The Apple Podcasts App, that mysterious purple button on your iPhone…
Are you wondering what Apple Podcasts is, what it does, and why it might turn out to be the best app on your phone? Well, that's what this article is all about.
But, if you're still confused – and a LOT of people are – then this is for those who want a beginner's guide to the app and to podcasting at large. Why should you be listening? Let's see!
So What is the Apple Podcasts App?
Quite simply, it's Apple's default app for downloading and subscribing to podcasts.
And if your next question is “what is a podcast?” then here's the shortest and simplest way of explaining.
A podcast is a series of audio episodes – often like talk radio – on a particular subject, which are available for anyone to listen to, on the internet, for free.
There are exceptions to this definition, such as video podcasts, and ‘premium' podcasts that cost money to listen to. These are the exception, rather than the rule though.
However, inside Apple Podcasts you don't need to worry about this. Every show you'll find in there is an audio show – and they're all free!
So a “Show” is a Podcast Series?
Exactly. Just like a TV show is a series of episodes, a podcast show is a series of episodes too.
You can call a podcast a “show” or a “series”, just like you would with serialised programs you watch on TV.
Estimates vary, but the total number of different podcasts out there could be as high as 400,000 as of mid-2017.
That's a lot of different shows, on a lot of different topics. And that's the big reason why Apple Podcasts is the best app on your phone.
What Topics Can I Find on Apple Podcasts?
Pretty much every topic under the sun has a podcast about it, no matter how niche or obscure.
The most popular topics are those you'd often find on TV or radio, like sport, films, politics, and crime.
But the best thing is that you'll also find podcasts on totally niche and obscure topics, like knitting, cheese making, or rare languages. Those are the ones you'd struggle to find a TV show about!
Why Listen to Podcasts?
Why would you want to access a world of free, on-demand information, education and entertainment, all from the device in your pocket, at the touch of a button?
Yes, that's a rhetorical question…
In all seriousness though, that wee app is like having a free pass to pretty much every library or university course in the entire world. And a whole lot more on top of that.
And the beauty of audio is that you can consume content almost anywhere.
I always say that you can't read a book or watch a film whilst driving the car. At least not for very long, anyway. before you end up in jail or worse.
But you can listen to a podcast in the car. And this applies to almost every other practical or manual task you can think of too. Running the treadmill? Walking to work? Mowing the lawn? Ironing your clothes? Cooking your dinner? The list is huge.
Let's hope you're convinced by now. So, instead of going on even more about how great podcasts are, let's get you set up so you can find out for yourself…
Here's How to Get Started
Firstly, open up the Apple Podcasts app on your phone.
Click on the ‘Search' tab. This is essentially the podcasting version of a Google search, the kind you might well have used to find this article.
Here, the world is your oyster. You can type in any hobby or interest of yours, start finding podcasts about them, and be on your way.
Sometimes though, too much choice can be overwhelming.
So if your mind is drawing a blank, try these pointers…
1. Type in the name of your favourite celebrity
Alright, “celebrity” is a bit of a horrible word, but think of your favourite musician, actor, author, or athlete.
If they're still alive, you might find an episode or two where they've been interviewed.
You might find episodes, or whole series dedicated to them. Their life story, their career, etc.
They might even host their own podcast.
Because Terminator 2 was the best film ever made (I can't be reasoned with on this) I searched for big Arnie himself in the Apple Podcasts app.
As you can see, there were multiple shows that popped up. Some episodes with the man himself, and others about him.
Incidentally, I thoroughly recommend this episode with Schwarzenegger on The Tim Ferris Show. There's some fantastic insights and anecdotes in it.
If you're not a Terminator/Arnie fan though, then you can have a look for someone else instead.
Or, if you're ready to move on, then “I'll be back” with another pointer.
I actually cringed as I wrote that. Let's pretend it never happened, and move swiftly on. Yea, I don't know how to use the delete key…
2. Ask a Question
Maybe you're in the mood for something a bit more actionable.
Do you want to learn or achieve something?
There are people out there who have changed their lives because they started listening to a podcast on a particular subject.
Some have learned languages, or lost weight, or started their own business. Whatever you'd like to achieve, there's probably a podcast that can help you.
So type a question into the app's search bar and see what comes up. And if you end up rich and famous due to your newly learned skill, remember to track me down and buy me a pint. Here are a few examples:
- How can I eat more healthily?
- How do I get started in mountain biking?
- How do I start my own business?
- What's the best computer game?
- How did the 2nd World War Start?
3. Prefer Fiction Over Fact?
Maybe it's complete escapism from the real world that you're looking for.
If you're a serial novel reader or Netflix binger then maybe the fiction podcast is for you. All kinds of storytellers are using podcasting to get their work out there nowadays.
From authors to aspiring screenwriters, you'll find stories set in the far past, the distant future, and on other planets. Fiction podcasts can range from single person narration, to fully dramatised and soundscaped audio dramas.
If you'd like to dip your toe into the world of fiction podcasting, the best place to start is in our best fiction podcasts roundup.
I guarantee you'll find something you like there. And those shows are just the tip of a very large iceberg.
Subscribing to a Show in Apple Podcasts
When you find a podcast you like, you can subscribe to it so that new episodes are delivered to you automatically.
When you click on a particular show, it'll bring up a profile page with its description, episode list, and a ‘Subscribe' button.
Once subscribed to a show, you can alter your settings to suit your own listening preferences.
These settings include things like the ability to automatically delete played episodes, and how frequently the app will look for new episodes.
Go Forth and Listen!
Alright, if you're now raring to go off and listen to all these new podcasts then don't let me keep you any longer.
Just remember to come back and let me know what shows you've discovered, and which ones you're enjoying.
Or maybe you like the sound of podcasting so much that you want to start your own? If that's the case, here's our step by step guide on how to start a podcast.
Either way, get ready for a new addiction. You won't believe what's out there, just waiting to be listened to!