April 29, 2021
I used to be able to do most of my podcast listening in the first tab of Apple's Podcasts app.
From time to time I'd dip into the search tab to find a new podcast or the library tab to manage my shows or episodes - but mostly I'd use the list in the first tab.
New episodes would pop up there in an easily navigated list and I could swipe left on an episode if I was done with it or not interested.
Then Apple decided that I didn't own the main tab of the Podcasts app - they did.
They completely changed it so that my up next list at the top shows a single podcast episode and a sliver of the next. I have to tap a button to get back to my old starting point - and even then it isn't what it used to be.
The rest of the first tab is taken up with shows I might like, episodes I might like, and episodes I've recently played.
These are all things that I don't use or want to use all the time - they used to be elsewhere.
So I developed a new workflow.
I automatically went to the third tab and selected latest episodes and got a list I would use to listen to my podcasts.
This is slightly annoying because I'd have to navigate back here when the app frequently forgot what page I was on.
But there was my list and I could swipe left to delete an episode, download the episode to my device, and tap to see the details of the episode.
All that changed Monday.
As of Monday if I swipe left on an episode then I am saying that I want to download it to the device.
No I'm not. I'm saying I want to delete it - Podcasts is interpreting that as "Oh, you must want to download it to this device."
I looked at the blue download arrow and shouted at it, "what makes you think that that's what I want to do. A left swipe is delete."
It smiled back at me and said, "go ahead, swipe left again."
So I did.
Now a swipe left is a delete.
The same action does two different things depending on whether the episode is downloaded to the device or not. It either downloads it if it isn't there yet or it removes it from the device.
Remember - this is the result of a swipe - you don't see what it's going to do until you're mid-swipe.
"I know," I said spotting the Edit button at the top of the page, "I'll use Edit and delete a bunch of these at once."
So I tapped the Edit button.
The Edit button isn't an Edit button - it's a Filter button. It's just labeled "Edit".
You can hide played episodes, show the episodes newest to oldest or oldest to newest, or display the last 1 week, 2 weeks, or 3 weeks - nope not 3 weeks it jumps from 2 weeks to 1 month.
That's not an Edit button.
I accidentally swiped right on a podcast and it disappeared.
So swiping right marks it as played so it disappears from the list because I have "Hide played episodes" selected. Unfortunately, that didn't occur to me.
So I went to the list of shows.
In the past, if I accidentally deleted an episode I wanted to hear, I would go to the list of shows, scan through the alphabetical list of shows and re-download the episode.
So that's what I did and I found the most amazing thing.
The shows are no longer organized alphabetically.
They are organized by the date you subscribed to them.
I can imagine scenarios where that might be interesting but I can't see why that would ever be the default.
This was the straw that finally broke my allegiance to Podcasts.
For years this product hasn't been ideal. Every once in a while I make the mistake of opening Podcasts on my iPad or Mac and then I have to delete all of the episodes that were added that I've already listened to because syncing never seems to work correctly. It usually takes me days to delete the thousands of episodes added whenever I do that.
Apple has some amazing products but Apple products are opinionated.
I use Keynote for my presentations - though I'm looking to leave that as well.
When I first switched from PowerPoint to Keynote there were a bunch of things that Keynote didn't do.
Keynote best supported giving the kind of presentations that Apple tended to give.
Once I understood that, I stopped fighting it.
With PowerPoint I was able to include links to demos that I could run by tapping the link in my slide and the other app would start up and take over the screen.
Keynote doesn't do that.
But Apple gives a lot of presentations so people internally use Keynote and the team makes sure that their needs are met. Pre-pandemic, the compelling presentations we saw on stage were brought to us using Keynote.
I feel the same way about the Watch.
There are clearly many people on the Watch team who love watches in general and Apple Watch in particular. They obviously embrace the health and fitness features of the watch.
The team responsible for Apple Watch love the product and use it.
I used to joke that if Eddie Cue read books that Books would be a much better app.
I was only half joking.
I don't believe the Books team loves books in general and reading books on devices in particular.
They don't go home and read using Books on their iPad. They don't compare the experience with Kindle and other readers. They don't have libraries with hundreds of books.
Maybe one or two do, but this is not a team built around readers and book lovers.
So many things would be better about the product if it were.
This, in my opinion, is the problem with Podcasts.
The team does not listen to podcasts like an average listener and they don't listen to podcasts like a super user.
I'll grant you that I may not be a typical podcast listener. I listen to a lot of podcasts. Most of the NPR and BBC shows I listen to these days I listen to as podcasts.
I also was an early podcaster so I probably listen differently. At MacWorld in January of 2006, O'Reilly debuted two podcasts. One was my show called "Distributing the Future". It was early and rough - but my point is I should make allowances that Podcasts isn't built for someone like me.
That said, it feels more and more built for checkboxes and not for people.
I'm sure they test each feature but do they use the redesigned product in anger?
When you are building and testing a product you are focused on the app.
When you are using a product, the app is supposed to disappear.
The task you are trying to accomplish is supposed to be in the forefront.
I pick up my phone and want to check out the latest episode of Scriptnotes.
I used to be able to open Podcasts, find the episode, tap "Details" if I wanted more information, tap to download it if I wanted it on my device, and play it.
Now each of these activities is a struggle.