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The worst app Apple ever made

Apple does a lot of things right, but this app is such a huge misfire, it rates only 1.5 stars in the App Store. Fortunately, there are some great alternatives.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read
Apple's Podcasts app: barf.
Apple's Podcasts app: barf. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Podcasts are all kinds of awesome. A Prairie Home Companion, This American Life, Wiretap, The Truth -- there's a virtually endless supply of great listening to be had free of charge.

Apple's Podcasts app, on the other hand, is all kinds of suck. It's so abysmal that I'm breaking my if-you-can't-say-anything-nice rule to vent my hatred of it. Ever since it debuted last June, I've tried to put up with it, tried to work around its countless limitations and atrocious interface. But no more. I'm done.

What's the problem with Podcasts? Ye gods, where do I start? Maybe with its very existence: Apple pried podcast listening out of the Music app instead of giving users a choice in the matter. What used to be easy -- tap the Music icon that lives, omnipresently, in my bottom row, then tap Podcasts -- now requires me to hunt for a separate app.

Plus, I can no longer navigate or listen to podcasts using my car's audio controls. Oh, and playlists? Nuh-uh. I realize podcasts aren't music, but I sure did like having them under that same roof. To my thinking, Apple tried to fix something that wasn't broken.

The new Podcasts app consists of three sections -- Podcasts, Top Stations, and Store -- that each have radically different interfaces. The Store, at least, looks just like the regular iTunes store, so at least there's some familiarity there. But Top Stations employs a weird horizontal dial that scrolls you through the various categories -- assuming your finger doesn't get in the way of their names, which it often does.

But it's the Podcasts section of Podcasts that's the real problem. When you're actually listening to a program, there's no progress meter, no scrubber; all you see is an oversize show placard. If you tap it, it raises to reveal...an old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape machine with spools that turn while you listen. Uh, what? I mean, it looks neat, I guess, but it's utterly pointless. A progress meter/scrubber appears below that, but it's so tiny as to be impractical. And the share, playback speed, and sleep-timer buttons that also appear on this "tape deck" are inexplicably dark and hard to read.

Semantics, right? So the player interface is a little goofy. I could live with that, but I can't live with this: Podcasts frequently forgets where you left off. Let's say I listen to the first half of an episode of This American Life. The next day, I load up Podcasts again, but there's no resume option, no Now Playing button that immediately returns me to the program I'd been listening to. (Actually, that button does appear if you restart Podcasts soon after quitting, but let a day go by and it's gone.)

So first I have to remember what show it was (you try being 44 and see how well you remember things), then remember which episode it was. If I guess right on both counts, Podcasts picks up where I left off. But up till then, it's all guesswork. That's ridiculous beyond belief.

I'm not alone in hating Podcasts: Nearly 4,000 reviewers in the App Store rated it 1.5 stars on average. That's a pretty blistering indictment; even Find My Friends, another Apple app that's taken its share of lumps, rates three stars.

The good news is that unlike, say, Game Center and Weather, Podcasts can be deleted. The App Store is home to countless alternatives that offer a vastly superior podcast listening and management experience, including perennial favorite Downcast, beloved freebie Stitcher Radio, and top-rated iCatcher.

Those are my feelings on the subject; now let's hear yours. Do you detest Apple's Podcasts as much as I do? If so, what app have you replaced it with?