It appears that rumors of Apple planning to spin out the podcast feature from iTunes in iOS were true.
Apple today quietly released a standalone app for podcasts (iTunes), specialty software designed for listening and subscribing to audio and video podcasts.
Podcasts are prerecorded audio shows of varying genres that users can subscribe to and download for offline listening. Apple jumped on the podcast bandwagon in mid-2005, promising to take the medium "mainstream by building everything users need to discover, subscribe, manage, and listen" into what was then version 4.9 of iTunes.
A report from All Things Digital earlier this month claimed Apple was at work on just such a standalone app, however the timing was unclear.
Among the specialty features of the app is a way to subscribe to a podcast -- something that's long been a part of the desktop version of iTunes but not found in the podcast functionality of Apple's iTunes iOS app. The software also has a custom player resembling an analog tape deck, with special controls that differ from Apple's typical, built-in A/V player. Other features include a sleep timer that turns off the app after an allotted time, and built-in sharing tools.
The podcast section remains in the current version of iTunes for iOS, though a developer source says the feature is no longer a part of iTunes in the latest beta version of iOS 6, which went out to developers yesterday. Apple says the final version of that software will arrive in the fall.
Here's the full description of the app from iTunes:
Podcasts app is the easiest way to discover, subscribe to, and play your favorite podcasts on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Explore hundreds of thousands of free audio and video podcasts from the Podcasts Catalog, and play the most popular podcasts, organized for you by topic, with the all-new Top Stations feature.
• Enjoy all of your audio and video podcasts in a single app
• Explore hundreds of thousands of podcasts including shows in over 40 languages
• Try the innovative new Top Stations feature to find new podcast series in a variety of topics, including arts, business, comedy, music, news, sports, and more.
• Browse by Audio or Video podcasts, or see what's most popular in Top Charts
• Tap subscribe for your favorites and automatically receive new episodes for free as they become available • Stream episodes or download to listen while offline
• Skip forward and back using simple playback controls
• Turn on Sleep Timer to automatically stop playing a podcast while listening in bed
• Share your favorite episodes with friends using Twitter, Messages, and Mail
• Optionally sync your favorite episodes from iTunes on your Mac or PC
• Sync your episode playback for seamless transition between devices
• Requires a device with iOS 5.1 or later
• Optionally syncing episodes requires iTunes 10.6.3 or later
• Streaming or downloading episodes requires Internet access over a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection