Do you still download or sync podcasts onto your iPhone or iPad?


The new Apple TV is famously streaming-only but with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad you can still choose between downloading certain types of media to your local device or streaming them straight from the internet.

This pertains mostly to audio and video podcasts either in the iTunes Store app or right inside Safari from a direct, iOS-friendly link, but it struck me when reviewing Apple TV (2010) just how little I actually download any more.

A year ago I subscribed to tons of podcasts in iTunes and synced them over to my iPhone and original Apple TV. Today I sync almost nothing. I haven'd downloaded a podcast in months.

When I see in RSS or Twitter a new episode of a podcast I listen to or watch is available, I just hit the link and start streaming, and iOS 4's background music API is solid enough that I seldom have to worry about downloading it. It mostly -- though not always -- remembers my place when I come back to it the next day or even the next week and just keeps right on streaming.

Sure, it uses 3G data and depending on your plan that might be a deal-breaker but for me, not having to remember to sync content over and being able to pull something up and just listen on demand is killer.

How about you, do you still download or sync podcasts onto your iPhone or iPad?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Do you still download or sync podcasts onto your iPhone or iPad?


I have all my podcasts set-up to download automatically and to sync the newest episode onto my iPhone. When I plug my iPhone in at night to charge, it syncs and the new podcasts are there for me to listen to when I drive to work the next morning. As I drive through the countryside on my way to work there are frequently areas of no coverage for 3G so this method suits me best.

Data usage is the deal breaker now. Unless i'm at home on wifi i can't stream. 500mb doesn't go far when listening to radio & podcast. The phone that does everything 'within reason' lol

I download and sync at night. I'm subscribed to a bunch of them, and it works out perfectly because, the radio in my work truck stopped working. So I just play the podcasts through my Jawbone Icon even when um driving.

I still use iTunes and sync each day as I listen to lots of podcasts, it is a pain.
Unfortunately streaming is not an option for me in the UK, mobile operators are squeezing the data tariffs, where 500mb is now the norm, it is stifling smartphone usage.
Also 3G coverage out of the city is patchy at best, GPRS is common where I live and work.

I still download, for the simple reason that I really appreciate the ability to go back to old episode in my iTunes Podcast library. But you sure have a point here....

I download and sync through iTunes still. I subscribe to almost 40 podcasts so I usually only carry the latest episode of each one. I like being able to rewind 30 intervals when I miss something or didn't understand it well enough.
I only stream podcasts when I'm away from my desktop for an extended period of time and really want to listen to something right away.

Yep, sure do! Sometimes I sync, sometimes I download on wifi. Sometimes I'll stream it if I can't find wifi and a new episode is available.

Download on my computer and sync usually. I like to listen to them on my commute and London tube still doesn't have mobile coverage.

I still do a good amount of downloading of podcasts. I travel extensively for my "day job" so the ability to stream isn't an option for me all the time.

I use the Podcaster app to download podcasts to my iPhone using my wi-fi at home and then play them on my way to/from work.

Although I download less than I used to, I still listen and watch a bunch of podcasts. I rely heavily on smart playlists for this.
The Playcount bug on the new atv broke my smart playlist method. Hope they fix it soon.

I listen to LOADS of podcasts (I have 500 outstanding in iTunes). I'm always syncing my shuffle to iTunes to keep up to date, but i want a new Nano instead.

I have an AppleScript set to refresh my podcast list and sync my iPhone 15 minutes before my alarm goes off in the morning. I download 8-12 hours of content per day (without 2x listening I'd be doomed). I subscribe to ~150 podcasts, some are 90 minutes and some are 90 seconds...setting everything up in iTunes on laptop is just easier than dealing with link clicking or streaming. Everything is smart playlisted out and now that Apple has FINALLY figured out how to have smart playlists sync to iPhone I have a near-perfect setup.

Data usage and network coverage are the problem.
I use the RSSRadio app on the iPhone to download my Podcasts (usually via wifi but sometimes out and about), there is no need to be downloading on the computer and syncing over its just not time efficient.

I use the Podcaster app. It really annoyed me that the dev didn't give an update to ios4 w/o paying for the app again, and removed push notifications, but it does what I want it to do. so i bought it again. I never use the

While streaming is a great supplement, it is not practical for average use for the average person. First, one has to have the data plan. I have unlimited. Not everyone does. Second, one must have ubiquitous 3G, minimum. That is just a pipe dream for all but a relative few. It is often in the places that have the least connectivity that you want to listen to a podcast, as there is little else to do.
Third, streaming is an awful idea for video podcasts as they do not support bookmarking. Fourth, none of this is any good for a non-iOS 4 device. With no bookmarking or multitasking on the iPad at this time, forget about it. Do you really want to do all your listening on the tiny iPhone speaker, or be forced to where headphones at home to get your podcast on? Not me.
Finally, there is no built-in way to have a playlist of streaming podcasts. You just have to remember all of the podcasts you want to listen to. Ultimately, I can't think of a good reason why one would not subscribe on a computer and sync. There is enough space on all iOS devices that can stream. We have the GBs. You do not have to actively manage podcasts. They show up when they are available.
You can listen on as many devices as you want, and sync bookmarks across all devices. I listen at my computer on the good speakers when I am in my office, my iPhone when I am out and about, and my iPad at all other times. Streaming only works with one device, and then, with limitations.
Streaming only, seams like a solution in search of a problem. Every other media playing device manufacturer would kill to have an iTunes sync solution. Just look at what Palm was willing to do to get it. The only thing I would like to see added is iBooks-style, OTA bookmark syncing across all devices.

I download and sync with my iPhone 3GS. I don't want to have to remember to get an episode, or some of mine update so frequently that I don't have time to listen to one before the next one is released, so this gets them all and puts all my unlistened ones on my phone.

What are your top favorite podcasts you guys subscribe to?
My top are:
Robb Wolf: Paleolithic Solution
Andrew Warner's Mixergy

I never download podcast. It is easier for me to stream. Then i don't have to wait for it to be downloaded or fill up the storage on my iPhone. I have cheap free data, and i am allways on 3G on my daily trip to school. And there are generaly a good 3G coverage in my city.

I still download on the pc then sync for many reasons - chief among them is the fact that I dig multiple VIDEO podcasts. Big and slow per 3G. Impossible without a jailbreak and doable, but relatively slow post-jailbreak.
Also, my iPad doesn't do true multitasking and has hiccups that make streaming less than ideal.

I hate having to plug in my iPod Touch daily, so I use the app mentioned above called "Podcaster"
It lets you subscribe to your favorite feeds and downloads everything wirelessly.

Still download and will continue to do so. Part of my daily commute is underground (Subway) and streaming does not do me any good there. Even when cell signals are provide in the NYC subway, it will initially only be available at each station platform and not within the actual tunnels.

I download podcasts for all these reasons, but the absolute #1 reason I do so is because of the x2 feature on podcasts in the iPod app. I can listen to many more podcasts when I list to them at twice the speed, especially since most of them are spoken and not music.
Technically it's not truly twice the speed, more like a 1/3 speed increase, but still listen to a 45 minute podcast on my 30 minute drive to work. I'm addicted to podcasts!

I download about ten podcasts a day. I use download because you can play them at 2x speed. I do not use iTunes. I use Podcaster and love it! Download over 3G and wifi

Download and sync, for the most part; occasionally download right on iPhone if I forget to sync. :) I listen to podcasts mainly on my work commute, which is mainly via subway, so streaming is not an option.

I have never downloaded. I always stream, but only at home on wifi. In fact, I rarely use 3G data. I have good wifi at home and work, and in between I'm driving my car, paying attention to traffic.

People keep talking about the "Podcaster" app but I only see an app called "Podcatcher" and it's reviews atr $#!++¥.

I always download my podcasts to iTunes. I listen to so many it would be to hard to keep track of without. Plus I don't really get a very reliable 3G signal.

iTunes still downloads and syncs them automatically for me (the three newest episodes of each podcast), but by the time that they sync over, I have usually listened to them via streaming.

I'm with the 2x crowd, so I need to sync. Even when I'm at my computer, I'll listen to podcasts from my iPhone just for 2x. Listening to people in 1x now sound so strange to me.

I sync podcasts the old-fashioned way. I've never understood streaming. It's a neat concept, but invariably produces a lousy experience for the end user. It's bad enough when watching streaming video at home and, all of a sudden, the video stops when there is no more buffer. With an even slower 3G connection, I just couldn't imagine how bad that would be when you move in and out of dead zones, have to deal with overloaded networks, etc.

@Tim and others
Again, if you are digging "PodcaTCHer" (I see no app called "PodcaSTer") then you should leave some positive reviews for it. At present it has a two-star rating.
I refuse to buy it due to the current reviews (and the fact that you all are referring to it by a different name).

@ Rene/TiPb
The comments organization system is kinda confusing. My previous comment, for instance, is apparently the 51st yet it is listed as comment 1. Just my two cents. Thanks.

I use Podcaster all the time and it works great for downloading podcasts but never needing to sync up to a computer. Even works over 3G if you'd like it to. Nice organization. I love it. I've got the TipB iPhone & iPad podcasts bookmarked in there.

Still sync daily, but like that I can have a playlist that syncs, so one show plays right into the next, in order of how they come in, instead of having to notice a link in twitter, go find it, and hit play. My iTunes playlist is also set to only show unplayed podcasts, so podcasts I'm done with drop off of the playlist even before I sync with the computer the next day.
If I forget to sync, and there is a particular podcast I want to listen to, I will stream from iTunes store app, but that is rare.

I use podcaster to sync the few I listen to most commonly (over wifi) and stream or download (over 3G) the ones I listen to sporadically.

Well, I like to go for quality, rather than quantity. I certainly wouldn't need a "ton" of podcasts. The eight to ten shows I subscribe to come out pretty regularly, so syncing new episodes via iTunes is not something I have to remember and listening to them on my iPhone is still the best setup for me.

I almost never download podcasts anymore. The rare exception is if I am going on a long road trip and I tend to use my iPod Touch instead of my iPhone and in that case I have to DL the Pod. Overall though I think that the streaming is great on IOS and that is the reason that I do not download much anymore.

i don't have an iphone yet, i have an older ipod. And i download them almost ever single day.
I live in America but love soccer and the mainstream media give it zero coverage so i listen to hours and hours of soccer podcasts. most produced in England and some in the U.S.. The rest of Americans watch sportscenter or primetime and get their nfl discussions on monday. I have to listen to podcasts cause it's all that's really there. so Yes i do daily. And it's by far the biggest thing i listen to.

I still download and sync. They come in regularly on iTunes and then i don't have to go searching for or worry about clicking links. I don't miss any episodes that way either.

Podcaster. It has totally changed the way I consume podcasts. It works great. Subscribe to whatever pcasts you want and it will automatically download new episodes. You can even tell it to only download over wifi and save latest episode (or however many you like). Love this app and have had it in my dock for the last year.

I use the Reeder app to check for new podcast episodes then download them using the iTunes app direct to my phone over wifi at home. I haven't plugged my phone into iTunes in a long, long time. Every time I do it stuffs up the played status of my direct-downloaded podcasts. I will try streaming in the future as the 3G connectivity is good where I live (Melbourne, Australia), however I won't be able to do it at work due to network restrictions.

Download through landline and sync. It's about 25 MB per hour for podcasts. If you listen to 10 hours of podcasts a week, that's about 1 GB of data. No way I'm eating up that much data for podcasts.
Data caps are one of the things that'll hold back the utility of "mobile". I can't see much progress when we're capped the way we are. There's even problems with landline bandwidth if everyone does it. What's the sign that wireless data ubiquity has arrived? Live broadcasts everywhere in 480p? That's about 1 GB for a 2 hour event/show. What if you want to watch 8 2-hour events a month? If on a landline, what if you want to watch 720p or 1080p streaming? I just can't see "live" happening in the next 2 or 3 years.

So I wanna be clear because I bought the RSS podcaster app awhile ago ...but it was never fully usable as there were a number of bugs which I thought would be worked out at some point. Then I learn apparently that they came up with another app altogether that's supposed to actually work as intended...but u have to buy a whole new app?? Alex, can u please explain this??

I used to use iTunes, but i now use Podcaster. The real advantage is the ability to listen to the podcasts in a latest first chronological order so it functions like radio. Similar to Stitcher but with no commercials.
I see the authors point of using the iOS native media player but I tend to use audio for different purposes. For instance if I'm stationary in Wifi land I'll use nice (but buggy) NPR News. When I've moved into an area with no wifi I'll use Podcaster and catch up with the podcasts.

I usually stream my podcasts, except when I travel out of town as there is absolutelly no AT&T coverage between Gainville, FL and Atlanta, GA. Between all my co-workers who are on Verizon or T-Mobile, I have noticed that T-Mob has by far the best coverage, then Verizon and last AT&T (All Troubles & Tears).

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