iOS 14.5 makes Podcasts a disaster

Okay so I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Some I listen to occasionally, if the specific topic interests me. Some I listen to daily, queuing up my morning shows to play in row in the morning, or a selection of episodes to play in a series hands-free while I’m cooking dinner. Some I save up and binge a whole season at once.

And with the old app, this was all fine.

If a topic was not of interest I could delete that episode and never have to see it again.

If I listened to the daily news it could disappear once I’d listened but I could set it to only keep the latest anyway.

If I was saving up a full season, I could monitor all the episodes as they came in, and then queue them up to listen one after the other with a single click.

And setting up different shows to play in a row, was easy-peasy.

And then /begin rant/ Apple in its infinite lack of wisdom rolled out 14.5 and broke pretty much everything about how I use the app.

So now you don’t “subscribe” to podcasts – you follow them. Why? How is this supposed to be better?


My up first list is now the next unplayed episode of each of my shows. And what is “next unplayed”? Hmm good question. That might be the latest download, even if you are set to listen from oldest to newest. Or if I started listening this year, and am up to date with the current plays, that might be a very old episode indeed. If you listen to your podcasts oldest-to-newest, or if you just have actually listened to all the episodes ever, it might decide to show you episode 1 of season 1. But tell you that it’s been played.

The list never clears to an empty (up-to-date) status.

Dude, really?

You can tell it you only want to see the latest X episodes. It does not immediately clean off everything outside that window on that basis. Anyway, if your show has seasons of various lengths then you need it to give you all of the episodes anyway.

Now, you can tell it to hide played episodes. No problem, right?

Um sure. If you’ve been listening since the podcast launched or if you’ve gone back and binge listened to all their episodes.

(And I mean ALL. If at some point they rebroadcast an episode and you opted not to listen again, like when it popped up at the time you deleted it off and went on with your life, well that is no longer how it works so here it is now again. Likewise when all of the podcasts from a given platform announce a new podcast and they all push an “Introducing [new podcast name]” into your feed for every one of them. Here they all are. Every one of them.

If the podcast existed for years before you discovered it, and you listen in order, well, I hope you wanted to look at season 1. (A few podcasts have the option to put the current season on top but that’s about all for flexibility, and that’s not universally available. Mostly you’re looking at the first episodes from forever. Or you can say newest to oldest which is better for news programs but is trash for binging a literary read or a mystery show.

And you can’t delete the episodes or permanently hide them. You have to mark them as played.

One. By. One.

Other not so great “features”?

You can hide unplayed episodes, and you can click into the show details to see how many unplayed episodes you have. But just the number. It shows you up to eight unplayed episodes. Or you can click to see all episodes. Not all unplayed episodes.

So the podcast that might rack up 30 episodes in a season? I can go to the show to see the last 8 of them. Do you want to listen to just the last 8 chapters of a book? No, me neither.

But the only option to expand that is ALL episodes. All seasons. For years. Good luck finding what you wanted.

And there’s no way to queue up the whole unplayed list at once to play one after the other. Like hey the whole audio book is up, or the mystery series just wrapped a season, want to listen to them all in order while you work out or cook dinner? Oh sorry, you can spend all day trying to click them into queue in order (without accidentally playing part of one, completely screwing its idea of what’s “next” for you) — or you can keep interrupting your workout or have to keep touching your phone while managing food prep, to play the next one manually.

Which one of these options is supposed to be an improvement over the one-click method?

I pretty much wanted to scream at Apple all day after this update. There’s no one there who wants to take that call.

Dude, these “features” break 90% of how I use the app. Does anyone on the dev team use it, I wonder? Did they consider that there are different kinds of podcasts and different users of the app, e.g. different use cases?

Oh, oh, and this is nice:

Even if you have actually played every episode of a show? It still lists that show in my “up first” list. It will show the next episode it wants me to play. That might be the last episode it downloaded. That might be the first unplayed episode. That might be a random episode in my queue. If there are no unplayed episodes it will show S1E1 as the episode to listen to, and in tiny print it will tell you that all have been played.

The up first list used to be any new episode I had downloaded, in the next play order. A list that, if I was all caught up, would be empty. Now this is a list of every podcast I follow even if they’re no longer active, or I’ve listened to all episodes — and in all those instances there is nothing new to listen to. But they are queued up on this list for… what freaking reason, Apple? Seriously, WHY?

It’s an inbox that can no longer be brought to a “zero unread” state.

That means if I want this list to be just the relevant content – if having a list of everything ever is noisy to my brain so I don’t want them in there ALL THE TIME but only when there’s something new – I have to unsubscribe. Unfollow, sorry. Which means podcasts I love that went on hiatus maybe even years ago, and may or may not come back — but sometimes they do come back after a long break — alas I’m going to miss out on that return because I have to unfollow them just to be able to limit the list to something manageable with the podcasts that come in regularly.

Way to break things, Apple. Now I have to go find another podcast app and start all over.

Though I guess thanks because you broke the app so completely that starting over can’t actually be worse than this user experience is.

/ end rant/

3 thoughts on “iOS 14.5 makes Podcasts a disaster”

  1. I hate the way Apple takes for granted user preferences and comes up with their own genius ideas which in the end only muck things up. It’s why I lost hope with iTunes many moons ago. I hear that Castro is an attractrive alternative for iOs users who need to manage lots of podcasts.


    1. I tried something else (RadioPublic) this morning, but it was clear pretty quickly that all the wrong things about the updated Podcasts app was based on that one. No no no. So now I’m trying Podbean. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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