The iPhone 3G and 3GS are wonderful devices. The iPhone OS3 is amazing. But the implementation of podcasts is still not very good. And that's an understatement.
The way it works now is that users subscribe to their beloved podcasts in iTunes and sync their iPhone with it. However, iTunes biggest flaw is that if you do not listen to the podcast for a while (actually: do not listen in iTunes, it doesn't see that you listened in the iPhone), it stops updating. Yes, you can manually open the iPod function in your iPhone, go to Podcasts and push "find more episodes".
That's fine and dandy, but it needs the user to check if there's a new one or not. Cumbersome. Not to mention there's a 10MB limit on podcast downloads over 3G. But that point is moot compared to the other issues.
There's been a podcast app for the iPhone for quite some time: RSS Player. You can subscribed to RSS podcast feeds and it will download to your iPhone. I love the app for the ease of subscribing and downloading podcasts but I really dislike it when it comes to user friendliness. But the major no-no is that it cannot run in the background, like the iPod can. That's not the developer's fault, it's that Apple won't allow these background processes. When I'm on the bike or scooter, I like to pause, skip, control the iPhone using the mic button on my earbud cable. Not possible in RSS Player. Once you click the mic button, the iPhone starts the iPod function .. Closing RSS Player along the way. Stupid.
So, here is a proposal I'd like to see imlpemented on the next OS update, for a NATIVE podcast experience that works:
- The user subscribes to podcasts in iTunes (or iTunes.app on iPhone)
- The subscription data is stored in your iTunes account, so it's available online (and could eventually be downloaded as an OPML file)
- The Apple iTunes backend systems send out a PUSH notification to the iPod application on the iPhone if there's a new episode for download.
- The user can then open up the iPod app and download the episodes.
The "old school" iTunes syncing is still available, with one small adaptation that the podcasts don't stop updating when not listened in iTunes. Any subscription updates are stored in the cloud, instead locally on your mac/pc. So you're always up to date whereever you listen.