iPhone 2.2 Update Adds Podcast Downloads, But The Usability Is Truly HorrificNov 21st, 2008 | By James Lewin | Category: iPhone, iPods & Portable Media Players, Podcasting Software
Apple today introduced iPhone update 2.2. It’s a free update that adds a variety of new features, the most notable of which are adding street views to Google Maps and support for podcast downloads.Â
The updated podcasting features are welcome, but unfortunately Apple’s implementation of podcast downloads on the iPhone is a usability disaster.Â
Here’s a walkthrough of how it works.
Lets say you’re listening toÂ Griddlecakes RadioÂ in the iPhone iPod app, and you want to see if there are any new episodes.Â
Selecting the Get More Episodes option brings you to this screen:
This screen lets you see what episodes are available and select new podcasts to download. Notice that all the buttons at the bottom of the screen have changed.Â
Now, select a podcast and it will start to download……unless it’s too big:
After connecting to a WiFi network, the iPhone will start downloading the podcast:
Podcasts download very quickly over the iPhone’s WiFi connection.Â
Everything has been pretty straightforward and usable up to this point – but here’s where things get a bit ugly.
Once your download is complete, you get an empty screen:
Did the podcast download correctly?
Why is there a Redeem button?Â
Where did the podcast go?
Clicking the Podcasts button doesn’t take you back where you started in the iPod app, either:
Some of the episode are grayed out. Maybe that means you already downloaded it. But if you try clicking one of the grayed out labels, you get a message like this:
Why is it trying to play an audio podcast as a movie? And why can’t it play the file? And where am I, Apple?
Going back to the iPod iPhone app and checking the Podcasts area shows that the podcast was downloaded and is ready to play:
This whole thing is really damn kludgy for an Apple product.Â
While adding podcast downloads to the iPhone is a great new feature, it’s implemented in a very awkward way.Â
The reason for all this awkwardness is that Apple insists on putting podcasts in the iTunes Store, even though they are free. This means that when you want to download a new podcast from your iPhone, the iPhone kicks you out of the iPod application and into the iTunes Store application.Â
This isn’t very obvious and it doesn’t make much sense. As a user, you’re listening to a podcast, you select Get More Episodes, and all of a sudden you’re in a different application, with different buttons.Â
The decision to treat podcasts as something you “buy” (for free) through the Apple Store also means that you see confusing buttons, like the “Redeeem” button, while you download your free podcasts.Â
Finally, the decision to dump you out of the iPod app and into a new one means that you’ve got two user interfaces to learn if you want to listen (or watch) podcasts.Â
People are used to having Apple software just work. Here, Apple wants you to spend time in the Apple store, so they shoehorned podcasts into it and throw you into the store for no apparent reason.Â
Apple needs to rethink how it handles podcasts, because this is a confusing mess.Â
Tech-savvy users aren’t going to have any trouble getting used to this, but just try to explain what the heck is going on here to a typical user that just wants to listen to a new episode of their favorite podcast.Â
It’s a shame that Apple has implemented this in such a botched fashion, especially since it killed off competition for iPhone podcasting apps earlier in the year.