloud. And if you miss it there, you can turn on iCloud Sync in Settings. With iCloud Sync, podcasts I subscribed to on my iPad automatically showed up on my iPhone, and vice versa. Better yet, you can start playing a podcast on one device and pick it up right where you left off on another device.

Unlike Downcast , which is a universal app, I did have to pay for Instacast twice: $1.99 for the iPhone app and $4.99 for the iPad app. Given how easy the app is to use and how much I like its design, I feel it's worth the cost. Plus, Downcast is still an update away from offering iCloud support.

What's your preferred podcast app for the iPad? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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