Apple offers an army of podcasts—more than half a million at last count—that discuss a wide array of topics. In the past you could subscribe and listen using iTunes, but things have changed for those with an Apple device. If you’re on iPhone, iPad, or a Mac running Catalina, you can use Apple’s Podcasts app. If you’re on a Windows machine or haven’t updated to the latest version of macOS, you’ll still be on iTunes.
Regardless of what program you subscribe through, the trick is to choose the right subscription settings so you can manage and access your favorite podcasts. Here’s how to do it.
How to Use the Podcasts App on Mobile
Let’s first check out some podcasts via the Podcasts app built into iOS, iPadOS, and available on Apple Watch. Open the Podcasts app on your device and tap the Browse button at the bottom of the screen to browse “new and noteworthy” podcasts, as well as top shows and podcasts based on different categories.
To find a particular podcast by name or topic, tap the Search button and type a keyword or term to best describe the podcast you seek.
Tap a podcast that interests you. At that podcast’s main screen, tap the name of a specific episode to start streaming. If you like a podcast, you can subscribe to it by tapping the Subscribe button. This means each new episode is downloaded as it becomes available and shows up in your list of podcasts.
Download episodes to your device by tapping the plus icon, then the cloud icon next to the name of a specific episode. Once it’s downloaded, tap to play.
Tap Library at the bottom of the screen to see all the podcasts you currently subscribe to. You can sort and view your podcasts by recently updated, by shows, by episodes, or by downloaded episodes.
From your list of podcasts, tap one to which you’ve subscribed. All new episodes will automatically be downloaded, but you’ll have to manually download older episodes to listen to them offline. To download an episode, tap the cloud icon next to it.
Long-press an individual episode to manage that selection. From the pop-up menu, you can remove the download, go to the show, play the episode next or later, save the episode, mark it as played, share the episode, copy a link to it, or report a concern.
You can also control your subscription to an entire podcast by tapping the purple ellipsis button. From the pop-up menu, you can share the podcast, unsubscribe from it, play it next, delete it from your library, copy a link to it, or report a concern. You can also tap Settings to further customize the podcast.
Here, you can turn the switches on or off to see new episodes and notifications for your subscribed podcasts. In the Episodes section, you can control the order in which you see and play the episodes, opting to play them in sequential order, play the most recent ones first, or only keep the most recent episodes. Tap Custom Settings to make even more changes.
Under Custom Settings you can change the episode order to Oldest to Newest. You can also set download settings for only new episodes, no episodes, or all unplayed. By choosing the All Unplayed option, you can download all the episodes you’d like to hear instead of having to download each one individually.
You can choose to delete or keep played episodes, limit the number of episodes to download, and refresh the podcast every hour, 6 hours, day, week, or manually. When finished, tap Done.
Tap the Listen Now icon at the bottom to listen to the next individual episodes of your subscribed podcasts.
How to Use the Podcasts App on Mac
On a Mac running Catalina, open the Podcasts app. Click the entries for Browse and Top Charts to view different podcasts.
To find a specific podcast, type your keyword or term in the Search field in the left pane. Open a podcast that interests you and tap the Subscribe button.
Click the entry for Shows in the Library section of the left pane. Click a podcast you want to manage. Right-click on an individual episode to download or remove it, save it, and run other commands.
Tap the ellipsis button to unsubscribe from the podcast, remove it from your library, and perform other actions.
From the menu, click the Settings command to sort the episodes and manage downloaded and played episodes.
How to Use iTunes
If you’re using Windows or have not yet upgraded to macOS Catalina, you can subscribe to podcasts through iTunes. Launch iTunes on your computer and click the heading for Store.
Click the drop-down menu that lists the different types of content and select the entry for Podcasts. You can now browse available podcasts and search for specific ones by name or topic.
Click a podcast that interests you and tap the Subscribe button to order up a subscription. You can then view all the podcasts you subscribe to by clicking the Library heading and selecting the entry for Podcasts.
If you want to download a specific episode, click the name of a podcast, then right-click on an episode. From the menu, you can download or remove the episode, mark it as played, add it to a playlist or device, get info on the podcast, love it or dislike it, see it in the iTunes store, save the episode, copy details about it, see it in Windows Explorer or File Explorer, copy its URL, or delete it from your library.
To control the entire podcast, click the blue button with the three dots. From here, you can remove the download, add it to a playlist, play it, love or dislike it, unsubscribe from it, and remove it from your library.
Next, click the Gear icon in the upper right. From the menu, you can sort the episodes and control downloaded episodes and played episodes.
How to Sync Podcasts
You may have all your favorite podcasts saved on your computer, but you’ll have to sync your device to get them on iPhone or iPad. If you want to sync using iTunes, connect your device and click the small icon in the top-left corner. Click the entry for Podcasts in the Settings section. Check the podcasts and individual episodes that you want to sync to your device. Then click the button for Apply or Sync.
On a Mac running Catalina, open the Finder app and click your device listed in the Location section. The first time you do this, you’ll need to click the Trust button to sync your computer with your device. Click the header for Podcasts. Check the box to Sync podcasts onto [name of your device].
Check the box next to Automatically copy. Click the drop-down menu and select which podcast episodes you want to sync based on the most recent ones and ones that are unplayed. Otherwise, leave that box unchecked and then click the names of the podcasts you want to include and select the individual episodes you wish to sync. When done, click Apply.
For more, check out our roundup of the 10 Best Podcast Player Apps.