Apple Podcasts is the AM to Apple Music’s FM. The two apps should be almost on par at all times, particularly now that the company is turning podcasts into an app that includes paid subscriptions. The app hasn’t always gotten the love it deserves, but that’s starting to change. There are lots of ways Apple could take the podcasts app to the next level as it enters into a new era. Here are some of my ideas…
Arguably the most important component of any audio playback app is the now playing screen. It’s where listeners spend most of their time. The current now playing screen could use some work. It’s not as up-to-date as the iOS 14 Apple Music player, but it totally can be.
The first step is to make the entire background as colorful as possible by taking the podcast’s artwork and blurring it full-screen. It’s a small visual tweak, but it has made a huge difference in Apple Music. Functionally, though, there are ways to improve the now playing screen, too. Chapters could be moved front and center with a dedicated button in the lower left corner. Instead of scrolling below the entire now playing screen to get to them, they’d appear right where lyrics would in the Music app.
A really innovative feature that I can see Apple doing at some point in the future is more accessibility focused. Lyrics in the music app were a fun addition, but transcriptions in podcasts could be infinitely more useful. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing could see the audio of a podcast transcribed in realtime. The text could scroll along with the duration indicator, too, so you can see exactly what time that text occurred.
More ways to monetize
Apple is launching paid podcast subscriptions in just a few weeks, but not every podcaster wants to offer a paid subscription. In fact, many of them make money using merchandise or digital goodies. Apple could let podcasters upload product listings through Apple Podcasts Connect and serve listeners a dedicated store page in the podcasts app.
It could integrate directly with popular merchants like Cotton Bureau or Gumroad to offer purchases and downloads. Apple could do this in two ways. The first is simply by creating links to those store pages. In that case, they wouldn’t get a major cut of the purchase. If they partnered with these merchants, they could take a similar 70/30 revenue split like they will from subscriptions.
The Browse and Library tabs should be optimized to better support podcast subscriptions and podcast networks. I’d love to be able to browse podcasts by podcast network and see featured subscriptions.
Over in the Library tab, I’d like to see new categories for those networks and for your paid subscriptions. It would also be useful if you could bookmark individual moments in a podcast in addition to full episodes. Apple also shows you a grid of recently followed shows below your categories. I’d love to see them let you choose to show shows you frequently play instead.
Discovery with radio stations
Apple Music has a bunch of dedicated radio stations that play music on a regular schedule. There are specific shows and stations that play different genres. Apple could launch Apple Podcasts Radio stations for different genres of shows. They could regularly rotate different featured episodes to help people find something to listen to when they’re not sure what they want.
I can see podcast stations like Apple Podcasts Comedy or Apple Podcasts Business. There could be a sports station, a true crime station, a news station and so many others.
Just give me a list
My biggest personal gripe with the Apple Podcasts app is the listen now tab. Currently, it shows you a horizontal list of what’s up next. They’re episodes of shows you follow. But I’d much prefer Apple surface the latest episodes page. I want it to act like a feed rather than a curated guide.
Apple could move “shows you might like” and “episodes you might like” over to the suggestions tab. When I launch my podcast client, I just want to see the latest episodes of my subscriptions. I don’t want someone else trying to immediately tell me to listen to another show.
An Android client
One other thing that many of us would be interested in Apple doing, is releasing a version of Apple Podcasts on Android to complement the Android version of Apple Music. While I personally think it’s unlikely given the size discrepancies between the two business, it could certainly be a topic of discussion internally.
The app could adopt the same design changes that Apple Music on Android already does, like using the Roboto font instead of San Francisco. It would also need to support Chromecast rather than AirPlay. I imagined what it might look like on a Galaxy S10.
The Podcasts app received a bunch of user interface tweaks in iOS 14.5, and they’ve helped improve the experience quite a bit. But there are so many other ways to improve what is about to become one of the most important apps on your iPhone. I’m hopeful that iOS 15 will include some larger changes to the podcast app and that paid subscriptions will take off. It’ll give Apple more incentive to continually improve the app.
What do you think about these ideas for improving the Apple Podcasts app? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!
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