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Why I'm giving up on Apple's Podcasts app

I'm finally switching from the Podcasts apps because I deserve better.

Apple's Podcasts app is no longer the worst app Apple ever made, as my colleague Rick Broida argued years ago. Broida checked back with the app last year and discovered that, after a major overhaul, it was serviceable, which may be the nicest thing anyone's ever said about the Podcasts app.

For me, the app's serviceability makes it all the more maddening. It does just enough that I keep using it. But no longer!

Like most phone users, I'm am fighting a war on two fronts. I am battling to stay below my data cap each month, while also attempting to avoid seeing the "Storage almost full" warning on my iPhone. The Podcasts app offers little help on either front because of how poorly it manages downloads.

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Matt Elliott/CNET

Where are my downloaded episodes?

I disabled cellular playback (Settings > Podcasts > Cellular Data) so I don't run up data charges streaming podcasts when I'm away from Wi-Fi. And I don't have podcasts automatically download (Settings > Podcasts > Download Episodes) because I subscribe to too many podcasts and don't want them taking up space on my iPhone.

I appreciate these settings, but the Podcasts app does no favors for someone like me who sometimes streams and sometime downloads.

Because I'm usually on Wi-Fi, I usually just stream podcast episodes. But when I have a car trip or a long dog walk ahead of me, I will download a few episodes to take with me. And what makes the Podcasts app for frustrating to me is the egg hunt it forces me to go on in order to find the episodes I've downloaded when I'm on a cellular connection.

It's nearly impossible.

I searched high and low in the Podcasts app for a simple list of my downloaded episodes, but it offers no such list. Instead, it grays out the episodes I haven't downloaded and makes me hunt through my podcast subscriptions on My Podcasts or the Unplayed list to find the few episodes that aren't grayed out.

Unless I downloaded recent episodes that sit at the top of the Unplayed list, a good deal of searching is required before I come across a downloaded episode.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Deleting episodes is a nightmare

Not only is it harder than it should be to find downloaded episodes to play, but it's also difficult to locate downloaded episodes to delete. If you go to Settings > Podcasts, you can tap the toggle switch for Delete Played Episodes. You can also adjust this setting by tapping the gear icon above the Unplayed/Feed header for each podcast and turning on Delete Played Episodes.

This setting is helpful in clearing out old podcast unless you are like me and don't listen to the last minute or two of most podcasts because that's when the host usually runs through the sponsors and plays an ad.

If you have it set to delete played episodes, then make sure you tap the triple-dot button in the lower-right corner of the Now Playing screen and select Mark as Played.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

You can also swipe left on an episode from on the Unplayed list and tap Delete. But this assumes you have located a downloaded episode.

To find and delete all of your downloaded podcasts, go to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage > Podcasts. Here, you won't see individual episodes listed but instead how much space each is currently allocated for each podcast's downloads. Swipe left on a podcast and tap Delete to delete all of its downloaded episodes.

Podcasts alternatives

Until the Podcasts app receives an update to make finding downloaded episodes easier, I suggest Overcast or Downcast -- both podcast apps show only downloaded episodes when you are on a cellular connection and have disabled streaming via cellular. Instead of graying out the episodes you can't play in such an instance, both apps smartly remove them so you see only the downloaded episodes you can play.

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