Thursday, July 12, 2012

120. Podcasts App

My very first article for Digital Disney World was titled "Podcasts, Podcasts, Podcasts." I posted it back on New Years Day in 2011 and featured this relatively new media that's had a huge impact on the Disney fan community. As I wrote in that article, several of these podcasters were major influences on my decision to start my own blog. I was very excited to see that there were "radio shows" dedicated to Walt Disney World, and that there are so many people, like myself, who have a passion for this place.

Now, about a year and a half later, the podcasting phenomenon is bigger than ever. Although not everyone listens to podcasts, most people have at least heard about them. I recently read an article that talks about the major impact this media has had on live talk radio. In all honesty, since I started listening to podcasts, I rarely tune in talk radio stations anymore. There are podcasts on nearly any subject you can think of, and you don't have to listen to commercials. It makes you wonder how much longer talk radio will survive. Most people (including my mom) now own either an iPhone or at least some form of iPod, and just about every new car comes with an iPod hookup.
Podcasts are available to download from the iTunes store and can be listened to on just about any portable Apple device. You can even listen to them on many non-Apple devices. Up until now, you'd access your downloaded podcasts through the built-in "music" app and listen through there. That has worked ok, but two weeks ago Apple released a dedicated podcast app that gives you a better overall experience. Although it has been getting mixed reviews, I have been using it quite a bit and like the way it is set up. "Podcasts" is a free app so there is no risk in giving it a try.

When you first open the "Podcasts" app, it will show you album art for the shows that are already downloaded on your device. You simply tap on the show you want to access and it takes you right to the entire catalog of episodes. This is one of my favorite features of this app as compared to using the old "music" app. In the old days you'd have to go into iTunes to search for episodes, but now this is included in the "Podcasts" app. You can instantly "stream" any show you'd like or click on the download arrow to import it to your device. There is also a little "i" icon which takes you to an information page about the episode. At the bottom of the page, you will find a "Top Stations" button that allows you to search through the most popular podcasts in many different categories.

Once you start playing a podcast, you will have access to a slew of controls that allow you to move around the recording as you please. The main "listening" page contains the standard play/pause, fast forward, and reverse buttons. There is also a skip backwards 10 seconds button, which I absolutely love. There are many times that I am listening to a podcast and I catch myself saying, "What did he just say?" Now I just tap on that button and I hear the last ten seconds once again.  In addition to the backwards button, there is a skip ahead 30 seconds button. Finally, there is a standard volume slider at the bottom.

Most of the "listening" page is taken up by album art. However, when you tap on the screen, the album art disappears to reveal some additional and interesting features. First of all, the screen now looks like an old "reel to reel" tape recorder. There is a toggle switch in the middle that can be pointed at a turtle or a rabbit, so you can listen in slow motion or fast forward. To the left of that switch is a "share" button that allows you to email, tweet, or text message the episode to a friend. To the right of the switch is a "sleep" button that lets you set a timer that will turn off the podcast if you plan to fall asleep while listening. This function is definitely not recommended when listening in a car! Finally, there is the typical "scrubbing" feature where you can drag the play marker to any spot on the timeline.

To summarize, I have enjoyed using the "Podcasts" app so far. Like most new Apple creations, it will probably be tweaked and fine tuned as time goes on. If you are a fan of podcasts, I would certainly suggest giving this app a try. If you still haven't jumped on the Disney podcast bandwagon yet, I would recommend going back to my very first article to learn about some of my favorites. Listening to podcasts really is a great way to "stay connected" to Walt Disney World when you can't be there yourself.

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

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