Utilizing the Apple Watch as a standalone, iPod-style podcast participant is sensible: Load episode information into its inner storage, depart the iPhone behind, and hit play on the Apple Watch to start out listening by means of AirPods or different Bluetooth earbuds. This strategy appeals to athletes and those that favor to not carry an iPhone always.
Till lately, although, copying podcast information to the Apple Watch might solely be completed utilizing obscure third-party apps with tough edges and reliability issues (see “Five Apps That Play Podcasts Directly from Your Apple Watch,” 9 April 2018).
Now, because of capabilities uncovered in watchOS 5, higher podcast apps have arrived. Apple has launched an Apple Watch model of its Podcasts iOS app, which allows transferring podcasts from telephone to observe and turns the Apple Watch into a respectable standalone podcast participant. Podcasts works with Apple Watch variations all the method again to the Collection 1 however excludes the unique Apple Watch, which can’t run watchOS 5.
The favored (and free) Overcast podcast app for iOS now additionally has a sibling app on the Apple Watch. Developer Marco Arment is revisiting the Apple Watch after an preliminary foray he deemed so unsatisfactory that he aborted it again in August 2017. With watchOS 5, he thinks he can extra reliably switch podcast information to the Apple Watch and correctly execute playback there.
These apps each additionally perform as a distant management for his or her companion iPhones so you’ll be able to management playback of iPhone-stored episodes with out pulling out your iPhone.
Apple’s Podcasts takes watch-based podcast playback one step additional, enabling cloud-based podcast streaming on Apple Watch Collection three and Collection four fashions. This function requires an Web connection by way of Wi-Fi or mobile whereas eliminating the want for the companion iPhone to be concerned. You possibly can even summon such content material by identify utilizing Siri instructions.
Should you use Apple’s Podcasts in your iPhone, your subscriptions routinely seem in the Apple Watch model of the app. This consists of downloaded episodes, which sync to the watch.
If you wish to fine-tune this syncing conduct, go into the Watch app in your iPhone, choose Podcasts, and change from Pay attention Now to Customized. A toggle for every subscribed podcast seems; flip the ones you need, ignore the relaxation. Syncing will then proceed selectively, based mostly on the new settings.
Apple Watch apps should be easy by necessity, given restricted on-screen actual property, and the Podcasts app is not any exception. You’re greeted with simply two buttons: On iPhone and Library. (A 3rd button, Now Enjoying, seems when playback of a podcast is in progress.) Under these buttons is a further interface flourish—a carousel of podcast logos that flips with vertical finger swipes.
Let’s take a look at these interface parts, beginning with On iPhone. That is the place you flip your Apple Watch into a distant management in your iPhone. Faucet play in your watch and the episode audio will emanate out of your telephone.
You’ll be able to browse for On iPhone content material in 4 methods.
- Pay attention Now, comparable to the function of the similar identify in Podcasts for iOS, shows new and unplayed episodes from subscribed podcasts, in addition to manually downloaded episodes from unsubscribed podcasts.
- Exhibits lists your subscribed podcasts; faucet one for a record of that present’s episodes.
- Episodes provides you a single, scrolling listing of episodes from all of your exhibits, displayed in reverse chronological order.
- Stations exhibits any podcasts you’ve bundled collectively in your iPhone to create a type of specialised playlist with this radio-style identify. As an example, I’ve a My Information station that aggregates a number of of my favourite news-themed podcasts and performs episodes from all of them chronologically as if it have been a single present.
If you play an episode, the aforementioned third button—Now Enjoying—seems on the principal menu, and at the prime of the On iPhone menu. Faucet both for a play window with a play/pause button, a spherical quantity indicator you set with the Digital Crown, a button to hurry up or decelerate playback, and buttons to skip ahead and backward.
Subsequent up is Library, which holds episodes synced to the watch, in addition to these which you could stream instantly from the Web. As with the On iPhone choices, episodes are listed by present and additionally in a reverse-chronological episode listing. Once you play an episode, a Now Enjoying button seems on the major menu—however, oddly, not in the Library menu.
On my Apple Watch Collection four with out mobile entry, I discovered it troublesome to differentiate between downloaded episodes and people who have been solely out there for streaming. I repeatedly obtained a warning that I wanted Wi-Fi or mobile to entry a specific episode, which means it was not saved regionally. The episode performed high quality once I was again on Wi-Fi, however this raised the query of how and the place to seek out my synced episodes.
Lastly, we come to the carousel of podcast logos. It’s a pretty contact because it offers a extremely visible method to flip by means of your subscribed podcasts. Once you faucet considered one of album covers, the latest episode of the corresponding podcast begins enjoying.
Sadly, I used to be at occasions once more unable to play episodes when away from Wi-Fi. So, once more, the place are my synced audio information? Sure podcast logos confirmed little cloud icons, which supposedly signifies they’re obtainable just for streaming, however episodes with out these icons wouldn’t play away from Wi-Fi both.
Siri integration is a welcome bonus as a result of it provides you entry to the entirety of the iTunes podcast catalog out of your Apple Watch—assuming you already know what you need, since there isn’t any approach to peruse the catalog visually. You need to use Siri to subscribe to podcasts and to play episodes of podcasts to which you’re subscribed.
I used to be intrigued about Overcast for watchOS since I’ve used the iPhone model intermittently over the years as one among the hottest podcast apps out there.
After you’ve put in Overcast for iOS and arrange your podcast subscriptions, you’re prepared to put in the watchOS model by way of your iPhone’s Watch app and fine-tune a few settings. As with Apple’s Podcasts, Overcast is designed to auto-sync episode information from telephone to observe—and you possibly can determine what number of episodes (10, 20, or 50) will sync. Moreover, you should use toggles to pick which exhibits and playlists will sync, and which gained’t.
Overcast on the Apple Watch offers three screens: one which lists playlists and podcasts both in your iPhone or synced to the Apple Watch, one which lists episodes out there to play in the at present chosen present, and a play display.
I notably appreciated Overcast’s preliminary display, which makes it crystal-clear the place an episode file resides. At the prime, it has icons of a telephone and a watch. Faucet the telephone icon, and you’re in On Your iPhone remote-control mode. Faucet the watch icon, and you’re in On Your Watch, working with information copied to the watch. This toggle eliminates the ambiguity that may make Podcasts confounding.
If you’re in On Your iPhone mode, you get a full accounting of what’s on the iPhone. The one episodes displayed on the Apple Watch, nevertheless, are these downloaded to the iPhone. Overcast on the Apple Watch can’t stream episodes from the Web, in contrast to Podcasts. Whenever you’re in On Your Watch mode, you additionally see solely these exhibits with episodes synced to the watch.
Navigation with Overcast is extra versatile and intuitive than in Podcasts. Along with tapping (to navigate into a playlist or present, or to play an episode), Overcast helps leftward and rightward swiping between its three screens. From the primary display, swipe left as soon as to maneuver to the presently chosen episode and a second time to get to the play display. Podcasts permits solely rightward swipes, as the equal of a again button.
Overcast’s play display exhibits a play button, a progress bar, a spherical quantity indicator that you simply management with the Digital Crown, and buttons to skip ahead or backward by an period of time. Should you’re enjoying an episode that resides on the Apple Watch, a watch icon seems at the decrease left.
Overcast, although thoughtfully designed, didn’t all the time work properly for me. I bumped into efficiency hiccups, comparable to play buttons that may not work or responded sluggishly, undesirable episodes showing unexpectedly on the display, and so on.
Telephone-to-watch syncing was typically flaky, as properly. Podcasts are imagined to sync in the background, sometimes in a single day when the watch is charging, however I ceaselessly couldn’t get each present designated for syncing to take action, even after leaving the Apple Watch and iPhone idle for hours. There’s a workaround: episodes in the iPhone app have a guide send-to-watch choice that works properly, although not all the time as shortly as I would really like.
Lastly, I typically discovered it arduous to maintain Overcast in On Your Watch mode. I’d be enjoying a regionally synced podcast and then pause to do one thing else. Once I returned to the app, the play display nonetheless displayed the episode, nevertheless it was the model from my iPhone, and I needed to navigate again to the watch model. This isn’t a huge deal, however it’s a little annoying.
Limitations and Potential
The Apple Watch variations of Podcasts and Overcast, although a boon for podcast addicts, produce other shortcomings.
Neither shows episode descriptions, which may make it troublesome to determine what an episode is about. Neither permits you to scrub audio with a fingertip, so you must mash the ahead and backward buttons repeatedly. Neither enables you to browse podcast catalogs, although that wouldn’t be very best on such a diminutive display.
Regardless of their limitations, these podcast apps level to one thing highly effective: a smartwatch that’s more and more unbiased of its companion smartphone. One other current indication of this evolution is the Audible app, launched by the Amazon-owned audiobook writer, which now permits switch of audio information to the look ahead to standalone playback very similar to Podcasts and Overcast do.
What about different main iOS podcast apps with Apple Watch apps? Pocket Casts (my present favourite) and Castro come to thoughts. Whereas neither has introduced help for standalone Apple Watch playback, I’ve to think about that’s on the roadmap.
Pocket Casts does have refined phone-remote capabilities which might be maintaining me loyal, a minimum of a part of the time. Its Apple Watch app exhibits me newly launched episodes of all my subscribed podcasts, and I can faucet any itemizing to start playback on my iPhone. Unplayed, partially performed, and starred episodes are displayed on separate watch screens. Even filtering capabilities might be accessed on the Apple Watch in addition to on the iPhone.
Castro is much less interesting at the second, allowing watch playback of an iPhone-hosted episode provided that it has been added to the iPhone app’s queue, and offering no watch performance past that.
For standalone Apple Watch playback, in the meantime, Podcasts and Overcast are each unbelievable decisions. Podcasts might use a little bit of interface refinement to differentiate between native and distant episodes, and Overcast would profit from some bug fixes and efficiency enhancements.
However, with impeccable pedigrees and interfaces that already go a lengthy option to making the Apple Watch a kick-ass podcast participant, these two apps are undoubtedly value a look.